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Mexico - Defense Industry

The Mexican defense industry is fairly active producing "soft" items: manuals, uniforms, etc. The "Industria Militar" (owned by the government) produces uniforms and other supplies, and small arms, including G3 machine guns. No equipment such as tanks, aircraft, etc., is manufactured and there are no known plans to produce this type of equipment. Other than the Industria Militar, the U.S. is the largest defense equipment supplier to Mexico. Mexico does, however, buy from many sources as a result of a decentralized purchasing system. It has bought helicopters from Canada and France, transports from Spain, fixed wing aircraft from Israel, and trainer aircraft from Finland. Other foreign suppliers include Belgium, Brazil, Chile, and Russia.

Mexico has had a small defense industry since before the Revolution. In 1996 the defense industry consisted largely of the production of small arms, ammunition, propellants, and uniforms in government factories. As part of the modernization program launched in 1976, the armed forces redirected their efforts toward attaining a degree of self-sufficiency. The General Directorate of Military Industry drew up plans for production of large military systems, in cooperation with foreign arms manufacturers. The major expansion originally envisaged had to be curtailed, however, because of the economic difficulties of the early 1980s, and projects discussed with West German, Israeli, and Brazilian defense industries involving coproduction of armored vehicles were abandoned. The country's military industry has never reached the level of Brazil and Argentina, the other major Latin American producers of defense-related matriel.

Under a coproduction agreement with West Germany, the Mexican defense industry began mass-producing the standard infantry G-3 automatic rifle in the early 1980s. At the same time, the state-owned Diesel Nacional truck factory began manufacturing three-quarter-ton trucks for military use as well as the DN-3 and DN-5 armored car, derived from the United States Cadillac-Gage V-150 Commando. There were periodic reports of negotiations with foreign producers to cooperate in the manufacture of light and medium tanks, but questions of financing and the availability of special steel intervened.

Between 1972 and 1982, the government allocated considerable funds to the industrial sector for scientific and technical development related to military uses. In 1982 a telecommunications network using telex equipment was built to link military zones with the headquarters of the Secretariat of National Defense in Mexico City. The armed forces also began developing short-range, three- to twelve-kilometer, surface-to-surface missiles, but never reached the production stage.

Since the Revolution, Mexico has had an aircraft industry that produced a number of military models--both original designs and licensed manufactures--that formed part of the air force inventory until the 1960s. In an effort to revive the local aircraft industry, Mexico held discussions with both Brazil and Israel to produce trainer and light transport aircraft under license, but plans had to be shelved for financial reasons.

Mexico's major shipyards at Tampico on the Gulf of Mexico and Salina Cruz on the Pacific Ocean have been involved in the construction of patrol craft and auxiliary vessels. The largest program, involving the manufacture of Azteca-class patrol craft, was carried out under a licensed production agreement with a British firm.

While the Mexican government has undertaken an extensive program to privatize state-owned industries, defense facilities have never been mentioned.



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