Aviation Week’s ShowNews flew the Super Tucano to evaluate its capabilities. The airplane has a larger footprint than the AT-6C, having 4 ft. more length, a 3-ft. greater wingspan and a 2-ft.-4-in.-higher tail. Its empty weight is about 1,000 lb. greater and its max takeoff weight is 1,900 lb. higher. Its main gear has a 50% wider track; its 6.5-10 main tires are larger, and they are only inflated to 128 psi, potentially giving it better unimproved-landing-strip capabilities than the AT-6C, which has high-pressure 4.4-20 tires. The latest version of the Super Tucano also has antiskid power brakes, which is an advantage when operating on short, contaminated or improved runways.
Like the AT-6C, the Super Tucano is powered by a 1,600-shp P&W Canada PT6A-68 series engines with a 4,500-hr. TBO. The A-29’s -68C can maintain that power up to ISA+16.2°C, and the AT-6B’s -68D should have a similar flat rating; thus neither aircraft would have been a standout hot-and-high-airport performer in Afghanistan.
Embraer demo pilot William Souza pointed out the aircraft’s “jump-start” capability, which allows one Super Tucano to supply electrical power to another with a dead battery by means of onboard extension cords. The aircraft has two internal, wing-mounted, 250-round, 50-caliber FN Herstal machine guns. The internal wing guns have less drag than externally mounted gun pods, but the pair also hold 300 rounds less ammunition than the AT-6C’s external gun pods. The A-29has five NATO-standard external stores stations, including two on each wing and one at center fuselage. Those stations can carry up to 3,420 lb. of external stores with fully loaded guns.
The Super Tucano’s inboard wing and center fuselage stations respectively also can carry 547-lb. and 507-lb. capacity external fuel tanks in place of munitions. Each external fuel tank extends endurance by about 1.1 hours. The AT-6C’s internal wing fuel capacity is 427 lb. greater than that of the EMB-314, so it’s not as dependent upon external tanks to extend range.
The four wing stations can carry various combinations of Mk 81 250-lb., Mk 82 500-lb. and Mk 117 750-lb. bombs, including laser-guided variants, 2.75-in rockets and air-to-air missiles.
The LAS contract requires candidate aircraft to carry chaff and flare dispensers and EO/IR sensor balls. The Super Tucano’s dispensers are mounted in the port and starboard wing root fairings. It has a forward under-fuselage mount for FLIR Systems’ Brite Star II EO/IR sensor ball. Notably, the Super Tucano’s sensor ball is mounted ahead of the wing leading edge; thus it has a less restricted field of view than the underwing EO/IR ball on the AT-6C.
Embraer and the Brazilian air force have qualified 133 different external stores configurations. However, we flew the aircraft without external stores on our demo flight.
Strapping into the front seat, we noted both aircraft have similar cockpits, with full-function HUDs, dual Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seats and hands-on-throttle-and-stick controls. The Brazilian air force aircraft we flew had older avionics with two multifunction displays and a full-function Elbit head-up display in the front cockpit. Newer versions have three Elbit color MFDs in each instrument panel.
Compared to the AT-6B, the Super Tucano has a larger bubble canopy and thus better visibility.