Embraer Has The Philippine Air Force Locked On
Another debutante at the recent ADAS was Brazil’s Embraer advertising the A-29 Super Tucano ground attack aircraft. In direct competition with a similar turbopropeller model from North America the Super Tucano is being pushed as the best option for expanding the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) fixed wing fleet.
In early September President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned the government could acquire propeller-driven planes in lieu of jet fighters because these are better suited for the long-running counterinsurgencies that have bogged down the armed forces for decades.
With decades of success behind it, first as a trainer in the 1970s then as a fighter from the 2000s onward, the Super Tucano has become an emblematic air support plane for small hot wars in failed states. Able to take off on dirt runways and armed with machine guns and rockets, more than two hundred have been sold around the world–including to prestige clients like the Brazilian and US air forces.
The PAF is no stranger to prop-driven aircraft. Its eclectic but limited fleet includes a sizable collection of Aermacchi trainers, Cessnas, and OV-10 Broncos. The possible sale of Super Tucanos could go a long way in replacing these disparate models and provide a real firepower boost to an institution with little offensive capability.
The two-seater Super Tucano’s basic loadout is distributed between two hardpoints on either wing and another hardpoint on its belly. The weapons configuration varies depending on the mission and these could alternate between dumb bombs, rocket pods, and fuel tanks. There are, however, Browning .50 machine guns on each wing for daredevil strafing runs.
There is no announcement of a sale to the Philippines yet and the transition in government after the country’s national elections last May put discussions on indefinite hold. This isn’t taking the luster out of Embraer’s growing presence in the Asia-Pacific where it has sold an estimated 300 civilian aircraft, many of them to China.
As for the Super Tucano, with 16 ordered by Indonesia from 2010-2012, steady demand by clients from Africa and the Middle East are boosting its production. Besides, Embraer’s defense portfolio is divided between a handful of models including medium transports and ISR-capable jets, so there’s variety to balance their sales.
Whether the PAF follows through or not depends on its modernization road map and its budget.