in Defence / Features

Nigeria sale lights the way for Super Tucano

Posted 31 October 2017 · Add Comment

A US Air Force competition to find a new light attack aircraft could open new doors in Africa for Embraer's Super Tucano. Alan Dron reports.

The US Government’s approval in August of the sale of Embraer Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Nigeria was another milestone in the West African nation’s attempts to improve its counter-insurgency capabilities against the Islamist Boko Haram movement.
As African Aerospace went to press, there were still some hurdles to be negotiated before the turboprop aircraft could be delivered. The US Congress, some of whose members are opposed to the deal, had 30 days in which to block it. Only if the government’s decision survived that period would detailed negotiations then begin, which could see both the number of aircraft and the price Nigeria pays for them, changing.
At the time of writing, Nigeria was seeking 12 Super Tucanos and associated equipment for $593 million.
If it goes through, the contract will be another success for Embraer in finding Super Tucano buyers in Africa. Angola, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Mauretania have all bought the aircraft, which can undertake light attack and surveillance sorties for much lower costs than heavier, more complex jets.
The Super Tucano is manufactured in Brazil and at Embraer’s US facility at Jacksonville, Florida. US-built aircraft are assembled in cooperation with Embraer’s US partner, Sierra Nevada Corporation.
If the Nigerian deal is finally confirmed, it will keep the Jacksonville production line ticking over; in June this year, Embraer Defense & Security CEO, Jackson Schneider, said that if more new orders were not received by the time 20 aircraft for Afghanistan and six for Lebanon were completed by year-end, Embraer might have to look at moving some production north from its Brazilian assembly line.
The Super Tucano’s prospects in Africa will get a major boost if it triumphs in the current United States experimental attack contest (OA-X).
The aim of the contest is to find a simple, rugged design that can be used in permissive air environments, notably counter-insurgency roles, for missions that currently require the use of sophisticated and much more expensive aircraft, such as F-16s, F-15Es and even the current close air support aircraft, the A-10.
The US is seeking a more basic aircraft that can operate out of rough airstrips with minimal infrastructure and maintenance facilities, at a fraction of the cost of existing frontline types.
The OA-X competition pits the Super Tucano, jointly entered by Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation, against three US designs – Beechcraft’s AT-6 Wolverine, L-3/Air Tractor’s AT-802L Longsword, and the sole jet in the competition, Textron’s Scorpion.
The US Air Force (USAF) conducted a series of sorties with each aircraft in August from Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, both in daylight and at night, dropping a variety of weapons and testing various on-board sensors. Few details have been released, but if the USAF decides to make it a formal programme, the winning company could find itself supplying around 300 aircraft to the US.
That seal of approval would undoubtedly help the winning contender find more international contracts in Africa and elsewhere.
US commentators have noted that the Scorpion cannot operate from unimproved runways and that the AT-802L does not possess an ejection seat, which is thought to be an essential requirement of the design.
Additionally, the Super Tucano defeated an earlier version of the Beechcraft some years ago in the US light air support competition to find a simple attack aircraft for US allies, notably Afghanistan’s fledgling air force. The Super Tucano won an initial contest; Hawker Beechcraft (as it was then known) protested over alleged irregularities in the contest, which was ordered to be run again. The Embraer design won out once more and, despite a further legal protest from Beechcraft, was finally selected.
Sierra Nevada is known to have made ‘adjustments’ to the Super Tucano for the OA-X contest. Embraer declined to give details, although the changes are thought to involve communications equipment and software.
The OA-X mission “is exactly the type of mission the Super Tucano was designed to fill”, said Schneider. “It was aimed at guerrilla movements that were springing up in Latin American countries.”
While Embraer declines to comment on possible future sales of the Super Tucano in Africa, or even to confirm where the aircraft has carried out demonstration flights in the last year, the company says that its previous successes on the continent have aroused considerable interest from other countries. The Nigerian order, if it finally goes through, will only intensify that interest.

* required field

Post a comment

Other Stories
Latest News

StandardAero achieves EASA AMO certification for South African PT6A engine MRO facility

Vector Aerospace Africa, a StandardAero company located in Lanseria, Johannesburg, South Africa, has secured European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) aircraft maintenance organization (AMO) certification for its engine

Boeing 737 MAX 7 completes successful first flight

Boeing's new 737 MAX 7 successfully completed its first flight today. The airplane remains on schedule and now begins a comprehensive flight test programme leading to certification and delivery in 2019.

IATA innovates dangerous goods handling

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has launched an innovative new solution for the air cargo industry: Dangerous Goods AutoCheck (DG AutoCheck safety and improve efficiency in the transport of dangerous goods by air

Ethiopian weighs in

One of Ethiopian Airlines Group’s seven profit centres – Ethiopian Cargo and Logistics Services – is making huge investments to its infrastructure and fleet. Kaleyesus Bekele reports.

Air Arabia Egypt to start direct flights between Sohag and Jeddah

Air Arabia Egypt will launch a new route linking Sohag in Egypt to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, starting March 20, 2018.

CANSO global vice chair encourages decision making

The Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) Africa Region, in partnership with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) is hosting the Collaborative Decision

Aviation Africa SK18418
See us at
Aviation Africa BT18418Global Aerospace BT010518