Light combat aircraft market, the winner is Super Tucano

Embraer Super Tucano market
Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucano light combat aircraft.

Our recent study of the global light attack aircraft market revealed how turboprop aircraft are dominating sales. Especially one of them is grabbing a large slice of the market. This is the Brazilian Embraer Super Tucano.

The robust turboprop aircraft is perfectly suited to the operational requirements, harsh environments and budget constraints of many countries. It is currently used as a trainer/light attack platform by nearly twenty air forces. Many other nations are targeting it instead, such as Portugal.

The Super Tucano is inexpensive to purchase and economical to use. The base aircraft sells for around $ 10 million and the cost per flight hour is around $ 1,000. These figures are very attractive to low-budget nations.

Much of its success is tied to the US Air Force's choice to promote the type to its partners, especially the more powerful A-29 variant. The A-29 is obtained from a modification to the base aircraft by the US Sierra Nevada Corporation, it was developed specifically for conflicts and operating environments relevant to most of the US partners. Based on a competitive procurement, the U.S. Air Force awarded a contract in 2013 to deliver the A-29 to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). 

The A-29 is armed with a 20mm cannon under the fuselage capable of firing 650 rounds per minute, a 12.7mm machine gun (FN Herstal) under each wing and up to four Dillion miniguns 7.62mm Aero M134 capable of firing up to 3,000 rpm. It is also equipped with 70mm rockets, air-to-air missiles like the AIM-9L Sidewinder, air-to-ground weapons like the AGM-65 Maverick and precision-guided bombs. It can also use a laser rangefinder and laser-guided weapons.

Afghanistan is not the only US ally to have introduced the A-29 as a solution to its light attack/COIN requirement. Lebanon also received six of them. Another dozen are in order for Nigeria. Furthermore, there is a strong likelihood that it could also find a place in some parts of Europe to be used for training, surveillance and light attack missions. Portugal is close to becoming the launch customer in the area.

Its sales could further increase in the coming years. The US would like it to be used more in various global hotspots as a way to support US Special Operations Forces and continue the necessary counterinsurgency efforts.

Embraer has sold approximately 250 Super Tucanos to date. While that score was also achieved by its main competitor Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, the Brazilian turboprop has seen higher sales over the past decade.

👉 You may also like: Hungary eyes Embraer Super Tucano

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: USAF

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