Traditionally, Brazil’s military hasn’t had a massive budget and, for many years, used primarily the trusty FN FAL, the M16, and the HK33. Yet, in 2008 the Brazillian military decided to standardize and replace those rifles with one universal service rifle since having one rifle platform greatly simplifies logistics and makes training more efficient, cheaper, and easier.
The project was assigned to IMBEL (Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasi), which stands for Brazillian War Material Industry and is a government armory that has been producing small arms since the 1930s. The initial effort led to the IMBEL MD97, but this rifle could not meet the standards of the Brazillian military, so, IMBEL went back to the drawing board and created the IA2.
The FN FAL evolves into the IA2
When IMBEL began designing the new it looked to the FN FAL for inspiration as it was a rifle it already understood and which most Brazilian troops had fired. Similarly to the FAL, the new IA2 utilized a short-stroke gas-piston design. Additionally, IMBEL used most of the FAL’s ergonomics — including the safety, charging handle, and magazine release — on the IAD. Wisely, it also kept the FAL-type iron sights as most Brazilian troops had been trained on them.
The IA2 can be considered an evolution of the FAL. The main improvements included chambering a variant in 5.56mm, adapting it to use STANAG NATO magazines, and making the platform more modular to accept optics, grenade launchers, and laser aiming systems, among others.
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The IMBEL IA2 – A tale of two rifles
The IA2 is a selective-fire family of rifles that comes in various sizes and calibers. The original FAL was a 7.62 NATO rifle but it was also made in 5.56mm. While both variants feature folding stocks, optics rails, and modular handguards, they do differ.
With the 5.56 variant, IMBEL went with a rotating bolt, much like that found in the M16. With the 7.62 variant, they stuck to the tilting breechblock design of the FN FAL. While the end user might not notice much of a difference, design-wise this is a significant difference.
Further, the 5.56 variant uses STANAG magazines, just like an M16, whereas the 7.62 NATO variant sticks to the FN FAL magazines. But their differences don’t stop there.
The standard 5.56mm IA2 variant features a 17.7-inch barrel and makes up the bulk of the issued IA2 rifles. A carbine model exists with a 14.5-inch barrel and for when things get really close quarters there is also a model with a 10.3-inch barrel.
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The 7.62 variant is a squad-level rifle that extends the range of a fire squad. It is used with law enforcement which still has enough FN FAL mags and ammo. It also serves as a designated marksman’s rifle and there is also a sniper variant with a bipod, precision stock, and bipod.
IMBEL is also producing carbine and close-quarters combat variants of the 7.62 rifle, but it’s unclear if these are being used by the Brazillian military and could be produced for law-enforcement use or for export.
Yet, since the very beginning of this project, the 5.56 variant has been the main priority and will likely be the future of the Brazillian military.
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Accessorizing the IA2
The IA2 is a modern platform and the Brazilian military has been adopting a variety of modern accessories to use with the weapon. Border guards have been seen with HDS 3AA red dots, and some forces have the MVR MARS red dot sight from Ares. Special operation units have been seen with ACOG-equipped rifles.
A variety of foregrips have been seen, as have M203 grenade launchers. There doesn’t seem to be any standard issue lights or laser aiming systems being wielded yet.
The IA2 is a fascinating modernization of the FAL and looks to be one of the better assault rifles currently coming out of South America.
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