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Tuesday, 4 September, 2001, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Cruise missiles 'Made in Brazil'
Astro II rocket launchers in action during the Gulf War
Avibras rocket launchers were used by US forces in Iraq
The Brazilian company Avibras Industria Aeroespacial has said it will build South America's first locally-made cruise missile.

Avibras produced the Astros II multiple launchers rockets system (MLRS), used with devastating results by the US-lead allies against Iraqi troops during the Gulf war.

The arms-maker hopes to offer its cruise missile for sale internationally as a simpler and cheaper option to the US-made Tomahawk. which has a price tag of $500,000.

Brazil's arms manufacturers have become increasingly successful in winning overseas contracts.

Sales offensive

In August, plane-maker Embraer won its first export orders for the Super Tucano turbo-prop fighter and might sell another 22 to its Canadian rival Bombardier for use in a Nato flying school.

The Brazilian cruise missile - the AV/MT 300 - will be able to deliver 200kg of explosives to a target up to 300km away, the company said in a statement.

The world's leading cruise missile, Tomahawk, built by Raytheon has a range of 1,500km and can carry a warhead up to 500kg.

Astro II rocket launcher in action in Iraq
Astro II has been a big seller for Avibras
Avibras did not say how much its missile will cost.

Successful recovery

The firm, which also builds communications antennae and rockets for scientific use, has made a strong recovery in recent years, paying off most of its debts after filing for bankruptcy in the early 1990s.

The company continues to sell the Astros II (Artillery Saturation Rocket System) which is considered as one of the most lethal in the world.

The US-lead forces used the Astros II to drop thousands of bomblets known as "steel rain" on Iraqi troops during Operation Desert Storm before the main ground offensives.

Avibras is also a joint investor with European defence company EADS in Freewing Aerial Robotics, which is developing the Scorpion UAV (unmanned air vehicle), but is currently in some financial difficulties.

See also:

17 Apr 01 | Business
Americas jet trade row escalates
27 Apr 01 | Business
European missile giant formed
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