Embraer has delivered Mauritania’s first Super Tucano trainer and light attack aircraft, as part of a deal announced earlier this year. The aircraft will be used for border surveillance.
The first A-29 Super Tucano was handed over to Mauritania’s Air Force on October 19 at Embraer’s Gavião Peixoto facility in São Paulo, Brazil. The aircraft are equipped with sensor turrets for their surveillance duties.
It is not clear how many Super Tucanos Mauritania has ordered, but the number is believed to be three.
The acquisition of the Tucanos and Super Tucanos is part of the Mauritanian Air Force’s growing capabilities, which are needed to deal with evolving security threats. Mauritania is among several countries in the Sahara region where al Qaeda-linked fighters have raised their profile with a series of attacks and kidnappings, particularly targeting Westerners and carrying out attacks in more urban areas.
Of particular concern is al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, (AQIM), which grew out of the militant Salafist movement in Algeria and has moved south where it is taking advantage of the vast and lawless desert regions of Mauritania, Mali and Niger.
Mauritania’s armed forces have a small air component, with only two Reims FTB-337 Miliroles (Cessna 337s), five Britten Norman BN-2 Defenders, two Cessna 337 Skymasters, two Piper Pa-31T Navajo/Cheyene IIs, two HAMC Y-12(II)s, one Basler BT-67 and four Aermacchi SF-260Es in service, according to the 2012 IISS Military Balance.
In 2010 France began supplying Mauritania with four ex-French EMB-312F Tucanos, but one crashed and was written off last year. Between 1993 and 2009 the French Air Force operated 50 Tucanos, which succeeded the Fouga Magister in the training role. The fleet was retired in 2009 as a cost-saving measure.
“The Super Tucano has combat proven experience, is versatile and extremely efficient, and offers low operation costs,” said Luiz Carlos Aguiar, president of Embraer Defense and Security. “With this delivery, we are broadening our ties with the African continent, where this aircraft has generated great interest.”
Indeed, Embraer has sold its Super Tucano to Burkina Faso, Angola and Mauritania in deals worth a combined US$180 million.
The Burkina Faso Air Force has already received three Super Tucanos, which were spotted at Guararapes International Airport in Recife, Brazil, on September 7 last year during their delivery flight. They are currently being used for border patrol missions.
The Super Tucanos are a major boost to Burkina Faso’s small air arm, whose only other combat aircraft are two Mi-35s acquired from Russia in 2005. Burkina Faso’s other fixed wing combat aircraft (MiG-21s, MiG-17s, SF.260 Warriors and an Alpha Jet) are retired or in storage. Some other new acquisitions have been made over the last decade, including a Beech 200 super King Air, a Piper PA-34 Seneca, an Air Tractor AT-802, a CN-235 and two Xenon Gyroplanes.
The Angolan air force has ordered six Super Tucanos, the first three of which will be delivered this year for border patrol duties. Angola bought six new-production Tucanos plus two Embraer company demonstrators, which were delivered in 1999, followed by six more, delivered in 2004.
With the recent orders, ten air forces have now chosen the A-29 Super Tucano in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia, and 160 aircraft are already operating in seven of them. Super Tucanos have flown 170 000 flight hours and 26 000 combat flight hours.
The A-29 Super Tucano is capable of performing a broad range of missions that include light attack, aerial surveillance and interception, and counter-insurgency. It is equipped with a variety of sensors and equipment, including an electro-optical/infrared system with laser designator, night vision goggles, secure communications and data-link package.
Armament comprises one .50-caliber machinegun in each wing. Five hardpoints can carry a maximum external load of 1 550 kilograms (3 420 lb). Weapons options include gun pods, bombs, rocket pods, and (on the two outboard stations) and air-to-air missiles.