• July 25, 2024

Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano – A High-Performance Warfare Aircraft with Timeless Design

The Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano represents an upgraded iteration of the EMB-312 Tucano training aircraft, boasting improved speed and enhanced altitude capabilities.

Introduce

Highly armored and equipped with a formidable array of air-to-surface weaponry, ground-attack aircraft have transformed the tactics employed in supporting ground forces since World War II. Among the most renowned close air support aircraft are the Su-25 and A-10 Thunderbolt II, commonly referred to as ground-based adversaries.

In addition to military powers like the US and Russia, Brazil has also emerged as a nation capable of manufacturing close air support aircraft, exemplified by the EMB-314 Super Tucano. Originally designed as a training aircraft in the early 2000s, the Super Tucano underwent significant enhancements, including the integration of Kevlar armor, dual 12.7mm machine guns, and the capacity to carry 20mm cannons, as well as missiles and bombs. These upgrades have elevated the Super Tucano to the status of a formidable airborne asset.

 

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Background

The conclusion of the cold ωεɑρ ushered in new challenges that had been dormant and could not always be effectively addressed with high-performance aircraft. This was especially true for regions with extensive and relatively permeable borders. Embraer responded to this need by introducing the EMB-314, a versatile aircraft designed to meet the demands of modern military training and suitable for deployment in various scenarios where high-performance combat planes may not be the optimal choice.

Referred to as the ALX or A-29, the Super Tucano possesses a timeless aesthetic reminiscent of fighters from World War II. However, it is the most advanced light attack aircraft within the current turboprop family. Powered by a turboprop engine, the aircraft maintains a lower cruising speed, providing pilots with ample time to identify and target objectives, a crucial aspect of their ground support mission. The Super Tucano represents an upgraded version, offering enhanced speed and altitude capabilities, building upon the foundation of the EMB-312 Tucano trainer aircraft, which is in active service with 17 countries’ Air Forces. While available in both single-seat and two-seat variants, the overall design remains largely consistent across the models.

 

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Design

Carrying on the lineage of its predecessor, the Super Tucano exhibits an elegant and slender form, slightly elongated compared to the EMB-312 Tucano. Positioned at a considerable distance from the engine nose, the cockpit features a panoramic canopy offering exceptional visibility from all angles. The all-glass cockpit is fully compatible with night-vision goggles, ensuring optimal visibility during nighttime operations. The avionics systems, sourced from Elbit Systems of Haifa, Israel, comprise a head-up display, an advanced mission computer, a navigation system, and two color liquid crystal multi-function displays.

The pilot benefits from a hands-on throttle and stick control, while their safety is enhanced with Kevlar armor and a zero-zero ejection seat. The aircraft’s structure is protected against corrosion, and its side-hinged canopy incorporates a windshield capable of withstanding bird strike impacts at speeds of up to 500 km/h. The Super Tucano features straight wings positioned low on the fuselage just below the cockpit, offering a total of five external hardpoints, with four located on the wings and an additional one under the fuselage.

 

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The tail section of the aircraft consists of a vertical fin and two low-mounted horizontal planes. The landing gear features retractable wheels with a conventional configuration, comprising two single-wheeled main landing gears and a single-wheeled nose gear. In terms of overall dimensions, the aircraft measures approximately 11.38m (37 ft 4 in) in length, 11.14m (36 ft 7 in) in wingspan, and 3.97m (13 ft 0 in) in height. Its compact size, minimal visual and radar signatures, combined with its high speed and agility, contribute to its excellent survivability.

Powerplant

The Super Tucano is equipped with a robust 1,600 shaft horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68C engine, which drives a Hartzell five-bladed constant speed fully feathering reversible pitch propeller. It is capable of flying at a rate of 24m/s. The maximum speed of the aircraft is 590km/h, while its cruise speed is 520km/h. With a range of 4,820km and a service ceiling of 10,670m, the Super Tucano offers impressive capabilities. It can stay airborne for up to six hours and 30 minutes. The aircraft has a weight of 3t and a maximum take-off weight of 5.2t.

 

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Armament

The aircraft is equipped with two central mission computers that facilitate various functions such as ωεɑρσռ aiming, ωεɑρσռ management, mission planning, and mission rehearsal. It also features onboard recording capability for post-mission analysis. With a maximum external load capacity of 1,500kg, the Super Tucano offers versatile ωεɑρσռ options. It is armed with two 12.7mm machine guns mounted on the wings, boasting a rate of fire of 1,100 rounds per minute. The armament choices include unguided rockets, gun pods, air-to-air missiles, free-fall bombs, and smart munitions. Its adaptable design enables operations from unprepared runways, both day and night.

Potential

The cost of each Super Tucano ranges from 9 to $18 million, depending on the quantity and included options. Additionally, the operating costs vary between 430 and $500 per hour of flight. This cost-effective system has gained significant popularity among export customers. In addition to manufacturing in Brazil, Embraer has established a production line in the United States in collaboration with Sierra Nevada Corporation to cater to the needs of numerous international customers.

 

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Certainly, when compared to the renowned American and Russian aircraft, the Super Tucano may not possess the same level of power. Its Kevlar shield is not designed to withstand anti-aircraft cannon fire, and the firepower of its main gun is insufficient to destroy tanks. However, this aircraft proves highly effective in conducting anti-guerrilla missions in volatile regions across the globe. The Colombian government has successfully utilized the EMB-314 to combat drug-related offenses, while the United States has employed approximately 200 of these aircraft in operations against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. With its affordable price, low operating costs, and moderate capabilities, the EMB-314 serves as a suitable choice for many nations that are unable to make substantial investments in defense.

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