Astros II

Astros II (Artillery Saturation Rocket System) is a self-propelled multiple rocket launcher produced in Brazil by the Avibras company. It features modular design and employs rockets with calibers ranging from 127 to 450 mm (5-17.72 inches). It was developed on the basis of a Tectran VBT-2028 6×6 all-terrain vehicle for enhanced mobility based on Mercedes-Benz 2028 truck chassis while later versions use Tatra 815-7 chassis.

A full Astros system includes 1 wheeled 4×4 Battalion level Command Vehicle (AV-VCC), which commands 3 batteries, and a series of 4×4 and 6×6 wheeled vehicles. Each battery consists of:

In the older version of the system, the fire control vehicle were listed as optional vehicle in a battery. The command vehicles and weather stations are recent additions, designed to improve overall system performance on newer versions. All vehicles are transportable in a C-130 Hercules. The launcher is capable of firing rockets of different calibers armed with a range of warheads.

Each rocket resupply truck carries up to two complete reloads.

The Astros II artillery system entered service with the Brazilian Army in 1983. The system is battle proven, having been used in action by the Iraqi Army in the Gulf Wars.

In the 1980s, Avibras sold an estimated 66 Astros II artillery systems to Iraq. Iraq also built the Sajeel-60 which is a license-built version of the Brazilian SS-60. Sixty Astros II were sold to Saudi Arabia and an unspecified number sold to Bahrain and Qatar. Total sales of the Astros II between 1982 and 1987 reached US$1 billion. This fact made the Astros II multiple rocket launcher the most profitable weapon produced by Avibras.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Avibras manufactured almost exclusively rockets and multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), such as the Astros II, in addition to developing antitank and antiship missiles. At its peak, Avibras employed 6,000 people; later it would be reduced to 900 people in the early 1990s as the arms industry demand fell. Even so, in the first Gulf War in 1991, the Astros II was successfully used by Saudi Arabia against Iraq. Years earlier, the Astros II system had helped Angola to defeat the UNITA.

The next step is an ambitious program, the Astros 2020 (Mk6), based on a 6×6 wheeled chassis. Being a new concept, it will require an estimated investment of R$1.2 billion, of which about US$210 million will be invested solely in development. It will be integrated with the cruise missile AVMT-300 with 300-km range during the stage of testing and certification. It is said that the venture will, for example, enable the Army to integrate the Astros with defense anti-aircraft guns, paving the way for the utilization of common platforms, trucks, parts of electronic sensors and command vehicles. The new MK6 system will use Tatra Trucks’ T815-790R39 6×6 and T815-7A0R59 4×4 trucks instead of the original Mercedes-Benz 2028A 6×6 truck. ASTROS 2020 offers several basic improvements including an improved armored cabin, modern digital communications and navigation systems, and a new tracking radar that replaces the AV-UCF’s Contraves Fieldguard system. The new tracking radar used by MK6 AV-UCF was later revealed to be the Fieldguard 3 Military Measurement System from Rheinmetall Air Defence. The Astros 2020 will also be equipped with a 180 mm GPS-guided rocket called the SS-AV-40G with a range of 40 km (25 mi) and SS-150 newly developed rockets with a claimed maximum range of 150 km. Four of them are carried. 36 Astros 2020 systems are to be acquired.