The U.S. Air Force announced that it has selected the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano for the Light Air Support (LAS) program. The aircraft will be supplied in partnership with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) as the prime contractor. Other major subcontractors are FLIR Systems and Elbit Systems of America. The air force awarded SNC a firm-fixed price delivery order contract in the amount of $355 million for the initial 20 aircraft and associated support destined to equip the new Afghan Air Force. The aircraft will be used to conduct advanced flight training, aerial reconnaissance and light air support operations by partner nations including Afghanistan. The amount also covers training devices for pilot and maintenance training, as well as support equipment.
Following the Air Force decision, Hawker Beechcraft, which lost the bid with its AT-6 moved to block the Air Force contract process, filing a lawsuit at the Court of Federal Claims over its exclusion from the bidding process. The court ruling for a temporary restraining order is expected next week (Jan. 11, 2012), leading the U.S. Air Force to issue a stop-work order on January 4, 2011.
Planning to field the first LAS aircraft in 2013, before the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Air Force was seeking a non-developmental solution for the LAS mission, one that provides the versatility, engagement, and persistence that the warfighter needs in a counterinsurgency environment, at a significantly lower cost than fighter jets. The A-29 Super Tucano built specifically for counterinsurgency missions is already operating with five air forces. Over 150 A-29s are now in operation around the world have logged over 130,000 flight hours, including more than 18,000 combat hours without any combat loss.
The aircraft is built to operate from and operate in extremely rugged terrain and austere conditions, providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support in addition to the light attack role, delivering a wide variety of munitions including precision guided weapons.
The A-29 Super Tucano will be built in the new production facility in Jacksonville FL. The company will also supply the ground training devices (GTD) – simulators and planning stations; and spare parts. Training operations will be provided in Clovis, NM. SNC will provide in-field logistic support and pilot and maintenance training. More than 70 U.S. suppliers in 21 states will supply parts or services for this contract.