Security, rather than defense, dominated much of the discussion at the LAAD Defense & Security show in Rio de Janeiro in April.

Rio can be partially blamed for that focus. Defense and security minds in Brazil are concentrated on two areas, one of which involves the legendarily chaotic coastal city and the impending arrival of two massive world events. The 2014 soccer World Cup will be played in Rio and other Brazilian cities, and Rio hosts the 2016 summer Olympics. The other issue is Brazil's increasing need to protect both its own borders and the natural resources and sea lanes in its coastal waters.

One venture announced at LAAD is linked to both issues: a strategic agreement between Elbit's Brazilian subsidiary, AEL Sistemas, and Embraer. The goal is to establish a joint Brazilian unmanned systems company with Embraer as majority owner, building on Elbit/AEL's presence in the market with the Hermes 450 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Elbit presented the UAV as an element of two of its capability sets at LAAD. One of these is its tactical ground forces command and control (C2) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems, aimed at the army's border patrol needs. The other is its “safe cities” command and communications suite, operational in Israel for just over a year as part of the nation's civil-defense organization. Using a high-fidelity database of the urban geography, combined with fixed and mobile surveillance assets and communication links that can connect dissimilar radio systems, the suite gives commanders the best possible view of the ground and includes decision aids.

For example, if an explosion or fire is detected at a given location, the system automatically connects to fixed cameras that see it, advises commanders as to the best location for mobile sensors and monitors traffic so responders can reach the site. The system is designed so that the command team can include psychological experts to analyze and predict crowd behavior, and has a built-in simulation mode.

In the maritime realm, Brazil is extending the concept of the air force-operated Sivam—the security system for the Amazon basin—to what the country's leaders call the “blue Amazon,” Brazil's coastline and vast economic exclusion zone. The navy plans to operate SisGAAz (a Portuguese acronym for “blue Amazon management system”) to monitor sea traffic in this area, to protect resources including oil and fisheries, and to deal with environmental and other emergencies. The challenge is huge: the area covers more than 500,000 sq. km (193,050 sq. mi.) and may include 2,000 vessels on a normal day.

Contractors including Rockwell Collins, Elbit and Saab are pitching solutions for SisGAAz on the communications and surveillance side. For communications, there's an interesting trend: Rockwell and Elbit are applying new technology to the long-neglected HF radio band for beyond-line-of-sight communications. “We all love satcoms for reliability,” says LeAnn Ridgeway, Rockwell Collins's vice president of the Americas, “but the long-term cost is huge.” At the U.S. Trident Warrior exercise in March, Rockwell demonstrated 90-kbps data rates over an 18-khz, 1,000-mi. link. Elbit claims a consistent 12.1 kbps over its HF-8000 manpack radio. Saab, as well as competing in the C2 segment, would like to sell more EriEye radars (already in service on Brazil's EMB-145AEW aircraft) for ocean surveillance. The radar is very sensitive at long range. That can be important, because the primary means of managing sea traffic in SisGAAz is likely to be the Automatic Identification System (AIS), and one way to detect AIS spoofing is to match the observed size of the ship to its AIS identity.

Saab is also pitching undersea and coastal expertise to Brazil. It tends to divide the problem into the deep maritime area (where EriEye plays) and local security around ports and oil rigs, where sensors such as diver-detection systems and coastal radars play a part.

Nobody, however, imminently expects big contracts in a country where civil and military, and federal, state and local authorities have complex and politically charged relationships. “Brazil,” says a Saab official, “is a challenging customer.”