Home' Defence Review Asia : DRA_Nov 2012 Contents 30 DefenceReviewAsia | NOVEMBER 2012
project. Venezuela requested a dozen Super Tucanos
in February 2005, but the US blocked the deal due
to its unhappiness with Hugo Chavez’s government,
as it can veto any transaction involving American
technology (in this case the engine).
The A-29 Super Tucano is capable of performing
a broad range of missions that include light attack,
aerial surveillance and interception, and counter-
insurgency. This light attack capability is one
of its strongest selling points as it is a low-cost
counterinsurgency aircraft able to operate from
remote bases with unpaved runways and minimal
ground support. Unlike many other trainers, the Super
Tucano was designed with integrated weapons (two
.5 0 machineguns) from the start.
As it was intended for combat, the Super Tucano
has numerous survivability features, including
anti-detonating plastics foam in the wing tanks
and Kevlar cockpit armour - a Columbian aircraft
returned to base with several bullet holes in its wings.
Countermeasures are comprehensive for such a
small aircraft and consist of chaff/flare dispensers,
a missile approach warning system (MAWS) and a
radar warning receiver (RWR).
Compared to the Tucano, the EMB-314 has a
stronger airframe, allowing greater stores carriage,
and giving it a potential 18 000 hours fatigue life
for typical training missions or 12 000 hours in
operational environments and g-limits of +7/-3.5 .
Two types of engine are offered for the Super
Tucano: ALX aircraft are powered by the 1 600 shp
(1 193 kW) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68 -3 with Full
Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), while the
baseline EMB-314 has the 1 300 shp (969 kW)
PT6A-68A engine. These engines give the Super
Tucano a top speed in excess of 300 mph (500
km/h) and an endurance of more than three hours on
The crew sit in tandem on Martin-Baker Mk 10
LCX zero-zero ejection seats. To give a jet-like flying
experience, the Super Tucano’s cockpit features a
single lever that combines both throttle and propeller
adjustment controls while Hands On Throttle And
Stick (HOTAS) controls and two-axis autopilot come
standard. Consequently, in the trainer role the aircraft
has numerous advantages over jet trainers, since it
combines jet-like flying characteristics with turboprop
The Super Tucano can train pilots in the whole
primary and half of the advanced pilot training
syllabus, including weapons training using real or
virtual armament (including virtual missiles, self
protection systems and radar). If the optional data
link is installed, two or more aircraft can participate in
simulated combat missions.
The ALX features a sophisticated avionics suit
provided by Elbit. Its night vision goggle compatible
glass cockpit features two 6 x 8 in (152 x 203 mm)
colour multi-function displays for each crewmember
while the front cockpit has a head-up display (HUD).
Optional equipment includes a helmet-mounted
display, data link (taken up by Brazil and Columbia)
and video camera and recorder. For night surveillance
and attack missions the AT-29 is provided with a
FLIR Systems AN/AAQ-22 SAFIRE forward-looking
infrared turret under the fuselage.
For a turboprop trainer the Super Tucano is very
well armed, as it is certified for more than 130
munitions configurations, and its weapons control
system is equivalent to modern fighter jets. Standard
built-in armament consists of a .50 cal (12.7 mm)
machinegun in each wing with 200 rounds of
ammunition. There are five wing/fuselage hardpoints
Armament options include two Giat NC621 20
mm cannon pods, Mk 81/82 bombs, BLG-252
cluster bombs and SBAT-70/19 or LAU-68A/G
rocket pods. Brazilian aircraft can carry Orbita MAA-1
Piranha infrared guided air-to-air missiles with a range
of 3.1 miles (5 km). Sidewinders and Python 4 air-
to-air-missiles are optional extras. Columbian aircraft
are able to carry the Python missile and in 2006 were
modified to carry laser-guided bombs (believed to be
Griffin and Lizard) through the addition of the FLIR
Systems BRITE Star laser designator turret.
At the Farnborough airshow in July, Embraer
announced that it had selected Boeing to provide
weapons integration for the Super Tucano, as part
of increasingly close cooperation between the two
companies. The Super Tucano will be able to carry
the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Small
Diameter Bomb series, amongst others.
In November last year Raytheon announced that
it had integrated its WiPak system on the Super
Tucano. This integrates the Paveway family of laser
guided bombs using wireless technology.
The Super Tucano is especially attractive to nations that cannot afford both trainers and dedicated
counterinsurgency aircraft and Embraer is optimistic about selling at least 500 of them, half of which
would be trainers and the other half counterinsurgency variants. However, the Super Tucano is
facing increasingly stiff competition, especially from the AT-6B and other challengers like the Korea
Aerospace Industries KT-1 Woongbi and Air Tractor AT-802U. The latter, an armed and armoured
version of its agricultural/firefighting model, was chosen by the United Arab Emirates Air Force, after
it had earlier expressed interest in the Super Tucano. Deliveries began in January 2011.
Several new entrants are coming onto the Super Tucano’s market - in June Turkish Aerospace
Industries rolled out its Hurkus trainer. It is scheduled to fly in April 2013 and will come in several
variants, including training, surveillance and close air support. Meanwhile, South Africa’s Paramount
Group and Aerosud are developing a new surveillance, light attack and counterinsurgency aircraft,
the AHRLAC (Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft). This features a built-in
20 mm cannon and interchangeable modules carrying different sensors, including radar. First flight
is expected sometime this year, with deliveries a year after that.
A number of countries are considering purchasing the Super Tucano, especially in Latin America
- in February 2012 Peru announced its interest in acquiring ten aircraft. In April 2008 Guatemala
agreed to purchase six Super Tucanos, to be used to combat drug trafficking and organised crime.
However, the deal is taking a lot longer than expected and Guatemala is still in the process of
negotiating with Brazilian and Spanish banks to finance the deal. Similarly, El Salvador wanted ten
aircraft but had to postpone the sale due to lack of funds.
A near sale came in February this year when Paraguay requested six Super Tucanos, but following
the impeachment of President Fernando Lugo in June, negotiations have come to a halt. Elsewhere
in Latin America, Honduras was seeking to acquire four Super Tucanos but in February 2012
instead chose to first upgrade its Tucanos.
The Asian market could be further opening up for Embraer, as the Philippine Air Force is pursuing a
replacement for its OV-10 Bronco fleet. This is an important type as it is used for counterinsurgency
missions, particularly against Islamic militants in the various low-intensity conflicts around the
country. The defence department has expressed interest in acquiring Super Tucanos to further this
end, as well as KAI T-50 light attack/trainers as part of the Air Force’s modernisation drive. Ù
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