The revelation came from Ed Topps, executive of Sierra Nevada Corporation; the North American company is Embraer’s partner in the military area
An editorial sponsored by the US manufacturer Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), published last week on the Breaking Defense website, brought some interesting data about the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano assembled in the US. The information was revealed by Ed Topps, senior vice president of the Strategic Aircraft Systems group in SNC’s ISR, Aviation & Security (IAS) business area.
In the interview, Topps commented on details of the Super Tucano that are rarely addressed by Embraer. Asked how the Brazilian manufacturer and SNC came together, the executive said that the relationship between the companies began during the Afghanistan War.
“There was a US Air Force competition in 2013 to provide light air strike capability for the Afghanistan Air Force. Embraer provided the basic aircraft and we added new mission capability to include enhanced weapon systems, communications equipment and U.S. technology. The aircraft had been flying for over 20 years, so this was a significant upgrade to the Super Tucano program,” commented Topps.
The Super Tucano assembled by Sierra Nevada is one of the components offered to customers under the “Foreign Military Sales” (FMS) program. The version produced in the USA is the A-29B. SNC and Embraer are also working on the development of the A-29C, a model that contains 4th generation mission systems and cockpit technologies such as touch screens. Certification of the new variant is expected in 2023.
“The Afghanistan program was very effective, as it included not only modern attack aircraft, but also SNC training of Afghan pilots and maintainers to execute the mission themselves. Other countries have noted the success. SNC and Embraer decided to continue the partnership agreement to promote the aircraft to other nations that might not be able to afford the price of a fourth or fifth generation fighter, but needed more capability. The turboprop offers light attack performance, but at greatly reduced costs. Since then, we have been successful in selling the Super Tucano to FMS customers around the world,” said the SNC executive.
Since the beginning of the partnership with Embraer, SNC has assembled and delivered 48 A-29s. However, almost half of those aircraft have been lost. “There were 26 aircraft delivered to Afghanistan, but unfortunately 20 of them were destroyed during operations or withdrawal,” Topps revealed, referring to the disastrous withdrawal of U.S. and allied military personnel from Afghanistan in August 2021 and culminating in the return of the fundamentalist Taliban group to command of the Central Asian country.
“We have also supplied six (A-29 Super Tucanos) to Lebanon (in the context of the FMS program). More recently, we have supplied 12 to the Nigerian Air Force for the very difficult situation the country is in now against the (terrorist group) Boko Haram. There is also one aircraft in the US Air Force inventory and three at Hurlburt Field flying in support of the Combat Air Advisory mission,” Topps added.
The SNC executive also explained how the production of the American Super Tucano takes place. “Initial production of the aircraft is done at the Embraer facility (in Gavião Peixoto – SP) in Brazil and we complete the assembly of the aircraft in Florida at (SNC’s) Jacksonville facility. Flight testing of the basic aircraft is also done there. At SNC’s facility in Centennial, Colorado, we added all mission systems equipment, ISR equipment and communications equipment.”
Also according to Topps, after the modifications to the basic aircraft imported from Brazil are completed, “SNC handles all the final tests and ensures that the approvals are completed and that the U.S. Air Force approves the aircraft. We then deliver it to the country from our facility in Centennial.”
*** Translated with by the DEFCONPress FYI team ***