Turboprop anti-guerrilla attack aircraft... Currently, the most common anti-guerrilla turboprop aircraft are products of the Brazilian company Embraer EMB-312 Tucano and EMB-314 Super Tucano. The EMB-314 Super Tucano aircraft was created on the basis of the EMB-312 Tucano and had the designation EMB-312H. The first flight of the prototype took place in 1991. Initially, it was supposed to increase engine power, install built-in weapons, and increase the flight range. At international arms exhibitions, the EMV-312N was advertised as a turboprop combat aircraft designed to combat light-engine aviation, helicopters and providing close air support. This modification had an elongated fuselage, a reinforced airframe, and a more powerful propulsion system. But in connection with the increased requirements of the customer, deeper changes were made to the Super Tucano design. The weight of the empty aircraft increased to 2420 kg, and the length increased by almost one and a half meters.
According to the terms of reference issued by the Brazilian Air Force command, the new turboprop combat aircraft was supposed to have a long flight range and autonomy, the ability to operate day and night in any meteorological conditions, and the ability to be based on poorly prepared unpaved airfields with minimal maintenance. The service life of the EMB-314 Super Tucano glider has been increased to 14000 hours with the possibility of extending for another 4000 hours. On EMB-312, the assigned airframe resource is 8000 hours.
Serial production of the EMB-314 Super Tucano began in 2003. This machine differed from the earlier model with a new cockpit canopy, improved avionics using liquid crystal indicators and the ability to use night vision devices. In addition to inertial navigation systems, a satellite navigation receiver was introduced into the avionics. The cockpit and the most vulnerable structural elements are covered with Kevlar armor barriers that hold armor-piercing rifle bullets fired from a distance of 300 m. When operating in a strong air defense zone, it is possible to reinforce the sides of the cockpit with ceramic plates, but this reduces the combat load by about 200 kg. Frontal armored glass is able to withstand collisions with large birds at a speed of 500 km / h. The fuel tanks are sealed and filled with neutral gas. Crew rescue is provided by Martin Baker Mk 10 LCX ejection seats.
Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 A-68C 1600 hp engine provides in level flight a maximum speed of 590 km / h. Cruising speed - 508 km / h. The aircraft of the previous model, the EMB-312 Tucano, was powered by an EMB-312 750 hp powerplant. could reach a speed of 458 km / h. The aircraft is capable of staying in the air for more than 8 hours. Ferry flight range - 2500 km. Combat radius with a load of 1500 kg - 550 km. The normal takeoff weight is 2890 kg, and the maximum is 3210 kg. "Super Tucano" is able to operate in high temperature and humidity conditions, has good takeoff and landing characteristics, which allows it to be based on unpaved runways, limited in length.
Compared to the EMB-312 Tucano, the armament of the EMB-314 Super Tucano is significantly enhanced. The wing contains two 12,7 mm FN Herstal M3P machine guns with a rate of fire of 1100 rds / min. Ammunition - 200 rounds per barrel. There is also a suspension for a 20 mm GIAT M20A1 cannon and four containers with 7,62-12,7 mm machine guns. Weapons with a total mass of up to 1550 kg can be placed on five external nodes: NAR blocks, bombs and cassettes weighing up to 250 kg, guided weapons. For the use of guided weapons, a data display system was installed on the pilot's helmet, integrated into the equipment for controlling the means of destruction of the aircraft. The system is based on the MIL-STD-553B digital bus and operates according to the HOTAS (Hand On Throttle and Stick) standard.
Thanks to the introduction of the AIM-9L Sidewinder, MAA-1A Piranha and Python 4 air combat missiles, the Super Tucano is capable of conducting defensive air combat with jet fighters. The ability to combat helicopters and light aircraft has expanded. To counter missiles with heat guidance and jamming radar, there are automatic devices for shooting heat traps and dipole reflectors.
Due to its versatility, relatively low cost and low operating costs, the EMB-314 Super Tucano is by far the best-selling light turboprop combat aircraft. As of 2019, more than 250 Super Tucano have been delivered to customers. In 2009, a competition was announced in the United States for the supply of 100 light anti-guerrilla attack aircraft. In addition to the EMB-314 Super Tucano, the AT-6B Texan II, proposed by Hawker Beechcraft, participated in it.
The AT-6B Texan II light attack aircraft made its maiden flight on April 5, 2010. This vehicle is an armed modification of the two-seat T-6 Texan II trainer, which, in turn, is based on the Swiss Pilatus PC-9. The AT-6B Texan II is equipped with a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68D theater with a capacity of 1600 hp. The maximum flight speed is 580 km / h. Cruising speed - 426 km / h. Empty weight - 2671 kg. The maximum take-off weight is 4536 kg. Armament with a total weight of up to 1319 kg can be suspended on seven external nodes. The aircraft is equipped with an indicator against the background of the windshield, multifunctional displays and an electro-optical infrared camera L-3 Wescam Mx-15Di. It is provided for the installation of equipment for protection against IR and laser seeker of the UR of the "surface-to-air" and "air-to-air" classes, a warning system for radar exposure and an automatic device for shooting IR traps. The aircraft is equipped with an ALQ-213 electronic warfare system, an ARC-210 protected radio communication system, and digital data transmission equipment.
In 2012, the Super Tucano was declared the winner of the competition, but Hawker Beechcraft filed an appeal and the results were invalidated. However, repeated trials in 2013 confirmed the superiority of the EMB-314 Super Tucano, and the US Department of Defense signed an initial contract for the purchase of 20 aircraft worth $ 427 million. In addition to the turboprop attack aircraft, the purchase of consumables and spare parts was provided.
The main reason for the victory of the EMB-314 Super Tucano over the AT-6B Texan II, in addition to the lower purchase price, was the lower cost of operation and the greater payload weight. At the same time, the "Super Tucano" of the American assembly must be equipped with electronic equipment similar to that installed on the AT-6V Texan II. The possibility of night use and use of light high-precision ammunition is specially discussed, which should increase the strike potential of attack aircraft. At the same time, despite losing the competition announced by the US Air Force, Hawker Beechcraft, simultaneously with the sale of the T-6 Texan II TCB, is discussing the possibility of supplying AT-6Bs to Mexico and Argentina.
To facilitate Super Tucano's access to the market of the US allies, the American company Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Brazilian Embraer organized a joint production of turboprop aircraft. At the same time, the cost of one aircraft assembled at an enterprise in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2019 amounted to more than $ 18 million.Training of foreign pilots is carried out by instructors of the 81st Fighter Squadron of the US Air Force at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.
In the American armed forces, the turboprop attack aircraft received the designation A-29 Super Tucano. Two modifications are known:
- A-29A: a single-seat aircraft, on which an additional 400 liter fuel tank is installed in the place of the second crew member. This aircraft is mainly intended for striking ground targets using unguided aviation ammunition, intercepting light aircraft, fighting helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles. According to Embraer, the single-seat A-29A with a search pod that detects thermal radiation, thanks to the increased flight range, has proven itself to be a night fighter when intercepting light smuggler aircraft;
- A-29V: a two-seater version, in which the weapon operator, using a suspended optoelectronic station and a side-looking radar, can search for air and ground targets in the dark. On this model, the possibilities for the use of high-precision ammunition are expanded. А-29В have proven themselves very well in military operations in Colombia and Afghanistan.
A-29A Super Tucano Brazilian Air Force
As of the second half of 2019, the A-29A and A-29B aircraft were purchased by Angola, Afghanistan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Colombia, Lebanon, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Turkmenistan, Chile, Philippines. In addition, several A-29s are at the disposal of the US Air Force Special Operations Command.
A-29B Super Tucano Nigerian Air Force
As of 2019, about 200 EMB-314 Super Tucano attack aircraft have flown more than 150 hours, including 000 hours in combat missions. Due to their high maneuverability, low thermal signature and good survivability, the aircraft have proven themselves excellently during combat missions. Not a single turboprop attack aircraft is lost to anti-aircraft fire. However, in the combat zone "Super Tucano" does not always perform strike functions, they are often used as reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft.
Although the "Super Tucano" has been adopted by most of the operating countries relatively recently, this aircraft has already gained serious experience in combat use. The Brazilian Air Force received 99 aircraft with a total cost of $ 214,1 million: 33 single-seat A-29A and 66 double-seat A-29B.
Due to the presence of a second crew member, performing the duties of the weapons operator and observer pilot, the two-seater A-29B is optimal for use in operations where armed reconnaissance is carried out. At the same time, the "Super Tucano" was used as part of the Amazon control system SIVAM (Sistema para Vigilancia de Amazonas) in conjunction with other reconnaissance and attack aircraft.
On June 3, 2009, two Brazilian Air Force Super Tucanos, guided by the commands of the EMB-145 AEW & C AWACS, intercepted a Cessna U206G aircraft with illegal cargo from Bolivia in the Alta Floresta d'Este area. After warning bursts of 12,7-mm machine guns were fired at the Cessna course, the smugglers' plane landed at Cocoal airport. Two crew members tried to escape, but were detained by the police. On board there was 176 kg of concentrated coca paste, which was enough to make almost a ton of cocaine.
As part of the fight against criminal activity in the Amazon, Operation Agatha began on August 5, 2011. More than 3000 military and police officers took part in the operation, 35 aircraft and helicopters, and several armed boats were involved. Within 30 days, measures were taken to suppress illegal felling of valuable wood species, mining and trade in rare species of animals. The drug factories and storage sites were destroyed. The A-29 Super Tucano planes dropped 227-kg Mk 82 bombs to destroy the facilities of drug traffickers. At the same time, the search for targets and the guidance of attack aircraft to the target was carried out from Israeli-made Hermes 450 drones.
On September 15, 2011, Operation Agata 2 was launched on the border with Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay. During her "Super Tucano" destroyed three airfields in the jungle and, together with F-5E / EM fighters, intercepted 33 aircraft carrying drugs. Brazilian security forces managed to seize 62 tons of drugs, make more than 3000 arrests and seize more than 650 tons weapons and explosives.
On November 22, 2011, Brazil launched Operation Agata 3 in areas bordering Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay. It was attended by 6500 people with the support of 10 armed river vessels, 200 vehicles and armored vehicles, as well as 70 aircraft. "Agata-3" became the largest Brazilian special operation with the participation of the army, fleet and the Air Force to Combat Human Trafficking and Organized Crime in the Border Zone. In addition to the А-29А / В, combat aircraft AMX, F-5 Tiger II, AWACS EMB-145 AEW & C aircraft and UAVs took part in the operations. After the end of the special operations "Agata", a representative of the Brazilian Ministry of Defense said that as of the beginning of 2011, drugs were seized by 1319% more than in the previous six months.
Currently, the Super Tucano make regular patrol flights over hard-to-reach areas of Brazil. To improve the efficiency of patrolling, aircraft in most cases carry containers with reconnaissance equipment of American and French production. In 2014, it became known that part of the Brazilian A-29B used a compact side-looking radar capable of detecting groups of armed people and vehicles hidden under tree crowns. Of the 99 aircraft received by Força Aérea Brasileira, four were lost in flight accidents.
In 2005, Colombia signed a $ 234 million contract for the supply of 25 A-29B Super Tucano. All aircraft were received between December 2006 and June 2008. During the same period, the United States provided high-precision aircraft ammunition as part of military assistance.
The first sortie of the Colombian Super Tucano took place on January 18, 2007. On this day, the A-29B squadron dropped 227-kg Mk 82 bombs at the positions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In 2008, during Operation Phoenix "Super Tucano", the Colombian Air Force, armed with laser-guided bombs Griffin, struck a target in Ecuador. At the same time, a group of militants was destroyed, among which was the deputy commander-in-chief of the FARC Raul Reyes. This event led to a diplomatic rift between the two countries.
On September 21, 2010, Operation Sodoma began, during which two A-29B squadrons dropped 7 tons of bombs on the FARC camp, where there were about 700 soldiers. After the airstrike, Colombian special forces landed from helicopters. As a result, the guerrillas retreated, leaving more than 20 dead in the camp, among whom were the leaders of the FARC movement. In October 2019, during Operation Darien in Choco Department, the crews of turboprop attack aircraft at night used infrared cameras to locate rebel groups and hit them with 70mm laser-guided missiles.
On October 15, 2011, the Colombian Armed Forces launched a major counterinsurgency Operation Odisseo. In addition to other combat aircraft, direct air support was provided by 18 Super Tucano, loaded with 113 and 227 kg of bombs. Five aircraft were used to deploy 500-pound adjustable bombs. At the end of 2011, the Colombian army managed to inflict heavy losses on the partisans. In Operation Odisseo, the leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Alfonso Cano, was killed.
At dawn on February 22, 2012, A-29B dropped guided bombs on an FARC camp 15 kilometers north of Bojay, near the border with Panama. Operation Frontera killed six rebels, including Pedro Alfonso Alvarado (alias Mapanao), who was responsible for the 2002 Bojaya massacre, which killed 119 civilians.
In the early morning hours of March 21, 2012, during Operation Pharaoh, five Super Tucanos bombed the FARC base in Arauca, near the Venezuelan border, killing 33 rebels. Five days later, during Operation Armageddon, nine turboprop attack aircraft attacked a forward fortified guerrilla checkpoint in the Vista Hermos area. Within three minutes, thirty-six 227-kg bombs were dropped on the target. In this case, the attacked object was completely destroyed, 36 rebels were killed.
At the end of May 2012, six A-29Bs fired rockets at an Army of National Liberation (ELN) camp located in the vicinity of Santa Rosa in the Bolivar department. On May 31, 2012, seven militants were killed in a bombing raid on an ELN camp in a hard-to-reach area in the Choco Department.
On June 6, 2012, during a bombing raid on an FARC facility in the northern department of Antioquia, five Super Tucanos dropped 227kg bombs, killing 12 rebels.
In September 2012, turboprop attack aircraft identified militant targets and provided close air support during Operation Omega, in which more than 20 guerrillas were killed and four captured. Several commanders were among the dead. At the same time, the Colombian military intelligence believes that the rebels suffered heavy losses, but managed to bury a significant part of the fighters killed during the bombing.
The successful actions of government forces, supported by accurate and effective airstrikes of turboprop combat aircraft, led to the loss of the former position of the FARC and ELN, whose militants previously controlled about half of the country. As a result, the rebel leaders who survived announced their rejection of armed struggle and the beginning of negotiations with the government. In 2012, FARC representatives announced that one Super Tucano was shot down by anti-aircraft fire. However, during the examination of the wreckage of the aircraft, carried out by specialists from Fuerza Aérea de Colombia and representatives of the company Embraer, no combat damage was found.
Currently, the Colombian Air Force has 24 A-29B Super Tucano aircraft. Turboprop attack aircraft are deployed at three air bases and are used for patrol flights and intercepting drug trafficking.
In 2010, Embraer announced the fulfillment of a contract for the supply of eight A-29Bs to the Dominican Republic. The aircraft were intended for pilot training, internal security, border patrols and the fight against drug trafficking. Radar posts were deployed at the international airports of Las Americas and Punta Cana to monitor the country's airspace and target interceptors.
A-29B Super Tucano of the Dominican Republic Air Force
Shortly after the Dominican Super Tucano began to climb to intercept aircraft illegally entering the country's airspace, the number of air border violations fell by more than 80%. In May 2012, President of the Dominican Republic Leonel Fernandez ordered the military to deploy Super Tucano to fight drugs in Haiti.
The Ecuadorian Air Force has 2010 A-10B Super Tucano since May 29. Two squadrons are stationed at Manta Air Base in the west of the country. The planes of one squadron are used to improve the qualifications and maintain the flight skills of pilots, and the second is an assault squadron and is used to combat insurgents in the jungle. In this role, they replaced the extremely worn A-37 Dragonfly attack aircraft.
Currently "Super Tucano" are actively fighting in Afghanistan. In 2011, the A-29B Super Tucano light turboprop attack aircraft won the competition for a light combat aircraft, which was supposed to replace Russian-made combat helicopters in the Afghan Air Force. The funds for this were allocated by the American government. The cost of one A-29 is about $ 18 million.
In December 2016, Afghanistan received 8 two-seat A-29B attack aircraft. In 2018, 20 aircraft were transferred to the Afghans. According to the reference data, at the beginning of 2020, the Afghan Air Force had 26 Super Tucanoes. Delivery of another 6 aircraft is expected in the near future. A-29B Super Tucano, assembled for the Afghan Air Force in Jacksonville, USA, are equipped with very advanced avionics and are superior in this respect to aircraft built in Brazil. To reduce vulnerability to anti-aircraft fire, the emphasis is on the use of guided weapons. The aircraft is equipped with avionics and information display equipment from the Israeli company Elbit Systems and sighting and search systems manufactured by Boeing Defense, Space & Security. When using guided munitions, the equipment for displaying data on the pilot's helmet, integrated into the combat control system of the aircraft, is used. The system is based on the MIL-STD-553B digital bus and operates according to the HOTAS (Hand On Throttle and Stick) standard. It is reported that part of the Afghan A-29V is equipped with an overhead radar, created by OrbiSat. The radar is capable of working on air and ground targets and detecting single mortar positions with a high probability. There are also inertial and satellite navigation systems and closed communications equipment on board.
The first combat missions of Afghan A-29Bs took place in early 2017. As new aircraft arrived and the flight and technical personnel mastered them, the intensity of combat missions increased. In the spring of 2017, the Super Tucano, striking the positions of the Taliban, flew up to 40 sorties a week.
According to information released by the Afghan Air Corps in July 2017, the turboprop attack aircraft carried out more than 2000 airstrikes without loss. They provided close air support to ground forces and destroyed militant facilities. In March 2018, the GBU-29 Paveway II corrected bomb was used for the first time from the Afghan A-58B Super Tucano against the Taliban positions.
Afghan A-29B Super Tucano with a GBU-58 Paveway II bomb guided
"Super Tucano" proved to be a good replacement for the Mi-35 helicopters. An important factor is that the A-29V, unlike helicopters, easily overcome mountain ranges, while carrying the maximum combat load. A significant advantage of turboprop attack aircraft is better fuel efficiency and a relatively low cost of a flight hour, which in 2016 was about $ 600. At the same time, the cost of a flight hour of the Mi-17V-5 transport and combat helicopter exceeded $ 1000, while for the Mi-35 it was close to $ 2000. Considering the fact that aviation fuel is delivered to Afghan air bases by military transport aircraft or road convoys, which must be accompanied by strong guards, fuel efficiency is very important. The preparation time of the Mi-35 for a second combat mission takes much longer than that of the Super Tucano. Separately, the A-29V's ability to operate successfully in the dark is noted, which was extremely problematic for the Afghan Mi-17V-5 and Mi-35.
Thus, the A-29V, with a similar or even higher combat effectiveness in the conditions of Afghanistan, turned out to be economically more profitable than a heavy attack helicopter.
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