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US approves A-29 Super Tucano light combat aircraft sale to Nigeria
November 19, 2017
The Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano. Photo credit: Embraer

US approves A-29 Super Tucano light combat aircraft sale to Nigeria

The U.S. State Department has greenlit a proposed $593 million U.S. sale of 12 Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) A-29 Super Tucano close air support (CAS) aircraft to Nigeria.

According to the news release provided by the Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the proposal includes the dozen aircraft as well as “all associated training, spare parts, aviation and ground support equipment, and hangar, facilities, and infrastructure required to support the program.”

The DSCA news release further adds that the A-29s “will support Nigerian military operations against terrorist organizations Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa, and Nigerian efforts to counter illicit trafficking in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.”

Nigeria had sought the Super Tucano to bolster its COIN capabilities. However, the previous White House administration under then President Obama had reportedly been reluctant to sell arms to Nigeria (and other countries) due to concerns over human rights. President Trump has begun approving those sales.

The SNC A-29 (i.e. Embraer EMB-314) is a relatively popular turboprop-powered counterinsurgency (COIN) platform. Powered by a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68C, the Super Tucano can reach a maximum speed of 590 km/h and flight ceiling of 35,000 ft. It can also carry 1,500 kg in ordnance, such as laser-guided bombs, through five external hardpoints.

Notes & Comments:

The Nigerian Air Force’s (NAF) to bolster its COIN and CAS capabilities also involve the procurement of 12 Russian Helicopters Mil Mi-35M attack helicopters. The NAF has taken delivery of two Mi-35Ms in January and is scheduled to receive the remaining 10 in 2018.

The NAF is also modernizing its fast jet fleet with the acquisition of three JF-17 Thunder multi-role fighter aircraft from Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). Nigeria’s 2016 federal budget allocated a payment of $15.88 million for the JF-17s. Its 2017 budget proposal lists $68.76 million for “platform acquisitions … for counter air, counter surface, air ops for strategic effect and air support operations.” These appear to be annual installments for various platforms (i.e. A-29, Mi-35M and JF-17).

Sub-Saharan Africa has emerged as a lucrative market for turboprop-powered attack aircraft. Nigeria is in fact following Angola, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal in ordering the A-29. In January, the U.S. also approved a $418 million sale for 12 Air Tractor AT-802L to Kenya.

Most of these countries have limited to non-existent air defence requirements. However, low-intensity conflict and general air policing still require them to maintain air assets in some form, be it for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) or CAS. Turboprop-powered platforms such as the A-29 promise low operating costs with effective ISR and air-to-ground capabilities, especially in low anti-air warfare (AAW) threat environments (e.g. against insurgents without short-range surface-to-air missiles).

The rise and pervasiveness of these lightweight platforms has contributed to a bifurcation in the modern fighter market between lightweight trainers re-purposed for attack roles and medium-to-heavyweight multi-role fighters. Many of the A-29, AT-802L and Archangel’s users have traditionally operated entry-level jet fighters, such as the MiG-21 and F-5E. However, those facing limited airborne threats have increasingly opted to retire their jets and pivot entirely to turboprop attack aircraft. This precludes new entry-tier jets, such as the JF-17 Thunder, from accessing these legacy MiG-21/F-5E markets.

  • Amir Timur

    Any updates on PAC’s arming of the Super Mushshak? Are we even considering developing it with advanced features like MAWS, RWR, data link, FLIR and ISR capabilities along with infrared signature suppressors etc. I’m looking at aircraft like the Super Tucano and AT-802 and wondering how better they’d be at our COIN ops instead of the JF-17. We built the Thunder to develop a major multi role platform that would see consistent future improvements and eventually become our backbone against state adversaries like India. Using it in the FATA is burning a hole in our pockets. And imagine how much export potential such an aircraft has? While I’m not belittling the success the JF-17 has been so far, but the market in that field is tough to break into. About time we diversified our products catalogue and thought about COIN aircrafts, attack helicopters, military transport and surveillance aircrafts as well.

    • Steve

      Fair comment. Mushshak is very successful but is more of a basic trainer and not in the same category as Super Tucano or Pilatus PC-21. Both are faster with longer range and also have an advanced cockpit and flight controls. They have had huge overseas sales success. America builds an older version the Pilatus PC-9 as the Beechcraft Texan AT-6. They were also buying the Super Tucano but that’s in dispute ATM. There was a news item a while ago in which Mushshak weaponised version was being tested by PAC. It may have the advantage of being cheaper, and may find a niche market. We need something a step up from Mushshak and a more advanced turboprop trainer maybe useful to develop. We however, need to build the ENGINE and PROPELLER and not buy from abroad. Also to avoid ground fire especially in mountainous terrain we have to fly at altitude and need guided weapons and all the goodies you describe, which add weight and cost. Aviation City may bring all those ideas to fruition.

  • Fawad Alam

    Successful tests of CM-400AKG air to ship missile often called the ‘Carrier Killer’ boosts confidence in JF-17s Maritime capabilities .
    Anymore details about this bilal???

  • Gus, DC USA

    It could be a watered down version.

  • Manju

    As stated in the article “Nigeria’s 2016 federal budget allocated a payment of $15.88 million for the JF-17s.” How many planes especially JF17 will they get at that price allocation?

    • Steve

      That’s most likely the first instalment.

  • Pakistan selling a jet for 15 million and USA selling a turboprop for 20 million . Just buy the Pakistani Jets much better deal

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