Super Tucano Counter-Insurgency Plane Makes Inroads Into Africa

Super Tucano Counter-Insurgency Plane Makes Inroads Into Africa

Embraer’s EMB-314 Super Tucano trainer and light attack turboprop continues to rack up global orders, solidifying its position as the globe’s pre-eminent manned counter-insurgency aircraft. The latest order set of about $180 million expands the plane’s footprint into 3 African states: Angola, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania. They join Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Indonesia as customers for this aircraft.

The Super Tucano is known as the A-29 or ALX in Brazil, but abroad, it’s the EMB 314 successor to Embraer’s widely-used EMB 312 Tucano trainer. A-29 is better for marketing, though, and Embraer is trying to shift the designation. The Super Tucano offers better flight performance than the EMB 312 Tucano, plus armoring and wing-mounted machine guns, weapons integration with advanced surveillance and targeting pods, precision-guided bombs, and even air-to-air missiles. This makes it an excellent territorial defense and close support plane for low-budget air forces, as well as a surveillance asset with armed attack capability. Brazil uses it this way, for instance, alongside very advanced EMB-145 airborne radar and maritime patrol jet platforms. Meanwhile, in Africa…
Contracts & Key Events

In March 2012, Embraer announced external link that the total value of all 3 contracts to Angola, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania comes to “more than $180 million” for around 10 planes. This includes “extensive” support, training, and replacement parts packages.

In April 2013, they announced a 4th customer: Senegal, and Ghana joined that list in 2014.

In January 2015, the United Arab Emirates committed external link UAE to procure a couple dozen Super Tucanos on behalf of Iraq in a deal that is not quite settled.

Angola sits far down Africa’s southwestern coast. The regime maintains a sizable and advanced fighter force by African standards, at least on paper. Questions abound as to how many of the of those Soviet and Russian fighters are still operational. They have ordered 6 Super Tucanos for counter-insurgency roles, which will join 6 ex-Peruvian EMB-312 Tucanos that were bought in 2002.

Angola is an authoritarian regime, and the country’s economy would be in desperate shape if not for recent oil drilling activity off of its coasts. A 2010 report by the conservative US Heritage Foundation tabbed Angola as China’s #1 supplier of oil external link, passing Saudi Arabia. As is so often true in Africa, the next question involves how much of that oil wealth is ever seen by the population at large. The country went through a long civil war that lasted from the 1980s to 2002, and the northern enclave of Cabinda is still a focus of separatist activity.

Jan 31/13: The first 3 Super Tucanos are formally handed over to the National Air Force of Angloa, at a ceremony held in Embraer’s Gaviao Peixoto facility near Sao Paulo, Brazil.

These first 3 aircraft were to be delivered in 2012, so they’re a bit late. Angola is far from Mali’s headline making war, but as noted above, the country has its own problems. Embraer external link.

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