Apart from United States which purchased 20 A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets in 2013 for the Afghan Air Force, A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets can only be found in the military service of developing countries.
I noticed this when I decided to find out about the aircraft after Nigerian government decided to buy 12 A-29 Super Tucano fighter jets from the United State government to aid its military in ending the eight-year-old Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east of the country.
The Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, also named ALX or A-29, which is a turboprop light attack aircraft designed for counter-insurgency, close air support, and aerial reconnaissance missions in low-threat environments, and as well as providing pilot training, according to Wikipedia, is currently being operated by 6 South American countries – Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras and Brazil (the home country of Embraer Defense and Security, the company that produces the plane); 5 African countries – Angola, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Senegal; an Asian country – Indonesia; and a middle Eastern country – Afghanistan (courtesy the US government).
While the US private military company, Blackwater is said to have one Tucano for pilot training, US Navy leased one for testing, and the US Air Force using one for military experiment, the A-29 can’t be said to be part of their fire power as it seem US interest in the aircraft is to make it available for use by its partner countries.
The US is supplying up to 20 aircraft to serve as counter-insurgency trainers and fighters for Afghan pilots and they have agreed to supply Nigeria 12 aircraft. The USAF also plans to buy 15 aircraft to serve as trainers for its own pilots, who could then be assigned to foreign “partners” fighting insurgents or terrorists.
It is clears that this preference for this type of aircraft by developing countries is solid, as almost all the countries that have shown interest in purchasing this A-29 Super Tucano aircraft are also developing countries.
Why do these countries prefer A-29 Tucano Super Tucanos?
The first reason is cost
The A-29 is specifically designed for countries with relatively little money, infrastructure or trained manpower to hand small fights like insurgency and train combat pilots.
This jet fighter was designed by Brazil, a country that understand what it means to have little money to spend on military, airport infrastructure or trained manpower and yet still should be ready for a fight at least the small fights.
Inexpensive to buy ($9 –14 million/unit in 2011) and with lower operating costs than any other light attack aircraft, the A-29 is the right aircraft for cash-strapped countries. The aircraft which is relatively simple and sturdy is propeller-driven and therefore easy to fly and maintain.
The second reason is performance and design
The aircraft can operate in extremely rugged terrain, in places with high temperature, moisture, and precipitation. The A-29 is highly maneuverable and has a low heat signature. It was designed to have long-range and autonomy, to operate night and day, in any meteorological conditions, and land on short airfields lacking infrastructure.
The A-29 which is in service all over the world with 13 air forces and has seen nearly 40,000 combat hours over a wide range of environments is easily reconfigurable.
It carries advanced electro-optical sensors, modern avionics, a laser target designator and a wide variety of precision munitions. A Colombian general disclosed that the side-looking airborne radar can locate ground targets smaller than a car with digital precision.
Now, you know why!