Brazilian Industrial Defense Base Profile
Rev. Carta Inter., Belo Horizonte, v. 15, n. 3, 2020, p. 204-231
Brazilian Industrial Defense
Base Profile
Perfil da Base Industrial de
Defesa do Brasil
DOI: 10.21530/ci.v15n3.2020.1054
Ariela Diniz Cordeiro Leske
Thauan Santos
This paper aims to present an overview and analysis of the Brazilian
defense industrial base (IDB). Based on the Brazilian Industrial Defense
Base Mapping and its eight segments (ABDI-IPEA, 2016), our main
contribution is to provide the first national and comparative analysis
between these sectors, since there is a lack of knowledge in the
literature on the Brazilian defense-related companies scenario. Focusing
on the analysis of the international insertion of these companies
into the global industry through international trade, we analyze
defense-related companies based on (i) personnel and average salaries;
(ii) innovative and investment profile; (iii) share of export;
(iv) main destination countries; (v) technological intensity of exported
products; (vi) main obstacles when looking for external markets; and
(vii) main export support instruments. Despite the limitations in terms
of data, among the main conclusions stand out that each segment has
a specific profile, faces and responds differently to market barriers,
and in general its innovative profile is still focused on process, what
may limit the competitiveness of companies.
Keywords: Brazilian Defense Industry; Industrial Defense Base; Defense
Economics; Brazil; Defense.
1 Doutora em Economia da Indústria e da Tecnologia pela Universidade Federal do
Rio de Janeiro; Professora Adjunta do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Segurança
Internacional e Defesa da Escola Superior de Guerra, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
2 Doutor em Planejamento Energético pelo Instituto Alberto Luiz Coimbra de Pós-Graduação
e Pesquisa de Engenharia. Professor Adjunto do Programa de Pós-Graduação em
Estudos Marítimos da Escola de Guerra Naval, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.
Artigo submetido em 03/03/2020 e aprovado em 17/06/2020.
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Ariela Diniz Cordeiro Leske; Thauan Santos
Rev. Carta Inter., Belo Horizonte, v. 15, n. 3, 2020, p. 204-231
Este artigo tem como objetivo apresentar uma visão geral e uma análise da base industrial de
defesa (BID) brasileira. Com base no Mapeamento da Base de Defesa Industrial Brasileira e
em seus oito segmentos (ABDI-IPEA, 2016), nossa principal contribuição é fornecer a primeira
análise nacional e comparativa entre esses setores, uma vez que há um desconhecimento
na literatura sobre o cenário das empresas brasileiras relacionadas à defesa. Com foco
na análise da inserção internacional dessas empresas na indústria global por meio do
comércio internacional, analisamos empresas relacionadas à defesa com base em (i) pessoal
e salários médios; (ii) perfil inovador e de investimento; (iii) participação na exportação;
(iv) principais países de destino; (v) intensidade tecnológica dos produtos exportados;
(vi) principais obstáculos ao buscar mercados externos; e (vii) principais instrumentos
de apoio à exportação. Apesar das limitações em termos de dados, dentre as principais
conclusões destacam-se que cada segmento tem um perfil específico, enfrenta e responde
diferentemente às barreiras de mercado e, em geral, seu perfil inovador ainda está focado
em processos, o que pode limitar a competitividade das empresas.
Palavras-chave: Indústria de Defesa Brasileira; Base Industrial de Defesa; Economia de
Defesa; Brasil; Defesa.
In order to expand the consumer market, defense companies seek to export
their products in addition to acting in the commercial market; in some cases,
export is actually a necessary condition for their survival. Therefore, this paper
aims to describe the profile of exports of companies related to national defense,
identify the relevant factors of exports in this area and what are their main
weaknesses in the Brazilian defense-related companies.
We use data published by the Brazilian Industrial Defense Base Mapping
(ABDI-IPEA 2016). Eight segments are considered, namely: light and heavy
weapons and ammo and explosives (A); electronic systems and command and
control systems (B); military naval platform (C); nuclear propulsion (D); military
ground platform (E); military aircraft platform (F); defense-oriented space systems
(G); and equipment for individual use (H). These segments will be analyzed
jointly in terms of the following factors related to exports: (i) personnel and
average salaries; (ii) innovative and investment profile; (iii) share of export;
(iv) main destination countries; (v) technological intensity of exported products;
(vi) main obstacles when looking for external markets; and (vii) main export
support instruments.
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The paper will be structured as follows: first, and after this brief introduction,
there will be a section that presents the empirical review on international trade
in the defense sector, with a particular focus on exports. Then, there will be
a brief description of the Brazilian defense industry, based on the Brazilian
Industrial Defense Base Mapping. Next, we present the data on the Brazilian
Industrial Defense Base (IDB)’s international insertion. Finally, we show some
conclusions and reflections on the nature, profile and challenges faced by the
Brazilian defense industries.
International trade and some aspects of defense area
When it comes to international trade, it is often interesting to analyze the
issue from a regional perspective. Within the scope of regional South American
initiatives, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) stands out, especially
for giving much relevance to the area of defense due to the South American
Defense Council (CDS). We particularly emphasize the importance of UNASUR
in relation to increased (regional) demand, the stimulus to Brazilian exports of
certain companies operating in the defense sector, and the internationalization
of some of these companies.
Although its creation has contributed to the complexification and overlap
of South American security and defense structures (Villa e Bragatti 2015), the
CDS advanced significantly in the field of confidence and cooperation measures
in defense industries and technologies in the region (Souza 2016; Pagliari 2015),
contributing to the deepening of the regional integration process (Martinez e Lyra
2018). Since its creation in 2008, seeking to overcome the mistrust existing in the
region and to incorporate the defense sector as an harmonic pillar to facilitate
the process of regional integration (Arredondo 2017), the CDS constitutes itself
as an instance of consultation, cooperation and defense coordination (Abdul-
Hak 2013).
Its decisions were taken in consensus and respect for the diversity, desires,
values and traditions of each member state; they were only declaratory, without
a legally binding nature (Santos 2018a), therefore, it was not an operational
alliance along the lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As its
main objectives, the CDS proposes: (i) to consolidate South America as a zone
of peace, the basis for democratic stability and the integral development of its
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peoples, as a contribution to world peace; (ii) to build a South American defense
identity, which takes into account sub-regional and national characteristics, and
which contributes to strengthening the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean
(LAC); and (iii) to generate consensus to strengthen regional defense cooperation
(Aranguiz 2013).
One of the central points of the CDS is the possibility of resumption of the
defense industry, considering the complementarity of the production chain and
the scale amplitude. Thus, in seeking to rearticulate a Defense Industrial Base
(IDB) with a South American foundation, the CDS presents the possibility of
working on the construction of a South American defense industry, with a broad
market driven by state orders and with the participation of companies in their
countries (Padula 2015).
However, given the recent breakdown of UNASUR and CDS after 2018 (Fuccille
2018; Santos, Rodrigues e Leite 2019), as well as the relevance of Brazil with
regard to the defense budget, expenditure and investments in South America
(Rezende 2016), the focus of this paper will be only on the case of the Brazilian
defense industrial base. Therefore, in this section, the intention is to narrow
and tie the relationship between international trade, exports, innovation and
internationalization of companies, and then to specifically analyze the Brazilian
IDB case.
According to the classic theories of international trade, trade between
countries should focus on their comparative advantages — whether absolute
or relative. In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Heckscher (1991)
and Ohlin (1991) models indicated that the factor endowment of each economy
would determine its exports and imports. However, in the 1970s Chamberlian
hypotheses of product differentiation, economies of scale, and monopolistic
competition emerged, overcoming the simplified models that assumed pure
and perfect competition and often ignored market failures. In the “new” trade
theory (Helpman 1981; Krugman 1981), North-South trade was associated with
traditional comparative advantages determined by the intensity of factors of
production and with inter-industry trade, whereas North-North trade would be
based on economies of scale and product differentiation, being associated with
intra-industry trade.
In general, exports are considered as a factor that can contribute to economic
growth, either through the direct effect on the GDP, or through an increase in
the scale of production and productivity (Balassa 1978; Balassa 1985; Delgado,
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Fariñas e Ruano 2002; Cuaresma e Wörz 2005). This increase can derive from
learning through interaction with producers and consumers, resulting in the use
of new technologies and greater productivity, in a process called learning-by-
exporting (Salomon e Shaver 2005). The learning-by-exporting process also seems
to be influenced by the technological intensity of the companies. The greater
the technological intensity, the greater the learning-by-exporting (Fernandes e
Isgut 2005). Besides, countries with more experience produce and export goods
with high technological content (Catella e Gonçalves 2011).
On the one hand, companies can start the export process based on successful
innovations in the domestic market. Internal success can stimulate the company
to enter the international market (Vernon 1966). On the other hand, there is the
possibility of companies that export have also a greater tendency to innovate,
since exporting leads to process innovations, increasing productivity (Álvarez
e García 2008; Damijan, Kostevc e Polanec 2010). Also, the improvement of the
size of markets and the induces of the knowledge spillovers are effects that can
be appropriated by successful innovators (Vernon 1966; Aghion e Howit 2009;
Aghionet al. 2018; Grossman e Helpman 1989). Consequently, the larger and more
productive companies would be even more likely to innovate and, consequently,
to export (Melitz 2003; Caldera 2010; Raiher, Carmo e Stege, 2017; Lo Turco e
Maggioni 2014; Suárez-Porto e Guisado-González 2014).
In this sense, firm-technological resources can be an important factor for
international competitiveness (Rodríguez e Rodróguez 2005). Technological
advances and delays can be considered critical for international competitiveness
in medium and high technology goods (Dosi, Lechevalier e Secchi 2010; Dosi,
Pavitt e Soete 2009), with differences in products and production processes being
central to the competitive process, thus increasing the likelihood of insertion into
international markets (Dosi, Grazzi e Moschella 2015). Atkeson and Burstein
(2010) suggest that the product innovation can offset a change in trade costs,
having a substantial impact on heterogeneous firms exit, export, and process
innovation decisions. That product innovation has an important moderating
effect on the positive association between exports and productivity (Cassiman
e Golovko 2011). For Becker and Egger (2013), there is significant bias of the
impact of product and process innovations on exports. The result was particularly
large for firms with only product or process innovations as compared to firms
that did not innovate.
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The exchange rate depreciation can be also an important part of growth
accelerations and may improve welfare if there is a market failure that affects the
tradables sector more than the nontradable sector (Hausmann, Hwang e Rodrik
2005; Rodrik 2007). In some cases, it has been observed that export growth
can be preceded by significant exchange rate depreciation because it tends to
facilitate the commercialization of new products and entry into new markets
(Freund e Pierola 2012).
When it comes particularly to defense sector, there are some peculiarities,
especially after the Cold War, when the international arms market experienced a
dramatic structural change (Anderton 1995). Until the end of the Cold War, the
state’s political regime — whether it was democratic or not — was a common
concern. It is suggested that post-cold war policies have not mattered (Perkins
e Neymayer 2002), since “democracies have not been as altruistic or ethical as
they have claimed in recent years” (Akerman e Seim 2014, 23). Still after the Cold
War, the conflicts have presented smaller proportions, and for that reason it is
possible to observe greater relevance in the trade of small arms (Kinsella 2011).
The defense international trade is even surrounded by a dichotomy in
terms of political decision: importing or producing domestically (Levine et al.
1997). Regardless the choices, it is indeed necessary to allocate a significant
amount of resources. The imports do not require long-term commitment, nor
do they contribute economically (job creation and industrial training) or reduce
subordination in the global arms transfer and production system (Krause 1995).
The national production requires constant investment in R&D and productive
incentives, in addition to purchases that must be made by the State, at least
initially (Santos 2018b; Leske 2015, 2018). The second case offers some positive
externalities such as encouraging industrial production in higher value-added
sectors and skilled labor. The model tested by Levine et al. (1997) show some
variety of arms control policies that can increase welfare, including coordination,
price transparency and common arms export policy.
It is worth noting that the international arms transfer system has changed
in many levels after the end of the Cold War, with its overall volume reduced
mainly because of the strong decline in exports of the Soviet Union (USSR) and its
successor states (Brzoska 2004; Garcia-Alonso e Levine 2007). The arms market
has become more diverse, both in terms of supplier-recipient relationships and
of the types of weapons used. Buyers with financial resources bought expensive
weapons, predominantly from the United States (US) and Western Europe, while
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the others bought old weapons and small arms. Even the donations, which were
very common during the Cold War, were reduced (Brzoska 2004). However, more
recently, Villa and Weiffen (2014) highlight that the increase in arms spending
cannot be understood if one does not consider the coexistence of a stable power
balance in a regional security governance, as well as the desire of emerging states
to increase their regional or global roles.
Among the consequences, the reduction in this market is the reorganization
of productive structures. Many international companies closed, merged or were
incorporated, consolidating the industry and consequently concentrating production
on few companies and further narrowing the economically viable segments (Dunne
1995). Exports in the United Kingdom (UK) for instance decreased by 50% in
the late 1990s, resulting in significant losses for gross domestic product (GDP)
and reallocation of resources in alternative occupations (Sharp 2005). A recent
study indicates that exporting countries tend to reduce their military budgets
(Pamp e Thurner 2017). Other benefits can come from a greater insertion in the
international market, such as: firms will progressively become more efficient,
less dependent on public procurement and innovation policy support, as well as
more prone to knowledge sharing and inter-firm collaboration (Blom, Castellacci
e Fevolden 2014).
With this consolidation, developing arms-producing countries remain
dependent on imports of sophisticated critical subsystems, and little transfer of
the knowledge necessary to go beyond simple reproduction or copying of weapons
took place (Krause 1992). More developed countries have then increased their
military technological advantages compared to developing countries (Brzoska
2004), reinforcing a market structure in which the roles of technology and
knowledge producers and importers are clearly defined and relatively static.
Consequently, this scenario implies in companies whose innovative processes
are characterized by imitation and incremental innovations (Freeman e Soete
2008), contributing only marginally to the reintegration of these countries in
this international trade. As a result, commercialization and differentiation in the
international arms market imply that economic and military power are becoming
closer, reinforcing the status of inequality between developed and developing
countries in international trade in defense.
Fonfría and Duch-Brown (2014) stress the role of technological issues when
analyzing the performance of exports of the Spanish defense industry between
2003 and 2008. The authors argued that more intense exporters of defense
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material are more productive and, consequently, more involved in export and
technological activities. However, the intense regulation and political intervention
in the trade related to defense products tends to generate additional costs and
coexist with a parallel trade of military products. This latter factor may cause
trade-related studies in this area to be underestimated.
Finally, it is important to highlight the difficulty of adequately analyzing
indicators on production and trade. In terms of secondary data, the Stockholm
International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Military Balance (IISS)
are usually the most viable. Only the former is freely accessible, but its data
are aggregated by country, except for the information available on the top 100
companies in the area. In this sense, the next section wishes to contribute
providing a more detailed information regarding the production and foreign
trade of Brazilian companies that supply defense products.
The Brazilian IDB: What does the Mapping show?
Mapping features
The Brazilian Industrial Defense Base Mapping is the first effort undertaken
in Brazil with the objective to size and know the micro-data related companies
that provide defense products. The mapping was elaborated between 2014-2015
by the National Agency for Industrial Development (ABDI) and the Institute of
Applied Economic Research (IPEA), in addition to eight Brazilian specialists
contracted for this research, and the results were published in 2016. This was
carried out to better understand companies related to national defense.
The purpose of the research was to identify companies that supply defense
products and their main characteristics, such as their size, employees’ profile and
the share that defense plays in these companies. As each segment was analyzed
individually — and with some autonomy and particularity —, here we intend to
carry out a joint and common analysis, allowing an overview of the Brazilian IDB
— constituting the main contribution of this paper to the specialized literature.
The number of companies analyzed is based on data from the Annual Social
Information Report (RAIS) (2003-2011) and differs from the number of companies
that gave rise to data on international insertion (2003-2013), as well as from those
that constitute the sample of innovation data (2000-2011). This mismatch between
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the periods analyzed is due to the lack of existing data. Data provided by RAIS
and Research of Technological Innovation (PINTEC) have different collection
periods, since RAIS is an annual research and PINTEC is carried out every 3
years. Despite the discrepancy between the collection periods, these are the only
data available to companies in the selected area. In relation to the primary data,
there is also a reduction in the sample due to the number of companies that
have responded to the questionnaires carried out by the specialists.
A synthesis of the Brazilian IDB
Table 1 shows the number of companies selected to compose the sample
by segments. The segments with the largest sample are (F) aircraft (34.3%) and
(C) naval (33.6%), followed by (B) electronic systems (12.3%) and (G) space
systems (9.8%), respectively. The segment with the lowest number of companies
is (A) weapons, ammo and explosives (2.2%). 86% of the selected companies
were picked up by RAIS and, over the period, the number of captured companies
increased by an average of 27% between 2003 and 2011, while the total number
of employed personnel increased by an average of 79% over the same period.
Table 1. Number of defense-related companies, employed personnel
and average salary (2003-2011)
Number of
Number of
Companies at
Average salary
2003 2 011 2003 2 011 2003 2 011 2003 2 011
A 23 15 16 4,888 6,561 17% 22% 2,744.00 4,101.00
B 130 73 100 7,778 16,229 38% 48% 4,204.00 4,576.00
C 355 259 324 46,170 92,214 3% 5% 2,926.00 3,388.00
D 34 23 28 2,443 3,987 22% 21% 3,047.00 4,031.00
E 48 27 40 12,479 23,896 17% 28% 4,105.00 4.379.00
F 362 241 312 16,013 26,946 18% 25% 2,851.00 3.186.00
G 104 71 84 3,632 6,852 30% 42% 3,113.00 3.690.00
Total 1056 709 904 93,405 176,685 - - 22,990.00 27,351.00
Mean 150.86 101.29 129.14 13,344 25,241 20.7% 27.3% 3,284.29 3,907.29
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016); *share of total; ** in order to convert reais (R$) to US dollars
(US$), use the exchange rate values in Appendix 1.
3 Light and heavy weapons and ammo and explosives (A); electronic systems and command and control systems
(B); military naval platform (C); nuclear propulsion (D); military ground platform (E); military aircraft platform
(F); defense-oriented space systems (G); and equipment for individual use (H).
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Regarding the profile of employed personnel, there is a significant concentration
in the naval segment (C), which represents 52.2% of the total in 2011. As a result,
this segment has the lowest percentage of workers with a higher level (5.0%)
and the second lowest average salary (R$ 3,388.00).
Then, it is possible to conclude that the percentage of employed personnel
in different segments of the Brazilian IDB with a higher level is well above the
national average. While some segments reach 48% (B) and, on average, higher
level personnel represent 27.3%, the national average according to the IBGE
(2013) is only 15% of the total employed personnel. Between 2003 and 2011,
there was an increase of 35%, on average, in the share of personnel with higher
education, but the average salary increased only 20%. Despite a relatively small
growth rate, the average salary at the Brazilian IDB is still higher than the national
average which, according to IBGE (2014), was only R$ 1,943.00 in 2012.
In order to investigate the relationship between the companies and the national
defense, questionnaires were sent to the companies that made up the sample of
the mapping
. Only the electronic systems and command and control systems
(B) and nuclear propulsion (C) segments have defense as their main market,
since the other segments carry out most of their sales in the commercial market
(ABDI-IPEA, 2016). This is one of the main findings of this paper, since Brazil
has different policies and fiscal instruments directed to “defense companies”
that in fact are actually supplying more commercial market rather than defense
market itself.
The innovative profile of the companies that compose the sample can be
observed from the data of the Research of Technological Innovation (PINTEC) and
are presented in Table 2. PINTEC seeks to capture some indicators on innovation
in the country and provides a series of data on the innovative process of national
companies, through a cross-section following the conceptual aspects proposed
in the Oslo manual (IBGE, 2011)
. Due to financial costs associated with the
analysis of all national companies, the survey was carried out by sampling.
4 The maximum percentage of responses was observed in the arms and ammo segment (A), where 30% of the
companies previously selected responded to the questionnaire. In the ground platform segment (E), only 10%
of companies responded. Overall, only 17% of companies answered the questionnaire on average.
5 Regardless of the progress made in PINTEC’s methodology, it still relies on traditional indicators, leaving aside
some qualitative and often specific indicators to sectors and companies, making them the target of criticism
about their real ability to capture important systemic aspects.
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Table 2. Defense-related companies that innovated and their investment in
innovation (PINTEC, 2000-2011)
Companies at
Investment in innovation
Investment rate
2000 2011 2000 2011 2000 2 011 2000 2 011
A 9 8 8 5 20,232.00 59,024.00 5.0% 3.9%
B 17 30 13 24 209,142.00 274,157.00 4.4% 0.5%
C 75 142 46 71 245,413.00 628,340.00 3.8% 1.8%
D 9 10 5 6 51,116.00 35,483.00 6.2% 2.2%
E 7 17 6 13 56,132.00 2,746,458.00 3.1% 3.3%
F 42 81 31 39 445,398.00 1,434,383.00 7.3% 9.3%
G 8 22 6 15 9,854.00 167,166.00 11.3% 6.6%
TOTAL 159 288 109 173 1,037,287 5,345,011.00 - -
Mean 27 48 16,4 24,7 148,183.90 763,573.00 5.9% 3.9%
Median 13 24 8 15 56,132.00 274,157.00 5.0% 3.3%
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016).
The investment rate in innovation, which represents how much companies
invest in innovation in terms of its sales revenue, was on average 5.9% in 2000,
but decreased to 3.9% in 2011. There was a significant drop in the (D) nuclear
propulsion segments (-4 pp), (B) electronic systems (-3.9 pp) and (C) naval
platform (-2 pp). If we consider only domestic research and development (R&D)
investment, its average as a function of company revenues was 1.9%, while
the national average as a whole was 0.84% (IBGE 2011). Therefore, despite
its reduction in the proportion invested, the group of companies related to the
Brazilian IDB still presents a more innovative profile than the national industry
average — which is in line with the higher level of employed personnel and then
its average salary in the Brazilian IDB.
Among the mapping companies, on average only 19% were analyzed by
PINTEC. The segment with the largest participation in PINTEC was the naval
platform (C), in which, from an initial list of 355 companies, only 142 were
part of PINTEC in 2011. The space segment (G) was the smaller segment, with
only 21% in the same period. Between 2000 and 2011, the number of companies
analyzed by PINTEC increased 85% (among those making up the sample). Due
to such increase, it is hard to identify if the increase in the number of companies
that innovated was due to the amount of companies itself or if companies that
already have been part of the research started to innovate.
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The innovative profile is also captured by PINTEC (see Table 3). For sample
data, product innovation was implemented by about 10% more companies than
those implementing process innovations over the period. Between 2000 and
2011, there was a reduction in the number of companies in the weapons (A) and
ground platform (E) segments that introduced product innovations. The fact that
the naval segment (C) has a larger sample within PINTEC ends up reflecting the
number of companies that introduced innovations in general.
Table 3. Innovative profile of defense-related companies (PINTEC, 2000-2011)
Segment Year
Product Process
to the
New to
to the
New to
2000 10 4 6 9 4 5 7 26
2011 5 2 3 5 4 1 3 13
2000 17 8 9 11 5 6 8 36
2011 28 11 17 20 12 8 20 68
2000 51 25 26 46 30 16 27 124
2011 72 36 36 72 53 19 49 193
2000 7 4 3 7 2 5 4 18
2011 8 3 5 7 5 2 6 21
2000 26 13 13 8 5 3 6 40
2011 14 5 9 15 10 5 13 42
2000 26 13 13 25 13 12 15 66
2011 31 12 19 38 26 12 25 94
2000 7 2 5 6 3 3 5 18
2011 15 5 10 16 7 9 13 44
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016).
Since it influences exports, product innovation has been shown to be relatively
more important than process innovation (Dosi, Grazzi e Moschella 2015). In this
sense, defense-related companies are acting jointly towards a better international
insertion, although still relatively low if we consider the selected sample. Despite
the fact that most of the segments of this sample operate in the commercial
market, according to the companies’ perception, the spin-off (27%) has been
slightly higher than spin-in (22%). On average, 27% of respondents argued to have
developed technologies for military purposes and then used in the commercial
market (IPEA-ABDI, 2016).
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In this context, in a summarized and partly conclusive way, the mapping data
indicates that the Brazilian IDB operates in a dual perspective (Dagnino 2008).
Despite the fact that they operate mostly in the commercial market, defense-related
companies are able to meet the specific demands of the defense sector. This is
fundamental in a country like Brazil, where the demand for military products is
low and unstable. This characteristic of demand is a result of the country’s not
involving in wars in its recent history and the large concentration of the Ministry
of Defense (MD) budget in personnel expenditures (Matos, Fingolo e Schneider
2017). Another consequence of the low demand of the national armed forces
is the importance that the exports assumed: besides expanding the commercial
consumer market, they can also help maintain a minimum production capacity
for defense. Therefore, the next section will present different data on the export
of defense-related companies in Brazil.
The International Insertion of the Brazilian IDB
Defense-related companies exports profile
Between 2003 and 2010, the number of companies that exported grew slightly.
In the segments of arms (A) and nuclear propulsion (D), more than half of the
companies exported. Notwithstanding, in others such as electronics (B) and space
(G) the percentage was below 30%. Therefore, Table 4 shows that international
insertion of these firms is still limited, since the number of companies that export
is on average as high as 40%.
Table 4. Share of export by defense-related companies (2003-2010)
Year 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
A 59% 59% 53% 59% 59% 71% 65% 65%
B 18% 22% 18% 23% 22% 21% 24% 26%
C 28% 26% 27% 32% 30% 34% 38% 37%
D 38% 35% 38% 32% 47% 35% 41% 53%
E 31% 33% 35% 42% 33% 40% 44% 42%
F 19% 20% 20% 27% 27% 25% 29% 29%
G 14% 18% 16% 19% 17% 18% 20% 24%
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016).
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Table 5 shows the top 10 destination countries of defense-related companies’
export between 2008 and 2013. It can be seen that the top 10 accounted for
66.5% of the destination of exports (2008) and reached 84.7% (2013), indicating
a greater dependence on these markets and a reduction in the diversification
of the main partners. In 2013, the main destinations were the U.S. (38.3%),
Argentina (18.0%) and Venezuela (6.1%), totaling US$ 4,645.4 billion. Among
the other countries with significant share of exports in 2013, stand out the U.K.
(1.9%), Italy (1.8%), Azerbaijan (1.7%) and Colombia (1.6%).
Table 5. Top 10 destination of defense-related companies’ export (2008-2013)
Countries 2008 2009 2010 2 011 2012 2013
U.S. 38.6% 31.1% 19.9% 21.4% 23.9% 38.3%
Argentina 15.8% 14.7% 28.7% 30.5% 18.0% 18.0%
Venezuela 0.8% 1.5% 2.2% 1.3% 2.7% 6.1%
Ireland - - - - 2.2% 5.1%
China 2.7% 6.3% 6.2% 9.2% 13.3% 5.0%
Chile 3.1% 1.7% 3.4% 4.1% 4.9% 3.5%
Kenya - - - - 2.7% 2.3%
Brussels 1.7% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.3% 2.3%
Mexico 2.1% 1.3% 1.5% 4.1% 4.8% 2.2%
South Africa 1.8% 2.1% 2.1% 1.9% 1.6% 1.9%
Others 33.5% 41.2% 36.0% 27.2% 25.6% 15.3%
Total (millions) 7,899.60 5,539.40 6,013.10 6,841.90 7,338.70 7,444.10
Mean (millions) 246.9 184.6 214.8 213.8 222.4 240.1
Median (millions) 120.3 77.4 96.0 76.3 50.2 91.8
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016).
These top 10 countries comes from different natures: (i) regional integration
and strategic environment; (ii) international cooperation — south-south cooperation
(SSC); and (iii) historical trade relationships. In the first case, Latin American
countries in general stand out, such as Argentina, Venezuela, Chile and Mexico; in
the second case, it arises from particularly international cooperation arrangements
such as BRICS (China and South Africa); finally, the third case is due to Brazil’s
historical trade tradition with top five partners, such as the U.S. and the EU.
In the first two cases, it may be associated with the narrowing or the search
for closer approximation with countries of the Global South through Brazilian
foreign policy (BFP) in the period in question.
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With regard to its foreign policy agenda, Brazil has also avoided hard power
strategies, for example by renouncing nuclear weapons while joining the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) (Carranza 2017). This nature of Brazilian foreign
policy differs from the case of arms production in Asia, which “is heavily influenced
by concepts of techno-nationalism, which views autarky (self-sufficiency in
armaments) as serving not only national defense needs, but also as maximizing
national political, strategic, and economic autonomy” (Bitzinger 2015, 453).
In terms of quality, data are more encouraging. Data on the technological
intensity of exported products shows that these tend to be higher value-added
products. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
classifies the industrial sectors based on the level of technological intensity in
the 34 countries that make up its base (OECD 2015). Through the “technological
intensity” indicator, industrial sectors are classified into four levels: high,
medium-high, medium-low and low (Hatzinchronoglou 1997; OECD 2011). Table
6 shows how it applies to defense-related companies.
Table 6. Value exported from defense-related companies based on technological
intensity of exported products, in millions of dollars (2008-2013)
Segment Year
A 2008 284.0 5.0 278.8 0.0 0.1 0.0
2013 425.1 1.0 422.7 0.7 0.5 0.2
B 2008 29.9 19.5 9.9 0.3 0.2 0.0
2013 58.0 31.6 25.6 0.5 0.3 0.0
C 2008 2,121.2 33.7 1,938.7 129.9 15.2 3.7
2013 1,582.4 50.2 1,398.3 102.9 28.5 2.6
D 2008 15.3 1.5 13.4 0.4 0.0 0.0
2013 25.9 0.7 22.6 2.6 0.0 0.0
E 2008 1,584.1 25.7 1,402.3 140.0 16.1 0.0
2013 1,407.3 7.5 1,305.0 91.1 3.4 0.3
F 2008 6,096.2 5.858.8 141.2 78.0 18.3 0.0
2013 5,536.3 5.281.3 179.5 66.3 9.2 0.1
G 2008 53.6 2.6 44.5 6.2 0.3 0.0
2013 29.1 9.5 16.0 3.3 0.3 0.0
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016).
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When it comes to technological intensity of the exported products, the
highest value generated is related to the medium-high intensity products and the
evolutionary behavior has been positive in the analyzed period, as expected for
the defense industries. Comparing the sector to the average profile of Brazilian
exports, this result seems more encouraging. Several authors analyzed data of
the Brazilian foreign trade according to the technological intensity and the result
differs considerably from those found in the Brazilian IDB Mapping. Based on
the data, the balance of the value of products with medium-high intensity was
negative and, in general, the products of greater prominence are those of low
technology and non-industrial (De Negri 2005; Pereira, Porcile e Furtado 2001;
Torezani e Campos 2013; Vogel e Azevedo 2015. As mentioned before, medium-
high and high technological intensity products allow companies to be more
competitive, which may allow a better international insertion (Dosi, Lechevalier
e Secchi 2010; Dosi, Pavitt e Soete 2009).
Difficulty in accessing the international market
In the questionnaire used in the Brazilian IDB Mapping (IPEA 2016), companies
were contacted in 2015 in a survey about the obstacles they faced while seeking
insertion in foreign markets. Table 7 summarizes the results for all segments
under analysis. Among the main difficulties related to the international market
(evaluated as very high and high importance), there are: industrial protection
in destination countries (78%), unfavorable exchange rate (69%) and internal
bureaucracy (66%), respectively.
In this market, it is common to have some protection to the companies in
destination countries. However, companies do not benefit from the same (or
similar) policy in the case of Brazil. In addition, unfavorable exchange rates
and bureaucracy are identified as problems that reflect structural weaknesses
and macroeconomic policy in the country, so they are not necessarily linked to
the endogenous difficulties faced by companies and/or the particularities of the
defense sector itself. Analyzing the segments individually, we realize that each
one faces different obstacles, but it is noticed that the percentages indicated above
are strongly influenced by the aircraft (F), space (G) and naval (C) segments.
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Table 7. Identified obstacles by Brazilian defense-related companies
when looking for external markets (2015)
High Medium Low
Unfavorable exchange rate 33% 37% 28% 2% 1%
Port and airport costs 31% 33% 17% 13% 5%
International freight costs 18% 33% 23% 22% 5%
Domestic transportation costs 16% 26% 34% 19% 6%
Technical barriers of potential buyer countries 11% 31% 37% 18% 2%
Lack of information on potential buyers’ laws 13% 19% 48% 17% 3%
Lack of credit 27% 34% 29% 9% 1%
Lack of credit insurance (guarantees) 29% 35% 23% 11% 2%
Domestic bureaucracy 36% 31% 19% 11% 3%
Brazil is not associated with defense products 15% 29% 43% 11% 2%
Brazilian price is not competitive with similar foreign
23% 37% 27% 13% 1%
Brazilian quality/technology is not competitive with
similar foreign companies
11% 19% 39% 22% 10%
Brazilian governments from other countries support their
companies more than the Brazilian government does
48% 30% 19% 3% 1%
Brazilian company is not able to exhibit products at
international fairs abroad
19% 17% 28% 27% 8%
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016).
In the segment of electronic and command and control systems (B), for
example, port and airport costs, lack of credit and guarantees stand out, while in
the military naval platform segment (C) the outstanding obstacles identified by
companies were the public support for foreign competing companies, domestic
bureaucracy and unfavorable exchange rate. On the other hand, the military
ground platform segment (E) highlights that the main barriers are domestic
bureaucracy and lack of guarantees, while the military aircraft platform (F)
and defense-oriented space systems (G) segments stress the role of government
support to foreign companies, domestic bureaucracy and unfavorable exchange
rate. In this way, it can be concluded that among the main obstacles identified
by Brazilian defense-related companies are macroeconomic (domestic) and
industrial (domestic and international) variables.
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According to CNI (2018), in 2008, 82% of Brazilian commercial companies
interviewed stated that the exchange rate would be the main obstacle to exports.
Airport and port costs came in second place with 41.5%, followed by customs
bureaucracy (38.7%) and international freight cost (34%), respectively. More
recently, in 2018, airport and port costs appear first in the survey (51%), while
unfavorable exchange only appears in seventh place. The difficulty in offering
competitive prices (43.4%) and fees charged by consenting bodies (41.9%) were
in second and third place. Thus, there is a significant change in the obstacles
identified by defense and other Brazilian companies, since the category “port
and airport costs” ranked in fourth places (31.0%) and difficulty in offering
competitive prices in the seventh (23.0%).
Public instruments of export support
Export support policies can be an important tool to boost sales abroad. In
the scope of the Brazilian IDB mapping, the instruments of support provided by
the Brazilian Development Bank Exim (BNDES Exim), Drawback, and BNDES’
Export Financing Program (PROEX) were analyzed. Table 8 shows that Drawback
has been the most widely used incentive for companies. However, it can be
observed that in relation to the sample, the number of companies that used
some of these instruments is very low and that there is only a small increase
between 2003 and 2007.
Table 8. Export Support Instruments used by selected companies
BNDES Exim Proex Drawback
2003 - - 3 - 1 2 - - - 5 1 4 1 - 7 5 38 2 7 22 6
2004 1 1 3 - - 2 - - 1 5 1 5 - - 9 9 39 2 8 24 9
2005 - - 9 - 4 2 - - 2 5 2 2 1 - 6 7 49 5 10 25 8
2006 - - 4 - 3 3 - - 2 4 1 3 2 1 8 9 50 3 10 30 9
2007 - - 7 - 2 2 - - 4 3 - 2 6 2 9 9 45 2 12 30 9
Source: Own elaboration based on ABDI-IPEA (2016).
The drawback is a support instrument that exempts tax companies from
imported components and other inputs incorporated into the final product
destined for products to be exported. This instrument is particularly relevant in
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the Brazilian case, given the high volume of imports at all levels of the national
aircraft industry’s production chain, for example. Generally, the scarce connection
between the companies and the instruments of support can be an indicator of a
policy failure, at least in the adhesion to the needs of the companies.
Companies may have or not knowledge/access to these instruments or the
instruments themselves may not be adequate to the needs of these companies. In
any case, if there is a policy and, in turn, it does not reach important companies
strategically, it is possible that there is a failure in the interaction between
companies and government. This is because public support has historically
been critical to the productive and innovative success of defense companies,
even in the case of private companies, greatly contributing to the insertion in
the sector and obtaining significant plots in this market. According to Conca
(1997), there have been times in the history of the Brazilian defense industry
when the institutional inefficiency was responsible for its failure (Karp 1999).
Final remarks
Analyzing the defense industry and the defense market is challenging,
mainly because the availability of data is often limited. In Brazil, there was still
no publication that generally presented the profile of defense-related companies.
The Brazilian IDB mapping published by ABDI-IPEA in 2016 constitutes an effort
in this sense and offers a first approximation of these companies, although from a
sectorial perspective without necessarily analyzing the defense sector as a whole.
Then, this paper sought to make a conclusive and comparative synthesis of the
mapping, something that has not been done at the moment of its conclusion
and to date; besides we have critically analyzed the sectors, showing their main
differences. Even though some data were outdated due to the lack of official and
academic data, our main contribution was to analyze the “photograph” of that
moment, in view of the lack of continuous data dissemination for this specific
group of defense-related companies.
In this sense, it was first observed that each segment has a specific profile
and, consequently, a joint analysis mitigates or even omits the perception of
some differences between them. It is then believed that trying to fit the general
profile of the Brazilian IDB may be useful to help understanding its limitations
and critical issues.
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When it comes to international insertion of the Brazilian IDB, it is possible
to conclude that the selected sample points to positive factors in relation to its
Companies had an increase in the number of personnel with a higher
level and an average salary higher than the national average;
Among the companies analyzed by PINTEC, more than 70% made
innovations in the analyzed period;
Product innovations were slightly higher than innovations in process;
The products exported are medium-high and high-tech;
The main destination of defense-related companies are countries in the
immediate region of Latin America (Argentina, Venezuela, Chile and
Mexico) and countries related to international cooperation arrangements
such as BRICS (China and South Africa), as well as from historical trade
traditions (US and EU); and
The main barriers to insertion are on average more related to structural
and macroeconomic issues, rather than to internal business conditions.
Despite limitations in terms of data and time period analyzed, which cannot
complete or exhaust the subject, it was possible to draw an initial and general
profile of the industry (detailed by different segments) and to define relevant issues
that need further analysis (such as personnel profile, technological innovation
profile, destination markets, and types of financing).
One of the main features of the defense products market are its barriers, so it
is not surprising that this was the main difficulty pointed out by companies. This
difficulty could be overcome by offering innovative products. However, the innovative
profile is still focused on process and shows weakness in product innovations.
This feature may limit the competitiveness of companies. In the same line, the
fact that exports are mainly destined for South American countries, neighbors and
Mercosur partners, without involvement in conflicts, corroborates the difficulty
of inserting the products of Brazilian companies operating in the defense area.
Among the possible related issues that come from this debate, there are
challenges of political and economic nature, which require greater debate and
transparency in the defense sector in general, and in the case of Brazil in particular.
Therefore, the contribution of this paper is paramount to finally present an
overview of the sector so that industry itself, academia, policymakers and other
stakeholders have a better knowledge of the sector’s profile, size, challenges and
opportunities of Brazilian defense.
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Appendix 1
Year Nominal exchange rate
2000 1,83
2001 2,35
2002 2,92
2003 3,08
2004 2,93
2005 2,43
2006 2,18
2007 1,95
2008 1,83
2009 2,00
2010 1,76
2011 1,68
2012 1,96
2013 2,16
2014 2,35
2015 3,33
2016 3,49
Source: Own elaboration based on Ipeadata database. Nominal exchange rates were
calculated based on the average of nominal monthly exchange rates from the official
Brazilian government database. Available at: <