The arrival of the Super Tucano in Nigeria has been described as a major boost to Nigeria’s fight against insurgency.
The country has been battling mass abduction of students, banditry, and terrorism in the Northern swath of the country, while separatist movements have gained momentum in the South.
The A-29 Super Tucano is a durable, versatile, two seat, 5.2 ton, single engine turbo prop best suited for COIN (Counter Insurgency) operations. It is manufactured in the U.S. by Sierra Nevada Corporation and its partner, Embraer Defense & Security.
It can fly low and slow, yet still have a 1,000 combat kilometre radius, five hour endurance, 600 kilometres per hour top speed, and a 35,000 foot ceiling.
The Super Tucano is not a helicopter but a turboprop aircraft. Helicopters have rotors (propellers) which are used to provide the lift and for movement in any direction depending on the angle of attack of the rotor blades. The helicopter can move in any direction in the air to front, back, sideways and even suspended in the air. There are transport, as well as fighter helicopters, referred to as gunships. Transport helis can be configured and mounted with machine guns in a battle role.
The A-29 Super Tucano is the most reliable and cost-effective solution for basic and advanced flight and combat training, close air support operations, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), armed over-watch, counterinsurgency and irregular warfare scenarios. Its armament consists of twin 12.7mm (.50 calibre) machine guns and nearly two tons of guided bombs and rockets. ECM (Electronic Counter Measure) equipment is available for defence against ground-to-air, or air-to-air, missiles.
At the moment, NAF uses the Alpha-Jets and the F-7 (Chinese modified version of MiG21 Russian fighter) for all the above roles of the A 29 Tucano. The fighter jet aircraft types have gas turbine engines.
Although both Alpha Jets and A-29 are versatile and powerful aircrafts, the A29 is known for its rugged and durable design, which allows it to perform operations from unimproved runways and forward operating bases in austere environments or uneven terrain. These are the advantages it has over the jet fighters which can only operate from a well laid down runway facility referred to as “Well Found Base”.
These Well Found Bases are existing airports which could be far away from the operation area.
For the A29, an emergency runway for it can be created using grader refered to as forward operating base. It has a short take-off and landing distance. Hence can always be very close to the fighting troops.
In close air support role with the land troops, it is equipped with components with better precision target engagement than the Alpha Jet, because its speed is less than that of the Alpha Jet. Hence, it can fly very low for target acquisition like helicopter.
Missiles used by aircraft are air to surface (for ground attack) or Air to Air (in a dog fight, to shoot at another aircraft in the air). But surface to air are weapons used by the land forces to bring down aircraft. It is usually the rocket launchers or artillery guns (all referred to as anti-aircraft guns).
The Tucano can perform its role within an austere environment because it has a full line of integrated solutions and applications such as Command and Control Centre (C4I), radars, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance) and space. This also includes integrated systems for information, communications, border monitoring and surveillance as well as aircraft for authorities’ transportation and special missions.
These advantages made the aircraft a growing presence on the global market sought by many countries. Every aircraft type has an accompanying aerospace ground equipment for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance which include test benches, consumables and aircraft spares. These have their own costs separate from the aircraft cost.
While in other aircraft, those equipment are at main base of the aircraft, the Tucano has most of these test benches integrated in the aircraft while some few are mobile. This makes its operation cheaper than other light or heavy (turbojet) aircraft types.
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