Tag Archives: A-29

Is this the ideal OA-X candidate?

The pending US Air Force competition for a light-weight ground-attack aircraft has been widely publicized. The US is expected to formally announce the OA-X competition this summer. The winner of this competition could very well be the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. Or could it?

Yes, the famed and feared Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt will continue to cause hazards to forces opposing the US for a few more years. However, unsure about exactly how many more years and if the Lockheed Martin F-35 will be able to fill the Thunderbolt’s shoes when it finally leaves, the US Air Force is looking at its ground attack capabilities. And the conclusion is that a small and flexible aircraft is needed.

That aircraft may very well be the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano. This Brazilian turboprop was designed in Brazil but is currenty also license-built in the US by Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). As part of a contract awarded in February 2013, these aircraft are adding a ground attack capability to the Afghan Air Force. Pilots from Afghanistan learn to fly the A-29 with the US Air Force’s 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.

Given this experience, the A-29 is likely candidate to enter in the OA-X competition. But ideal enough to actually  win? The US-designed and produced Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine may fit the bill just as well. And how about an armed Textron AirLand Scorpion Jet?

The first flight of the production version of the Beechcraft AT-6 in August 2013 (Image © Beechcraft)
The first flight of the production version of the Beechcraft AT-6 in August 2013 (Image © Beechcraft)
Lookin’ tough: the Textron Airland Scorpion. (Image © Textron Airland)

Plus, let’s not forget there’s another competition running right now, and it’s called T-X. The candidates in that competition may also offer the flexibility the US is looking for. An armed version over Lockheed Martin’s and Korea Aerospace Industries’ T-50 trainer already exists, and its  called FA-50. Meanwhile, Leonardo in Italy is already busy developing the M-346FT Fighter Trainer, an armed version of the M-346 Master.

Obviously, the winner of OA-X competition won’t be announced for some years. But it’s just as obvious that upon closer inspection, there are a lot more likely candidates than just the A-29.

© 2017 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

The KAI FA-50 in flight (Image © KAI)
The KAI FA-50 in flight (Image © KAI)
The armed M-346FT development (Image © Leonardo Finmeccanica)
The armed M-346FT development (Image © Leonardo Finmeccanica)

 

 

Feature: Combat ready – training Afghan A-29 pilots

The Afghan Air Force had its first class of eight pilots graduate on 17 December 2015 on its new primary combat aircraft: the Embraer A-29B Super Tucano. They were trained on Moody Air Force Base in the United States by staff of the 81st Fighter Squadron.

In March this year the then student pilots made their first real-life sorties on board the A-29 in the skies of the state of Georgia, a month after classroom training started and two months after the 81st FS was reactivated just for the Afghan Air Force Super Tucano – of which 20 were bought by Washington to equip the Asian country with some sort of fixed-wing air combat element.

Engines started for another combat training mission (Image © Airman 1st Class Kathleen D. Bryant / US Air Force)
Engines started for another combat training mission (Image © Airman 1st Class Kathleen D. Bryant / US Air Force)
Taxiing at Moody Air Force Base (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)
Taxiing at Moody Air Force Base (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)
Ready to go! (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)
Ready to go! (Image © Airman 1st Class Dillian Bamman / US Air Force)

Al-Quada hide-outs in Afghanistan

The White House and Capitol Hill apparently felt an obligation to rebuild the nation’s military after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in reaction to terror airplane attacks in Washington and New York City that destroyed NYC’s World Trade Center and parts of the Pentagon in DC. When the Osama bin Laden led al-Qaeda organisation claimed responsibility the American military went after their hide-outs in Afghanistan and took on the destabilizing Taliban forces in that country as well.

Granted the US for Afghan deal in February 2013 through the US based Sierra Nevada Corporation, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer set up store at Jacksonville in Florida to let US personnel assemble the so-called Light Air Support Aircraft (LAS) in a 40,000 square foot hangar.


RELATED: Overview Afghan Air Force
An Afghan National Army Mil Mi-17V5 (Image © Russian Helicopters)
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of the Afghan Air Force


A-29 backbone

The A-29 Super Tucano will form the backbone of the Afghan Air Force combat element, giving the Afghans something quicker and more versatile to field than the Mil Mi-35 helicopters it is replacing. Training in January started on three machines only, with only a few USAF Airmen. Now that the first eight students have graduated, the 81st FS will continue to train 20 more pilots over the next three years.

Missing students

The training program made headlines in December when two Afghan military personnel failed to show up for work while in the US. The two have been missing since 8 December and when found, will be deported back to Afghanistan, US authorities say.

Spending time on the A-29 simulator is part of the training. A student-pilot is seen here "flying" over Kabul, Afghanistan - his future area of operations (Image © Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley / US Air Force)
Spending time on the A-29 simulator is part of the training. A student-pilot is seen here “flying” over Kabul, Afghanistan – his future area of operations (Image © Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley / US Air Force)

Replacing Mi-35

Shipped to Afghanistan the first A-29s will take up the fight when the Mi-35s are retired in January 2016. This seems all rather quick-quick and it is. In fact, US Air Force Major-General James Hecker, the commander of the 81st Fighter Squadron’s 19th Air Force, acknowledges the Afghan pilots and their American instructors “had to push it” since pilot training on a new aircraft type normally takes two to three years. The Afghan Air Force A-29 pilots had to be ready in 11 months.

Low-cost close-air support

The A-29 is currently considered to be the world’s best low-cost CAS/COIN aircraft, with an operational cost of about 1,000 to 3,000 US dollar per flying hour – use of weapons not included. For a normal attack or fighter aircraft the prize per hour is at least US$ 18,000.

A pair of Super Tucanos in the air over Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
A pair of Super Tucanos in the air over Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
The sun illuminates the rear cockpit of an A-29 Super Tucano in flight on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
The sun illuminates the rear cockpit of an A-29 Super Tucano in flight on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
An A-29B Super Tucano sits on the flightline during a preflight inspection 8 January 2015, shortly after delivery to Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
An A-29B Super Tucano sits on the flightline during a preflight inspection 8 January 2015, shortly after delivery to Moody (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)

Largest A-29 customer

Embraer so far delivered around 190 EMB 314/A-29 Super Tucanos of at least 230 aircraft ordered. Largest customer is the Brazilian Air Force, having received 33 A-29A single-seaters and 66 A-29B two-seaters between 2003 and 2012, with so far four aircraft lost in accidents. Worldwide the fleet has logged more than 180,000 flight hours and 28,000 combat hours.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)

Ghana orders more Super Tucanos, expands Air Force

Ghana is to order four additional Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack, counter-insurgency and training aircraft from Brazil, according to Ghanaian Air Force’s Air Vice Marshal Michael Samon-Oje. More new aircraft are on their way.

The high-ranking officers confirmed on Accra Airbase this week that its country will gain a second batch of the Super Tucanos, following a 2015 order for five A-29s, and that negotiations with Brazil are ongoing.

Third Ghana Airbus C295

As we reported earlier Ghana is upgrading its military. Apart from the five Harbin Z-9EH helicopters received in October this year, a third Airbus C295 tactical airlifter is soon expected. Six additional Mil Mi-17 tactical transport helicopters are on order in Russia, to complement the current seven “Hips”.

The Ghana Air Force C295 at the Airbus plant in Seville in October 2015. Special thanks to Paweł Bondaryk for making this photo available to us (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
The Ghana Air Force C295 at the Airbus plant in Seville in October 2015. Special thanks to Paweł Bondaryk for making this photo available to us (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

After the four remaining Aermacchi MB-339 aircraft were placed in storage in 2014, the Ghanaian Air Force has no fixed-wing combat element until the entry into service in 2016 of the first five Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano in Brazilian Air Force service (Image © Embraer)

Game on for Força Aérea Brasileira

A Brazilian Air Force F-5EM Tiger on take off. (Image © Ralph Blok)
A Brazilian Air Force F-5EM Tiger on take off. (Image © Ralph Blok)

A soccer game usually lasts only 90 minutes, but for the Força Aérea Brasileira, it will be game on until well after the final world cup match on 13 July. All air traffic around the soccer stadiums will be monitored and controlled from a Master Command and Control Room in Rio de Janeiro, and F-5EM Tiger and A-29 Super Tucano aircraft will be used to intercept any unknowns. Also, Embraer E-99 surveillance aircraft are watching and UH-60L Blackhawk helicopters will be on standby.

The areas around the stadiums are temporary no-fly zones and designated Terminal Control Areas (TMA). The most closely guarded airspace is a red sector with a 4 miles radius around each stadium, followed by a yellow zone with a 7 miles radius. All unidentified aircraft within those sectors will be intercepted, says the Brazilian Air Force. On intercept by either F-5EMs or A29s, rocking the wings will the universal signal to tresspassing pilots to follow the Força Aérea Brasileira aircraft out of the no fly zone.

The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano in Brazilian Air Force service (Image © Embraer)
The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano in Brazilian Air Force service (Image © Embraer)

Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will also be used during the world cup. The control center in Rio de Janeiro is also responsible for handling commercial and business flights to all host cities for the world cup.

If your Portuguese is up to standard, this YouTube video explains more.

© 2014 AIRheads’ editor Elmer van Hest

Related posts

A-29s start flying with USAF/Afghans

The US Air Force will get the first of the 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light air support aircraft (LAS) as planned in mid-2014, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer confirmed this week. The first 40 personnel have already been recruited in the local Jacksonville community, Florida, where Embraer will complete the aircraft.


NEWER POST: Afghan Air Force A-29
status as of December 2015

An 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot flies an A-29 Super Tucano on 5 March 2015 (Image © Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan / US Air Force)
Check out our newest A-29 feature


The 40,000 square foot assembly hangar is located at Jacksonville International Airport and was opened on March 26, 2013, home of F-15s of the USAF 159th Fighter Squadron as well.

Embraer already has a plant in the southern American state, after it opened a US production facility in Melbourne (Florida) in 2011 for the production of the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 executive jets. Embraer currently employs over 1,300 people across the United States. More than 100 U.S. companies will supply parts and services for the A-29 Super Tucano. Some 1,400 U.S. jobs will be supported by the LAS contract.

On February 27, 2013 the U.S. Air Force awarded the LAS contract to Sierra Nevada Corporation to supply 20 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, as well as ground-based training devices, pilot and maintenance training, and logistical support. The Sierra Nevada Corporation and Embraer work together on the project. The USAF will move the A-29s to the Afghan Air Force, where they will form the backbone of the air support to ground units and will replace attack helicopters in that role.

The A-29 Super Tucano is a robust, relatively powerful turboprop aircraft developed from the Shorts/Embraer Tucano training aircraft. Its mission can include close air support (CAS) and intelligence, surveillance, counter-insurgency (COIN) and reconnaissance. The airplane is in use with nine air forces around the world and, for more than five years, has employed state-of-the-art munitions on real operational missions.

More than 190 Super Tucanos have been ordered, and over 170 delivered. The aircraft has logged more than 180,000 flight hours and 28,000 combat hours. It is equipped with advanced electronic, electro-optic, infrared and laser system technologies, as well as secure radio systems with data links and a relative high munitions capacity compared to similar aircraft.

Many experts feel the Super Tucano is the best affordable CAS/COIN aircraft at the moment, providing a robust light attack platform for US$ 1,000 to US$ 3,000 per flying hour, in stead of US$ 18,000 or more for today’s standard fighter and attack aircraft.

The A-29 has a higher survivability capability than f. ex. the militarised Cessnas and similar types that are commonly used around the world for cheap aerial forward air control and lighter air tasking missions. According to many, including US Air Force senior specialists, the Super Tucano outclasses competitor Beechcraft AT-6.

© 2013 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by Embraer
Featured image: The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano in Brazilian Air Force service (Image © Embraer)