Warplanes: The Best Example Of Economical Simplicity

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January 16, 2018: At the end of 2017 the Philippines ordered six Brazilian A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft. These A-29s will be service by the end of 2019. The A-29 is basically an armed trainer. The Super Tucano already has most of the market for such trainer/warplanes. This single engine, single seat aircraft was built for pilot training, but also performs quite well for counter-insurgency work. The Super Tucano is basically a prop driven trainer that has structural features making it easy to equip it for combat missions as the A-29. The A-29 comes with armor for the pilot, a pressurized cockpit, and an ejection seat. The A-29 has a max takeoff weight of 5.4 tons and can carry up to 1.5 tons of weapons, including 12.7mm machine-guns (one under each wing), bombs and missiles. The Super Tucano has a GPS based navigation system as standard and can also carry a number of optional electronics systems. One is a FLIR (infrared radar that produces a photo realistic video image in any weather) and a fire control system for bombing.

Cruising speed is 500 kilometers an hour and average endurance is six hours. Max altitude is 11,300 meters (35,000 feet) and stall (slowest speed) is 150 kilometers an hour. Naturally, this aircraft can move in lower and slower than any jet can. A-29s can be equipped to use small (250 and 500 pound) GBU-12 and GBU-58 laser guided bombs.

Several nations are using A-29s for counter-insurgency work. The aircraft is also used for border patrol. The Super Tucano costs $9 million each, and come in one or two seat versions. The Super Tucano suited Filipino needs. That is a smaller, slower aircraft that can double as trainers. It's easier to train pilots to use the Super Tucano, cheaper to buy them, and much cheaper to operate them. It costs about $500 an hour to operate an A-29, which less than a tenth of what it costs for an F-16.

The Philippines selected the A-29 because of earlier experience with a similar aircraft. Since the 1990s the Philippines received 32 used OV-10s from the U.S. and Thailand. Similar in function to the A-29, the OV-10 is a 6.5 ton, twin prop aircraft that could carry over two tons of weapons and stay in the air for three hours per sortie. Wingspan is 40 feet (12.2 meters), and length is 41.6 feet (12.7 meters). The first one was delivered to the U.S. Air Force, for use in Vietnam, in 1968. The last one was produced (for export to Indonesia) in 1976. The U.S. Air Force and Marines were the primary users of OV-10s, and the last of these was retired, by the marines, in 1994. Over a hundred were exported to Germany, Thailand, Colombia, Venezuela, Philippines and Indonesia. Several dozen of these are still in use out of over 300 manufactured. In Vietnam, the OV-10 was used more for reconnaissance and directing air and artillery strikes, than in using its own firepower. Since the 1960s advances in technology (materials, electronics and aircraft design) made the propeller driven single engine basic pilot training aircraft more robust and adaptable. By the 1990s it was obvious that these aircraft were suitable, and often superior, for counter-insurgency work. The A-29 is one of the best examples of that.

 


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