The first four Embraer A-29B Super Tucano light attack aircaft for the Afghan Air Force arrived in Kabul this weekend, Afghan defense officials have said. The delivery follows last month’s graduation of the first class of Afghan pilots for the type.
The US State Department has approved a possible sale of six A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Lebanon, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in Washington announced on 9 June. The aircraft would support Lebanon in holding off Islamic State (IS) at the eastern border with Syria.
The proposed sale includes associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of 462 million USD. According to the DCSA, the sale of the Super Tucanos ‘will provide Lebanon with a much needed Close Air Support (CAS) platform to meet present and future challenges posed by internal and border security threats’.
The Super Tucano was originally developed by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. Prime contractor in the US is Sierra Nevada Corporation, which builds the type in Jacksonville, Florida. Super Tucanos are currently being built for the Afghan Air Force. Other contractors are BAE Systems and Pratt & Whitney.
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.
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.