The EE-9 Cascavel ([kɐʃ.kɐ.ˈvɛɫ], translated to Rattlesnake) is a six-wheeled Brazilian armoured car developed primarily for reconnaissance. It was engineered by Engesa in 1970 as a replacement for Brazil's ageing fleet of M8 Greyhounds. The vehicle was first fitted with the Greyhound's 37mm main gun, and subsequently, a French turret adopted from the Panhard AML-90. Later models carry unique Engesa turrets with a Belgian 90mm Cockerill Mk.3 cannon produced under licence as the EC-90.
The Cascavel shares many components with the EE-11 Urutu, its armoured personnel carrier counterpart; both entered production in 1974 and are now operated by over 20 nations in South America, Africa, and the Middle East. Rights to the design were also sold to the United States via the FMC Corporation. About 2,767 Cascavels and Urutus were manufactured before Engesa ceased operations in 1993.
Throughout the early 1960s, Brazil's bilateral defence agreements with the United States ensured easy access to a postwar surplus of American military equipment, including a number of World War II-vintage M8 Greyhound armoured cars. The Brazilian arms industry limited itself to restoring and maintaining this obsolete hardware until 1964, when American involvement in the Vietnam War placed restrictions on the amount of defence technology available for export. Brazil responded by creating an indigenous import substitution programme in 1968 aimed at reproducing US equipment already in service. By 1970 the Brazilian Army was developing an updated Greyhound known simply by its Portuguese initials, CRR (Carro de Reconhecimento sobre Rodas). Engesa, then an obscure civilian engineering firm, took over the project and by November 1970 a prototype was completed. The new EE-9 Cascavel entered the pre-production phase between 1972 and 1973. Assembly lines for the Cascavel and its armoured personnel counterpart, the EE-11 Urutu, were opened in 1974. The hulls were purchased by the Brazilian Army, but mounted the same antiquated 37mm cannon and turret recycled from its elderly Greyhounds. To compete with more formidable armament available on the international market, Engesa also marketed a heavily modified Cascavel with an automatic transmission and the same 90mm (3.54 in) low-pressure gun found on the Panhard AML. This model, intended for export, drew interest in the Middle East and twenty were immediately purchased by Qatar.
The Qatari Cascavel sale proved to be a major success for Engesa, and Brazil's first successful inroad into the Arabian arms trade. Abu Dhabi followed suit with an order for two hundred Cascavels in 1977. Both Iraq and Libya chose the Cascavel in preference to the Panhard AML-90 or ERC-90 Sagaie, with the former negotiating a $400 million deal for the delivery of two hundred Cascavels and two hundred Urutus. Following the Libyan sale, Engesa unveiled a new production model carrying a Belgian designed, Cockerill main gun manufactured under licence as the EC-90 in Brazil.
The Armed Forces of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya successfully deployed a number of EE-9 Cascavels against Egyptian tanks, likely T-54/55s or T-62s, during the Libyan–Egyptian War in 1977. Libyan Cascavels also saw action in Chad, where they engaged AML-90s of the French Foreign Legion and French Marines. An unknown number of these armoured cars were later donated to the Polisario Front and Togo, while others remained in service as late as the 2011 Libyan Civil War.
Chad's Transitional Government of National Unity (GUNT) received five EE-9 Cascavels from Libya in 1986. Over the course of the Chadian–Libyan conflict, seventy-nine ex-Libyan Cascavels were captured or recovered from the Aouzou Strip by the Chadian military, which continues to hold them in storage.
During the Iran-Iraq War, EE-9 Cascavels were operated by Iraqi garrisons near the Persian Gulf. The armoured cars were frequently able to outmaneuvre the heavier Iranian tanks and tracked combat vehicles on the relatively flat, sandy terrain near the coastal region. Coalition air strikes later destroyed several north of Kuwait City in Operation Desert Storm. Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the surviving fleet was condemned for scrap; however, American technical personnel did restore thirty-five to working order in 2008 and present them to the New Iraqi Army.
Zimbabwe procured ninety EE-9 Cascavels in 1984 as a suitable replacement for the Eland Mk7. At least one Zimbabwean Cascavel squadron deployed into Mozambique during the Mozambican Civil War to protect Harare's primary commercial links in Tete Province. The armoured cars provided armed escort for local convoys and patrolled the roads to preempt attacks by South African-backed Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) insurgents. During Zimbabwe's intervention in the Second Congo War, Ilyushin Il-76s commandeered from local charter firms were used to airlift twelve Cascavels to N'djili Airport. From there they subsequently engaged Rwandan troops advancing on Kinshasha. Some were abandoned by Zimbabwean troops in the Congo after being sabotaged beyond repair, while four others were captured by rebel factions. Few remain in present service due to lack of funds to source new parts from Brazil.
The EE-9 Cascavel has found favour with many armies due to its simplified design and use of components already ubiquitous to civilian industry. Its low cost next to comparable Western armoured cars makes it an attractive purchase to developing nations in particular. At the height of the Cold War, the strictly commercial nature of Engesa sales—devoid of any political supplier restraints—was also perceived as an acceptable alternative to arms from NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
All EE-9 Cascavels have a similar layout—the driver is seated at the front of the vehicle and to the left, turrets are typically fitted above the centre, with motor and transmission situated at the rear. The Cascavel Mk II has a manual turret, but all later variants have electrically powered traverse. Cascavel Mk IIIs are equipped with an Engesa EC-90 90mm gun firing high explosive (HE), high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) or high explosive squash head (HESH) shells in cartridge form; a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun is also mounted to the left of the main armament. The EC-90 has an elevation of +15° and a depression of -8°. It is not stabilised and only mounts a rudimentary optical fire control system, which has been upgraded with a laser rangefinder in Brazilian service. Late production Cascavels were fitted with run-flat tyres and a unique central tyre pressure regulator accessible from the driving compartment.
A boxy, boat-shaped vehicle, the EE-9 Cascavel has a steep frontal glacis which slopes upwards and back towards the horizontal hull roof, with recesses for the headlamps and a thick glacis plate over the driver's seat. The hull sides are nearly vertical, but also sloped inwards towards the roof. There is a low, well-rounded turret on the forward section of the hull with a long, tapered gun barrel and a triple baffle muzzle brake.Cascavel Mk I: Popularly nicknamed Cascavel Magro (skinny rattlesnake) for its small turret ring, this was Engesa's initial production model and only entered service with the Brazilian Army. It was equipped with a turret adopted from the M8 Greyhound and a manual transmission. Its prevailing feature were two sets of rear road wheels linked by an articulated, boomerang-shaped suspension which boosted rear wheel drive—a characteristic that became nearly synonymous with the Cascavel and Urutu.
Cascavel Mk II: Popularly nicknamed Cascavel Gordo (fat rattlesnake) for its wide turret ring, this was Engesa's first export model and entered service with Qatar, Bolivia, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, and Libya. It was equipped with an H-90 turret adopted from the Panhard AML-90 and an automatic transmission.
Cascavel Mk III: An improved EE-9 Cascavel Mk II refitted with a diesel engine and an Engesa turret carrying the new Brazilian-manufactured 90mm EC-90 main gun. An anti-aircraft prototype carrying twin 25mm autocannon was also trialled but not adopted. Most Cascavel Mk Is were upgraded to this standard, including automatic transmissions, for the Brazilian Army.
Cascavel Mk IV: First production model to be equipped with run-flat tyres and the tyre pressure regulator. Also carried a more integrated fire control system.
Cascavel Mk V: An EE-9 Cascavel Mk IV fitted with a Mercedes-Benz OM52A diesel engine developing 190 hp (142 kW). This was the final variant offered for sale by Engesa.
EE-9U Cascavel MX-8: Version modernized by Equitron for the Brazilian Army and the other Cascavel users. It is equipped with a 300 hp (220 kW) MTU / Mercedes electronic engine with overcharging by turbocharger and intercooler. The boomerang suspension has received improvements in performance, the disc brake system is completely new and the engine exhaust drawing as well, expelling the air upwards and not backwards, thus reducing the thermal signature of the car. It also provides a highly praised air conditioning system for the crew. Integrates night vision for the driver and shooting systems. The tower received the electro-hydraulic system of rotation and tube elevation (back-up by manual system) similar to that used in the German KMW's Leopard tank, as well as receiving the laser, thermal and infrared rangefinder systems made by Orlaco, of Netherlands, selected by the commander and / or shooter through a joystick and associated keys, and increased ammunition capacity in the tower. On the outside, two anti-tank missile launchers (ATGM), which can be sized to receive both systems such as MSS-1.2 (integrating the laser rangefinder of the vehicle) and more sophisticated ones like the Russian Ataka and the Israeli Spike (with autonomous acquisition and targeting system)
Brazil: 600 (409 operational)
Democratic Republic of the Congo: 19
Iran: 150; 35 operational.
Iraq: 364; 35 operational.
Libya: 500; 70 operational.
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Zimbabwe: 90; 10 operational and 77 reserve.