Portugal selects Embraer Super Tucano trainer/light attack aircraft

Portugal buy Embraer Super Tucano
Embraer A-29 Super Tucano trainer/light attack aircraft. It was officially selected by Portugal.

The Portuguese Air Force (PoAF) confirmed in the last few days that it has started the purchase process of the Embraer Super Tucano turboprop aircraft. Rumors about this deal have been circulating for some time, Blog Before Flight was one of the first media to publish about Portugal's interest in the Brazilian-made platform.

According to our information, Lisbon should soon finalize an agreement with Embraer for 8/10 aircraft. They will be procured directly by the armed force and not through a leasing contract as previously announced by the Portuguese private defense contractor SkyTech.

The Super Tucano will be assigned to the 103 Squadron "Caracóis" (Esquadra 103) which was left without a fleet after the withdrawal of the Alpha Jet in 2018. Thanks to this acquisition, the PoAF will be able to resume training future F-16 fighter pilots at home rather than send students to the United States. Portugal also intends to deploy the new aircraft to support UN peacekeeping operations.

What led Lisbon to choose the Super Tucano? In addition to being a low-cost, good-performing aircraft, there are other reasons as well. 

Embraer has a strong presence in Portugal, it has two component manufacturing plants in Evora since 2012 and is the owner of the Oficinas Gerais de Material Aeronáutico (OGMA) which provides in-house or on-site support to the Tucano/Super Tucano fleet, with solutions ranging from lighter maintenance checks to avionics upgrades and full fleet support. In addition, in 2015 two PoAF pilots traveled to Natal Air Base in Brazil and integrated with Joker Squadron, which operates the Super Tucano. This bilateral exchange between the PoAF and the Brazilian Air Force allowed Portuguese pilots to complete two courses: Super Tucano Operational Qualification and Instructor Programme and Fighter Aircraft Operational Specialisation.

However, our frequent readers probably remember that we have posted several times about Portugal's interest in the M-346. We believe that the purchase of the Super Tucano does not exclude the introduction of the latter. A local source informed us that in mid-March Leonardo sent an M-346 to the Beja Air Base, Portugal, to have it evaluated by the PoAF.

Taking into consideration the nation's plan to open an international flight training school, the choice of the M-346 could prove indispensable to cover the LIFT phase of pilot training. The LIFT is the last step students must pass before being assigned to front-line combat aircraft. It is commonly done by flying aircraft as similar as possible to the assignment ones to avoid young pilots having to complete their training in much more expensive aircraft, such as the F-16. We believe that Portugal cannot finalize its plan to establish an international flight school with few turboprops and without selecting an advanced trainer jet (purchased or leased).

Portugal will become the 18th user of the Super Tucano and the first in Europe.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Embraer

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