While the USAF Conducts an Experiment: The US Government Leverages Super Tucano


2017-09-04 The Secretary of the Air Force recently loaded up for high visibility on an experiment to examine light attack aircraft options.

Indeed she noted at an Air Force Association Event on August 1, 2017:

“The light attack aircraft experiment took five months from conception to aircraft delivery,” said Wilson. ”

We will learn some things, including how fast and cost-effectively we can get capabilities to the warfighter.”

Last time we looked this capability has already been delivered to the warfighter.

What has amazed us about this notion, is that the USAF already has a squadron of Super Tucanos and is working closely with the Afghans on using the plane in combat.

The 81st Fighter Squadron is part of the 14th Flying Training Wing and operates the Super Tucano conducting close air suppor to the Afghan Air Force.

It is stationed at Air Force Base, Georgia.

Four A-29 Super Tucanos arrive at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2016. The aircraft will be added to the Afghans’ inventory in the spring of 2016. The A-29 Super Tucano is a ‘light air support’ aircraft capable of conducting close air support, aerial escort, armed overwatch and aerial interdiction. Designed to operate in high temperature and in extremely rugged terrain, the A-29 Super Tucano is highly maneuverable 4th generation weapons system capable of delivering precision guided munitions. It can fly at low speeds and low altitudes, is easy to fly, and provides exceptionally accurate weapons delivery. It is currently in service with 10 different air forces around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

As Ed Timperlake noted about the amazingly long process that it took longer for the USAF to decide to buy the Super Tucano than it took to fight World War II.

A key advantage of the Super Tucano has always been its global support structure and there is now a plant in the US to assemble the aircraft as well.

The first one was rolled out in 2014 in Jacksonville Florida.

Apparently, the US Government does not need an experiment unlike the USAF to figure out how to leverage the plane which has already been bought for the light attack aircraft mission.

Today our partner defenceWeb highlighted the Super Tucano potential sale by the US government to Nigeria. 

Nigeria’s Super Tucano contract includes Paveway II guided bombs, laser-guided rockets and infrared sensors in addition to 12 aircraft, the United States government has revealed.

The US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on 3 August announced the possible Foreign Military Sale of 12 A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, along with weapons, spares and training, to Nigeria in a contract that could be worth $593 million.

Congress was notified on 2 August, but more details emerged in the US Federal Register on 28 August.

In publishing the unclassified text of the arms sales notification, the Federal Register revealed Nigeria has requested Paveway II and Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guidance kits and ammunition. It lists these items as “major defence equipment” valued at $29 million, while the “other” component of the deal, for the Super Tucanos, sensors, training and support, is valued at $564 million.

The weapons and ammunition includes 100 GBU-12 (500 lb) Paveway II Tailkits; 100 GBU-58 (250 lb) Paveway II Tailkits; 400 Laser Guided Rockets including Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) rounds; 2 000 MK-81 (250 lb) bombs; 5 000 2.75 inch (70 mm) Hydra 70 unguided rockets; 1 000 2.75 inch Hydra 70 unguided rockets (practice); and 20 000 rounds of .50 calibre machine gun ammunition.

The APKWS is a low cost semi-active laser guidance kit developed by BAE Systems which is added to unguided 70 mm rockets, turning them into precision strike weapons. Similarly, the Paveway II, developed by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, uses semi-active laser guidance to turn Mk 81 and Mk 82 general purpose bombs into guided weapons. The DSCA said the sale includes the tail kits to transform Nigeria’s existing 500-lb and 250-lb bomb bodies into GBU-12s and GBU-58s respectively, and that Nigeria is also buying additional GBU-58s/Mk 81 bombs.

The proposed sale also includes seven AN/AAQ-22F electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor and laser designator turrets, spares, support equipment, facilities infrastructure and hangar construction, night vision devices, simulators, and software. Training will cover pilot and maintenance instruction and human rights and international humanitarian law. FLIR’s Brite Star system comprises a large format thermal imager and colour daylight camera with laser designator for terminal guidance of laser-guided bombs and rockets.

The DSCA notice said the 12 Super Tucanos will support Nigerian military operations against terrorist organization Boko Haram and to counter illicit trafficking in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.

The Super Tucano is a sustainable platform for counterterrorism, counter insurgency, border surveillance, and illicit trade interdiction operations.

The proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping Nigeria to meet shared counterterrorism objectives for the region.

This proposed sale will strengthen the U.S. security relationship with Africa’s largest democracy.

The prime contractor is the Sierra Nevada Corporation…. The company is building Super Tucanos for the Afghan Air Force and Lebanon at its US facility.

Embraer has recorded a number of orders for its Super Tucano from African countries, which see it as a low cost light attack aircraft that can also be used as a trainer. On the continent, the Super Tucano has been ordered by Angola, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Ghana and Senegal.

The Nigerian Air Force may also get second hand Super Tucanos — in February the Nigerian Air Force announced that Brazilian government had approved the sale of three second hand Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria.


And Lebanon earlier received Super Tucano’s as well from the United States via FMS.

According to the Pentagon’s Defense and Security Cooperation Agency, the Lebanese government has requested the sale of six A-29 Super Tucano aircraft, along with eight PT6A-68A turboprop engines, eight ALE-47 countermeasure dispensing systems, 2,000 advanced precision kill weapon systems, eight AN/AAR-60(V)2 missile launch detection systems, and other related items.

“This is a straight-forward military sale,” Kahwaji said. “This was funded through a Saudi $1 billion dollar grant that was given late last year.”

The point simply put is that we want to train partners to do the low intensity, counter terrorism tasks in their countries rather than US conducting these missions.

It is about training and transfer of relevant aircraft; it is not about building up the slo mo USAF pilot and maintainer force to do tasks which partners need to do, or if not, then not done at all.

We have no difficulty in understanding why the newly developed Scorpion might be of interest for training commands and other tasks, but we are having real difficulty understanding why the USAF is flying off once again between Super Tucano and the AT-6.

And in a time where the North Korean threat is a clear and present danger, putting the senior USAF brass into a media event built around this competition highlights the continuation of slo mo war when high intensity war is on the way.

This is a time to ramp up F-35 buys, deploy aircraft to Europe and the Pacific and bring forward the bomber buy.

Certainly PACOM gets it.

In a demonstration of ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies, U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II fighters assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan are joined by Republic of Korea Air Force F-15K fighters during a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula, August 30th. This mission was conducted in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missile launch, which flew directly over northern Japan on August 28 amid rising tension over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs. (Photo by Republic of Korea Air Force)

According to an article by CDR David Bentham, US Pacific Command, in an article published on August 31, 2017:

The United States’ newest and most advanced fighter, the U.S. Marine Corps’ F-35B Lightning II, joined U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers for the first time in a sequenced bilateral mission with Japan and Republic of Korea air forces in Northeast Asia August 30.

Two B-1Bs from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam; four U.S. Marine F-35Bs from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan; two Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-15Js; and four Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-15Ks executed this mission to emphasize the combined ironclad commitment to the defense of Allies and the U.S. homeland. Enhancing combined military readiness through integrated missions ensures national leaders of viable and ready military options.

This mission was conducted in direct response to North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missile launch, which flew directly over northern Japan on August 28 amid rising tension over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.

“North Korea’s actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilizing actions will be met accordingly,” said Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, Commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, who just returned from an unscheduled visit to Japan to meet with his counterparts. “This complex mission clearly demonstrates our solidarity with our allies and underscores the broadening cooperation to defend against this common regional threat. Our forward-deployed force will be the first to the fight, ready to deliver a lethal response at a moment’s notice if our nation calls.”

 Over the course of the 10-hour mission, the F-35Bs, B-1B bombers and Koku Jieitai fighters flew together over waters near Kyushu, Japan.

The U.S. and ROKAF aircraft then flew across the Korean Peninsula and practiced attack capabilities by releasing live weapons at the Pilsung Range training area before returning to their respective home stations.

 “The F-35 embodies our commitment to our allies and contributes to the overall security and stability of the Indo-Asia Pacific region,” said Lt. Gen. David H. Berger, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.

U.S. Pacific Command maintains strategic bomber and fighter capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater, retaining the ability to respond to any regional threat at a moment’s notice.