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Super Tucano-The JSF of South America

February 23, 2010

Super Tucano of the Colombian Air Force. Author Neoreich via Wikimedia Commons

New Wars endeavors to keep you informed of one of mine and your favorite little COIN aircraft, the Brazilian Embraer Super Tucano, light attack prop plane. Here is a great story of future plans for the $10 million plane, which reminds of of another less modest program that has widespread interest, the US Joint Strike Fighter. Story is from the LA Times and I love the title “Modest Brazil warplane fitting into nations’ plans“:

The two-seater Super Tucano’s top speed is only about 350 mph. But it has a 620-mile combat radius and can stay aloft for six hours. Introduced in 2003, the plane can be outfitted with two heavy machine guns as well as 2 tons of guided bombs and rockets, said Robert Munks, an Americas analyst for IHS Jane’s military consultants in London.

With their uses in training, surveillance and offensive campaigns, the Super Tucanos fit the bill for many Third World countries, and at $10 million each, are relatively cheap, Munks said. After five years in service with the Colombian air force, the planes have proved their worth in anti-drug and counterinsurgency operations, he said.

Chile and the Dominican Republic have bought Super Tucanos. An Embraer spokesman declined to comment on reports that Indonesia and Peru have also placed orders. The Pentagon is considering buying 200 of the aircraft, and Britain’s Royal Air Force is weighing the possibility of replacing its fleet of Harrier vertical takeoff jets with Super Tucanos instead of Lockheed Martin F-35Bs, which cost 10 times as much.

If the Pentagon buys the planes — 100 each for the Navy and Air Force, according to reports — the order would equal the total number of Super Tucanos that have been sold to date. The principal customers have been the air forces of Brazil, with 99, and Colombia, which bought 25.

The “modest” title certainly fits the description, but that should be looked on as a badge of honor. If only we had more modest warplanes in service, our pilots wouldn’t have to fly ancient warplanes, falling apart in the skies into every war. Capability in a fighter is a wonderful thing, but you don’t need high tech for every role, or every function of airpower (with the stand-off in the South Atlantic proof that a little capability goes a long way). This tiny Brazilian prop fighter is the antidote for such thinking.

Would also make a good A-10 replacement. Not a perfect substitute for the mighty Warthog, but at least it is in production, ready now to take the place of the 40 year old American attack plane, one of the few focused mission platforms in the USAF arsenal. Except for vertical lift (though perfect for short take-offs on rough strips) , it is superior to any attack helicopter, at least in speed and range, even besting the mighty US Apache and it is about one-tenth the cost of a V-22 Osprey. Here are some specs:

  • Length-37.17 ft
  • Wingspan-36.55 ft
  • Empty Weight-6,658 lb
  • Max. Weight-11,464 lb
  • Combat Load-3300 lbs avg.
  • Speed-368
  • Range-2,995 mi
  • Endurance-6 hours
  • Armament-2x 12.7 mm FN Herstal M3P machine guns
    1x 20 mm cannon pod below the fuselage
    4x 70 mm rocket launcher pods
    Conventional (‘Iron’) and Guided (‘Smart’) bombs
    2x AIM-9 Sidewinder or MAA-1 Piranha or Python 3/4 air-to-air missiles
    External stores on 5 hardpoints

Practically the only function the Tucano can’t perform is air superiority (except in REALLY low threat environments), but with Raptors, Super Hornets, Typhoons, etc around, what more do you need in a strike fighter?

44 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2010 1:23 pm

    Papa L

    Just a few more points (sorry to go on about it)

    Yes of course fast jets need more maintenance than a turboprop but how much, don’t forget modern aircraft are designed to be lower maintenance, the Typhoon for example uses less than half the Tornado but that said what about the fact that you need more slower turboprops to do the same job as one FJ. Lets say a Typhoon needs 6 hours for the 1 in a Super Tuc but what if you actually need 6 SuperTuc (actually you need more) doesn’t that negate that argument?

    Force Protection
    In the old days when you had a delineated front line maybe you could forward base and maybe in the same old days when your aircraft was piston engined with nothing more sophisticated than a HF radio, no IFF, no precision guided munitions and no targeting pod you could not worry about the infrastructure needed for expeditionary air operations but even your turboprops would need a sophisticated support infrastructure at those forward bases. These forward bases would need a combat logistics patrol to get fuel, munitions, lubricants, spares and everything else you need to them. These forward bases would need much more force protection resources because your perimeters would have to be bigger. These bigger perimeters need exponentially more forces to secure on a 24×7 basis so instead of carrying out offensive operations significant quantities of manpower are now engaged in force protection. Also, these extra non combat personnel all need feeding, water, ablutions and everything else. Yet more combat logistics patrols which denude your actual conbat strength yet again.

    Airframe Hours
    This is actually a very real concern and you have a good point here but the speed allows the fast jet to react and be in support of troops in contact from a standing start rather than having to loiter in the first place.

    Scott, I think only one Pucara was destroyed by a Stinger in 1982. The others were mostly destroyed on the ground or by Harriers although some were taken out by ground fires, which kind of reinforces our point somewhat, fly low and slow and even a load of 7.62 GPMG’s (which was all the infantry had on the islands more or less) is going to give you a bad hair day

  2. March 14, 2010 12:55 pm

    Some great comments and arguments either way here but if I can respond to a few points, I wrote the articles Papa L things are going back in time.

    Sorry, but that couldn’t be further from the truth and I am afraid to say the idea of pilots flying slow to get their eyes on target misses two vital points; 1) they would get shot to pieces, exactly as other types have done in other conflicts from which the lessons learned spawned aircraft like the A10 and 2) the advances in modern targeting pods linked via ground terminals through a data link completely negate the need for bimbling around trying to get eyes on.

    The FAC or JTAC can cue the sensors and weapons on board the aircraft so no matter how fast or at what altitude (within reason) the sensor remains rock solid on the designated ground area.

    Precision guided munitions are actually more accurate the higher you launch from and a show of force/show of presence in a Super Tuc isn’t going to scare anyone.

    By the time you put a targeting pod and enough fuel for anything like a decent mission time you end up with a small choice of weapons. In a fast jet it can carry a mix of rockets, PGM’s or missiles which can be selected by the FAC to best and most appropriate effect.

    Even the A10 is too slow in many respects and in Afghanistan is not always the favoured option because of low speed.

    I know its an alluring and attractive argument to think that we can do the job better and cheaper with large fleets of turboprops but the reality is somewhat different, remember, the key factor in operational cost is the soft pink things, to do anywhere near the same job as a fast jet you need an order of magnitude more turboprops and by extension, aircrew

  3. B.Smitty permalink
    March 1, 2010 11:02 pm

    papa legba,

    If you believe this, then driving or flying in fuel isn’t any better than IFRing, and could actually be much worse.

  4. B.Smitty permalink
    March 1, 2010 5:57 pm

    Here is a USAF analysis of using turboprop COIN aircraft.


  5. papa legba permalink
    March 1, 2010 1:39 pm

    B. Smitty,

    You make a good point about the logistics of distributed support of numerous CAS machines.

    The cost of IFR to allow strike jets to loiter, though, can get prohibitive very quickly. The increased fuel usage is significant, especially when you figure in the fuel use of the supporting tanker. Worse, though, is the increased maintenance and support required by the strike fighter. They require many more man-hours of maintenance per flight hour than a trainer/attack type, which means every hour of loiter time brings a larger cost with it. On top of that, you’re using up airframe hours on an expensive platforms just flying them in holding patterns– and those airframe hours are increasingly getting precious. (There is also the problem with the putting extra strain on the USAF’s aging tanker fleet, but that problem should be cleared up in a few years.)

    The listed six-hour endurance figure for the Tucano is optimistic, but even at half that time it beats a strike fighter.

  6. B.Smitty permalink
    March 1, 2010 1:10 pm


    There is certainly room for improvement. It would be interesting to know if the FAC had a working pointer/designator and if the aircraft had a modern sniper pod with Rover downlink, and if the FAC could use it.

    The answer might not be “field a new aircraft”. It might just be upgrading existing systems, as well as adjustments to tactics, training, and doctrine.

  7. Charley permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:47 am

    There was a story in the WaPo over the weekend about how the USAF needs to change in the age of UAV’s. One situation described an army unit pinned down by a Afghan machine gun position. Fast moving jets could not locate the target after several runs, and helicopters were not called in because it was thought that they would be too vulnerable to ground fire. A Predator was in the area, but the FAC was reluctant to use it because he did not trust its accuracy (apparently having never worked with one before) in close quarters. So the controller had the UAV target a hilltop, and it fired a Hellfire, scoring a direct hit. Satisfied, the controller authorized the UAV to target the machine gun nest, and scored another direct hit. The controller later said that the UAV saved their lives.

    The article didn’t say why the fast movers couldn’t find the target, but I could guess that ROI’s and SOP’s played a part – particularly altitude restrictions. If we don’t want to lose a jet to save a squad, then why do we have that jet doing that job? Imagine when the F-35A/B comes online, and then is saddled with restrictions that render it useless.

  8. B.Smitty permalink
    March 1, 2010 9:25 am

    papa legba said, “The speed advantage of strike fighters is mitigated by the fact that they are stationed further away from the action (a necessity of needing two miles of hardened tarmac to land on), and that they lack loiter time. A slow-moving plane on a nearby runway, or in already the air, can respond more quickly than a supersonic plane sitting on the runway hundreds of miles away.

    Fast jets lack loiter time but can be air refueled (unlike small turboprops). Response times could be faster for a nearby turboprop, but you need more of them to cover the same area as a single fast jet. If there aren’t suitable locations for airfields, then they will have to fly from greater distances, cutting in to their loiter time. Plus, IIRC, the quoted long loiter times for the Super Tucano are with max external fuel and little or no ordinance.

    Distributing turboprops on small airfields is problematic as this comes with a host of logistics, force protection and maintenance issues. Coupled with the costs of adding a new spares and support pipeline and a large number of additional air and ground crews, and any cost savings evaporate (or worse, cost more).

  9. papa legba permalink
    February 28, 2010 12:15 pm

    B. Smitty-

    Good to hear the case against. It doesn’t sound convincing to me, though.

    The thinkdefense article seems like a relic of the past. It’s making the same arguments against specialized CAS craft that have been going around since the Vietnam era; the same arguments that the USAF used against the A-10 in the late 80’s. It emphasizes the superior speed and warload of strike fighters. This argument still has the same problems as it did in Vietnam. The speed advantage of strike fighters is mitigated by the fact that they are stationed further away from the action (a necessity of needing two miles of hardened tarmac to land on), and that they lack loiter time. A slow-moving plane on a nearby runway, or in already the air, can respond more quickly than a supersonic plane sitting on the runway hundreds of miles away.

    It neglects some key issues completely, like a strike fighter’s low time-on-target, and the amount of time it takes for an SF to return to the target zone between each pass. Even the strike fighter’s superior warload is mitigated by the fact that for anti-infantry ops, persistent presence is more necessary than the amount of ordinance. Carrying extra bmbs isn’t too useful if you can’t hang around long enough to use them.

    It makes some valid points against unmanned platforms when it discusses bandwidth usage and decision times– that the pilot’s role as an information filter is crucial. However, it doesn’t mention that a pilot in a plane moving slow enough to eyeball the situation might respond even faster than the strike fighter surveying it through his sensors from a few miles away.

  10. Chuck Hill permalink
    February 25, 2010 2:24 pm

    This type of aircraft is the “Goldie Locks” solution to provide an escort and fire suppression at the landing zone for the MV-22. Attack helicopters are too slow and don’t have the range. Fast movers are too fast.

  11. B.Smitty permalink
    February 25, 2010 10:31 am

    Think Defense has two excellent posts detailing arguments against the “cheap COIN aircraft” idea.

    Just replace his references to the Typhoon with F-teens or F-35s.

  12. Charley permalink
    February 24, 2010 7:54 pm

    Might be a topic to read up on OV-10 re: single engine hit survivability – not sure about the adverse yaw effects. But in any case, it’s better to have 2 than 1. This is the main reason why I hate the idea of the F-35C, and love the Supers. In Gulf War I, a section of marine Hornets were hit by MANPADS. One plane was hit just outside an engine, and the other had a MANPAD fly up his tailpipe. Both hits caused fires and perforated control surfaces. Both planes were able to extinguish the resultant fires, shut down the affected engines, and returned to base. Try that with a single engined aircraft…. Incidentally both aircraft were returned to service the next day.

  13. Aaron permalink
    February 24, 2010 7:24 pm

    Seems to me a twin engine ov-10 allows you to take an engine hit, keep it away from the cockpit and have a better chance of surviving.

  14. February 24, 2010 6:49 pm

    Scott said “Only someone who calls me *Young Scott B.* could believe I could succumb to a myth when it comes to the Soviet experience in Afghanistan !”

    I knew you would take that in the good spirit it was intended. Thanks! :)

    I am familiar with the material you recount. And I am re-reading my Frogfoot material.

    I am still not entirely convinced. And I do grasp your virtual attrition statement. Wars are lost on perceptions more than on the wrong end of bayonet.

    Your post does reflect what I said. How committed were the Soviets to the war (especially late on. Ref your example in 1989?) And yes the VDV were used a lot as you said and I said they were highly effective. Professional soldiery (if I can use that term for Soviet soldiers) often raises itself above the “mere” politics.

    But as I said where are Terry’s MANPADS?

  15. Scott B. permalink
    February 24, 2010 4:08 pm

    Mike Burleson said : ” Good thing there is little superpower support for the Taliban (as far as we know).”

    It doesn’t have to be a superpower : in Afghanistan, the mujahideens shot *only* 340 Stingers between 1986 and 1988.

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 24, 2010 3:38 pm

    “I haven’t heard anyone propose using Osprey as a gunship.”

    I admit that was a preemption on my part, when considering the use of the Tucano in Afghanistan. It is feasible to place some side heavy cannon in the V-22, but I hate the cost and complexity, which isn’t necessary.

    Scott, good point about the Soviet experience. Good thing there is little superpower support for the Taliban (as far as we know). Some ex-Soviets SAMs might be a game changer.

  17. Scott B. permalink
    February 24, 2010 3:00 pm

    x said : “As for the Soviets in A-stan you have to be careful not to succumb to myth.”

    Only someone who calls me *Young Scott B.* could believe I could succumb to a myth when it comes to the Soviet experience in Afghanistan ! Maybe I was a young man back then, but not so much 30 years later (sadly…).

    Jokes aside, I wrote some of my very best pages on this specific subject many moons ago, so I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to revisit this topic after such a looonnng time…

    There are some solid misconceptions in what you’re saying about the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, for instance :

    1) The involvement of the VVS in the conflict was much stronger than you seem to believe.

    You’ll find all the stats in a 1999 paper by Edward B. Westermann entitled “The Limits of Soviet Airpower: The Failure of Military Coercion in Afghanistan, 1979-89” (Journal of Conflict Studies, Vol. XIX No. 2, Fall 1999).

    Just to give you one example, it is estimated that a total of 118 Su-25s were assigned to the theater during the almost 10-year period of combat, vs a total of 582 Su-25s produced at Tbilissi between 1978 and 1989 (another 180 Su-25s being produced for export between 1984 and 1989). These Su-25s flew a total of 60,000 combat sorties throughout the campaign. (Stats are from Yefim Gordon’s Su-25 Frogfoot).

    2) The impact of the Stinger being introduced late 1986 goes weellll beyond mere combat losses : it’s all about virtual attrition.

    As noted in Westermann’s article, fixed wings had to fly higher and faster (which the resulting impact on mission effectiveness), whereas, as mentioned in Gordon’s book, the Su-25s began to be used more for night operations in an attempt to reduce losses due to missile attacks. John Gunston noted after observing a six-ship Soviet jet strike in the beginning of 1988 : “It appeared that the pilots involved were putting survival before accuracy”.

    The situation became even worse for rotary wings, in a context where the Soviet “over-reliance on helicopters meant they had no other options when it came to interdicting the insurgents’ operations, making the war once and for all unwinable.” (Anthony R. Tucker, “The Soviet War Over Afghanistan”, Jane’s Soviet Intelligence Review 1, no. 6, June 1989).

    And if I had more time, I could continue forever with the quotes and sources on Soviet Airpower in Afghanistan…

  18. Matt permalink
    February 24, 2010 11:37 am


    I don’t get the cost comparision of Super Tuscano with V-22. They both are aircraft, but obviously perform very differnt roles. I haven’t heard anyone propose using Osprey as a gunship. (This might not be a bad idea — but only to provide organic fire support inbound to a hot landing zone.)

    On a related note — heard that USMC was looking into it’s own AC-130-like capability. Not sure if this would be new build or modification of existing KC-130 fleet.

  19. CBD permalink
    February 24, 2010 10:48 am

    Mike, it’s a big threat. If it becomes clear to the public and Congress that the JSF does less than other craft at more expense, they could see a big shift against the program in favor of upgrades to the existing systems that do their work better (ie, air dominance jets that can maneuver, strike air craft with large payloads and long range capability and CAS craft that can take trashfire and keep going) at lower cost.

    The problem is that anyone who ever presented a ppt slide or, worse, was in a supervisory or sales role will have their careers end rapidly and painfully.

    Jointness is great for missiles and small arms, even for tanks…but jointness only works when the goals and roles are aligned. This is why the USAF hates CAS- they do it to keep their foot in the door, because strategic bombing and long range strike doesn’t get used much, but they hate it because it means that they’re often stuck supporting ground forces (note the lack of USMC/Army access to USAF UAV info in Afghanistan).

    Like the Navy with brown/green water forces and transport roles (necessary, useful but cheap and unglamorous), the Air Force hates its CAS and transport roles (necessary, useful but cheap and unglamorous). The Navy managed to kick most of its transport & support capacity to MARAD/MSC, the USAF has tried to kick a lot to AMC. I’m sure they would make a Ground Strike Command to outsource CAS if it were possible.

  20. February 24, 2010 10:20 am

    Hello Scott!!!

    Yes there is potential for proliferation. And as you say many countries make MANPADS of all sorts.

    My question is and has been for a while, especially so before Christmas where I spent a good a few months studying the problem of SALW before writing my paper, was as I stated in my original comment “Where are the MANPADS?”

    You could argue that we are on the cusp of a Cold War with PRC. It should be remember that the PRC has problems with separatists, Muslim rebel, etc. As do the Russians etc. etc. I will speculate that preventing MANPADS reaching non-government groups is one of the few things the world’s intelligence agencies have in common. Where were the MANPADS in Sri Lanka and in the other conflicts through out the world?

    As for the Soviets in A-stan you have to be careful not to succumb to myth. At no time did the Soviets commit anything more than 5% of their total forces to that campaign. And though the conscripted elements did suffer special formations such as the VDV did extremely well against Mujahideen. Yes US stingers did for a time level the playing field (up to a point) but Soviet pilots modified their tactics or to be more accurate started using the same tactics as they would have employed in the skies above the North German plains where the AAA environment would have been a lot more threatening than above A-stan. The question you should ask is how committed the USSR was to winning in A-stan?

    If you ever need a hand digging out that bunker in preparation for a terrorist a-bomb attack you let me know…………

    {Only jokin’. It is nice to chew over this stuff with you and everyone else!}

  21. Scott B. permalink
    February 24, 2010 6:46 am

    x said : “While less scrupulous regimes are quite happy to loose assault rifles, military grade plastic, etc. etc. they seem a lot less willing for MANPADS to slip through the net in fear that these very systems will be used against them at some point in the future.”

    With such friendly regimes as China, Iran or Pakistan manufacturing MANPADS of their own, I wouldn’t count on the kind of self-imposed non-proliferation you seem to be candidly hoping for.

    Start a Cold War with PRC (for whatever casus belli : Taiwan, Tibet, Islands,…), and you’ll start to see Chinese MANPADS pop exactly where it hurts.

    And after the disastrous Soviet experience in Afghanistan, it’s all too obvious how a fairly limited number of MANPADS (~500) can ruin air ops on the cheap.

  22. Scott B. permalink
    February 24, 2010 6:30 am

    Heretic said : “good luck with getting an IR target lock on a piston aircraft that has its engine exhaust immediately downwind of a big prop-wash.”

    There’s a fair amount of ignorance in this statement, at various levels :

    1) As one poster noted, none of the LAAR contenders is a piston aircraft. They all use turboprops as far as I am aware.

    2) Getting an IR lock on a turboprop aircraft is not a problem at all : at least 2 Pucaras were lost to IR missiles during the Falklands War, and the OV-10s lost during ODS (one from VMO-2 and one from VMO-1) were both shot down by IR-SAMs, leading to the reassignment of all A models (i.e. without IR-suppressing exhaust stacks) to *lower-threat areas*.

    3) If you have some pals working for Raytheon or MBDA, just ask them to show you how dead easy it is to get a lock on even the smallest civil utility aircrafts.

    4) And finally, I seem to remember that all the contenders in the LAAR have to be compatible with AAR-54/ALE-47. This is not just for the fun of it.

  23. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 24, 2010 5:57 am

    CBD-I can find little to criticize in your comments except it sounds eminently too logical for the military leadership. More likely they would see your more rational proposal as a threat to the do-it-all-nothing-well F-35 Lightning II.

  24. Graham Strouse permalink
    February 23, 2010 10:32 pm

    I like the ST. I don’t see it is a replacement for the A-10 but given the c0st & capability I could definitely see it as a useful COIN CAS asset. Range & loitering capability are crucial to COIN air support units. Mixing some STs into the A-10/AC-130 fleet would give the older planes some much needed down time–especially the Ac-130H/Us, which are more or less literally flying their wings off.

  25. CBD permalink
    February 23, 2010 7:40 pm

    Not sure about the Super Tucano as an A-10 replacement. As Heretic and ArkadyRenko have already mentioned, the Super Tucano could definitely reduce the CAS burden on the A-10s with similar strike capabilities against light infantry and buildings…but it is not in the same weight class as the A-10.

    While I’d favor a return of small, lighter jets to carrier air wings for simple strike power (with SDBs and the like), I also favor the development of a high-end replacement for the F-14. The Super Hornets are great bomb trucks, but won’t provide the long-range intercept like the F-14s.

    Similarly, while I see the benefit of a light plane for CAS, scouting and observation (such as the Super Tucano), I also see a need for heavier aircraft, particularly the heavy CAS that is provided in the A-10. The A-10 is as ‘in production’ in the US as the Super Tucano is…much more so than the OV-10(X) or the AT-6B. The A-10 wings are already in production, as are spares for many parts…lots of talk has been flying around about going beyond the A-10C and keeping these airframes going for more than another decade. As long as they’re replacing the wings, engines, cockpit, flight controls and avionics, why not make a few more airframes to plug all of these bits into?

    While the F-22 is clearly the dominant air-to-air combatant and its production should probably be continued with upgraded systems (to fill in for the F-35A short-fall). I also believe, however, that the latest F-16s and F-15s are not without utility. These craft fill different roles at different threat levels. They can certainly fill in for the 90% of the high end, while the exquisite F-22s take the last 10%. It is wasteful to burn airframe hours and the large support structure of these aircraft making CAS runs…better to use the CAS aircraft, heavy and light. These can cover 90% of the low end. That last 10% would be filled by the large, powerful F-15s, F-16s and F-18s, but only when they’re needed…

    We’d no more want a fleet of all carriers than a fleet of all Burkes or a fleet of all Corvettes. While there’s a lot to gain from condensing down to a select number of models (say, Ticonderogas and Flt IIa Burkes both being superseded by Flight III Burkes, or the many H-60s in the USN being narrowed down to the Romeo and Sierra models), there’s also a lot to gain from having a good distribution of model types to deal with different levels of threats.

    A sample force distribution:*
    Very Low End/Light CAS: Super Tucano
    Low End/Heavy CAS: A-10C
    Middle/Light Strike: F-16E/F Block 60
    Middle/Heavy Strike: F-18E/F
    Middle/Heavy Strike/Air Dominance: F-15E
    Super High End: F-22A

    *- excluded Harriers and JSF given uncertain future of the former and uncertain capability of the latter.

  26. Charley permalink
    February 23, 2010 6:17 pm

    “As far as MANPADS goes … good luck with getting an IR target lock on a piston aircraft that has its engine exhaust immediately downwind of a big prop-wash. ”

    The Super Tucano is turbine powered, so I’d expect the exhaust gases might be hotter than a piston powered aircraft. You could put a IR decoy system on the plane to mitigate some of the risk.

  27. Josef permalink
    February 23, 2010 6:04 pm

    My problem w/ the Tucano is the caliber of the gun. Need 25mm (AV-8B Harrier, JSF), 27mm (Eurofighter) or 30mm (A-10) to fight tanks and really get it done.

    Best for JSF program to right itself and realize we already have necessary tech to win. Now we need to renew & replace capability.

  28. ArkadyRenko permalink
    February 23, 2010 5:41 pm

    These aircraft are perfectly fine in their current role, as light attack planes against lightly and moderately armed guerrillas.

    Don’t put them in anything bigger, and you won’t be disappointed. Use them in these small wars, and they can succeed and excel.

    But, do not expect to use them against a heavily armed and equipped OPFOR, such as Russia or China.

    Basically, use the planes for what they’re intended, and they won’t be any problem, in fact, due to their low costs, they’ll be quite a help.

  29. February 23, 2010 5:22 pm

    “good luck with getting an IR target lock on a piston aircraft that has its engine exhaust immediately downwind of a big prop-wash.”

    I was saving that for Scott’s reply; it is a good point.

    Even with down wash Chinooks (large helicopters) are hot.

    But we must also consider the newer optical guided/line of sight systems.

  30. Heretic permalink
    February 23, 2010 5:07 pm

    The Super Tucano would make a decent A-10 replacement as a “dirt simple” bomb truck/strafer attack plane for engaging enemy infantry. That in no way implies that it would be even approximately adequate as a bomb truck/strafer attack plane for engaging enemy armor.

    The “needs and requirements” for an attack aircraft aimed at infantry (regular or guerrilla) are somewhat different from those of an aircraft aimed at mechanized/armored forces … for what should be somewhat obvious reasons.

    As far as MANPADS goes … good luck with getting an IR target lock on a piston aircraft that has its engine exhaust immediately downwind of a big prop-wash. Not exactly as “hot” as a jet exhaust, as far as these things go, for a nice big fat target lock on. Triple-A would be a lot more of a threat, as would radar guided missiles of the SAM variety … but the logistical backend for those sorts of systems aren’t exactly Light Infantry friendly.

  31. February 23, 2010 4:36 pm

    Young Scott B. said,

    “Except there were no MANPADS in WW2. That’s quite a bit of a difference.”

    This is true. But if Terry had access to MANPADS where are they? Why aren’t they being used to knock down helicopters, C130, etc. etc.? Where are what I believe the more sensationalist commentators call the “spectaculars”?

    If they do possess them it will be in one or two and probably used more as totems to rally the hordes; “Look what we could do if we wanted to……….”

    When it comes to SALW proliferation there is far too much attention paid to this class of weapon.

    While less scrupulous regimes are quite happy to loose assault rifles, military grade plastic, etc. etc. they seem a lot less willing for MANPADS to slip through the net in fear that these very systems will be used against them at some point in the future.

  32. Scott B. permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:56 pm

    Bill said : “In some respects, it alos reminds me of the remarkable OV-10 Broncos”

    Coincidentally (? ;-p), Boeing is mulling over an updated Bronco to meet the Air Force’s LAAR specification.

    Here is the brochure : OV-10(X) Super Bronco.

  33. Bill permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:56 pm

    “Except there were no MANPADS in WW2. That’s quite a bit of a difference.


    were it me in the cockpit …I think I would rather be in the Tucano or an OV-10 providing close support than in an AH-1…

  34. Scott B. permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:31 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Here are some specs:”

    Dunno where Mike got the specs from, but they don’t quite match the official figures from Embraer (download page here) :

    (main differences highlighted in bold below)

    Weights :
    * Empty weight : 3,200 kg / 7,055 lb
    * Max. takeoff weight : 5,400 kg / 11,905 lb
    * Payload (external loads / stores) : 1,550 kg / 3,420 lb

    * Max. level speed (clean) : 590 km/h / 320 ktas
    * Cruise speed : 520 km/h / 280 ktas
    * Stall speed : 148 km/h / 80 ktas
    * Service ceiling : 10,665 m / 35,000 ft
    * Ferry range – internal fuel : 1,445 km / 780 nm
    * Ferry range – with external tanks : 2,855 km / 1,540 nm
    * Endurance – internal fuel : 3.4 hours
    * Endurance – with external tanks : 8.4 hours
    * Takeoff field length : 900 m / 2,950 ft
    * Landing field length : 860 m / 2,820 ft

    * G-limits : 7g / -3.5 g
    * Pressurization : 5.0 psi
    * Ejection seats : Martin-Baker Mk 10
    * Fatigue life : 12,000 hours (typical combat) / 18,000 hours (typical training)
    * Windshield : Resistant to impacts from 4 lb birds at 300 ktas

  35. Scott B. permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:03 pm

    x said : “They are faster and smaller than Chinooks and in performance terms match many later WW2 aircraft. A period when there were a lot more anti-aircraft weaponry wielded by people with lots of practice………..”

    Except there were no MANPADS in WW2. That’s quite a bit of a difference.

  36. February 23, 2010 2:54 pm

    “OV-10 Broncos”

    Black Ponies!!!!!!!!! Super!

    When this subject comes up the key question seems to be are they more vulnerable than jets. Can they be shot down more easily? And after much research I sit more on the side of though speed helps jets these new turbo-props aren’t too vulnerable. They are faster and smaller than Chinooks and in performance terms match many later WW2 aircraft. A period when there were a lot more anti-aircraft weaponry wielded by people with lots of practice………..

    Unless a gun is radar controlled I think aircraft are pretty safe. The Mk1 eyeball is going to struggle with anything above 150kts.

    A morning spent clay pigeon shooting should convince anyone of this.

    But I am a layman I could be wrong. And I probably am.

  37. Bill permalink
    February 23, 2010 2:23 pm

    Yep..that is one very versatile airplane. In some respects, it alos reminds me of the remarkable OV-10 Broncos…another ‘small’ prop plane that seemed to possess capablities all out of proportion to its small size and low cost.

  38. Charley permalink
    February 23, 2010 1:47 pm

    Might be interesting, especially if you were to integrate some laser Hellfires. Not really a heavy attack replacement for the A-10 though.

  39. Matt permalink
    February 23, 2010 1:13 pm

    For once I am in almost perfect agreement. This would be a great addition to the US military! Some comments:

    1) I wouldn’t even refer to this as a fighter designation. The A-10 wasn’t a fighter — it was an attack aircraft. Multi-role strike fighters really started with the F/A-18. I’d remove the sidewinders altogether and just focus on air-to-ground role, since there’s no way we’d send these things into any kind of air-to-air threat environment.

    2) I’m assuming the article means a DON buy rather than Navy-specific buy. I’d think this platform would fit better into USMC air vice USN air. USMC air has much greater experience and doctrine in providing close air support and expeditionary airpower. They practically invented dive-bombing. In contrast, the Navy would have to spin up a whole new air group… it just wouldn’t be as clean a fit.

  40. Scott B. permalink
    February 23, 2010 1:08 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Except for vertical lift, it is superior to any attack helicopter”

    Can the Super Tucano fly NOE ?


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