August 27, 2007:
Security company Blackwater U.S.A.
is buying Super Tucano light combat aircraft from the Brazilian
manufacturer Embraer. These five ton, single engine, single seat aircraft are
built for pilot training, but also perform quite well for counter-insurgency
work. Brazil. The Super Tucano is basically a prop driven trainer that is
equipped for combat missions. The aircraft can carry up to 1.5 tons of weapons,
including 12.7mm machine-guns, bombs and missiles. The aircraft cruises at
about 500 kilometers an hour and can stay in the air for about 6.5 hours per
sortie. One of the options is a FLIR (infrared radar that produces a photo
realistic video image in any weather) and a fire control system for bombing.
Colombia is using the Super Tucanos for counter-insurgency work (there are over
20,000 armed rebels and drug gang gunmen in the country). The aircraft is also
used for border patrol. The U.S. Air Force is watching that quite closely. The
Super Tucano costs $9 million each, and come in one or two seat versions. The
bubble canopy provides excellent visibility. This, coupled with its slow speed
(versus jets), makes it an excellent ground attack aircraft.
Blackwater already has a force of armed helicopters
in Iraq, and apparently wants something a little faster, and more heavily
armed, to fulfill its security contracts overseas. Initially, Blackwater is getting one two-seater, for pilot training in the United States.