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Embraer’s efforts to produce a NATO-configured version of its A-29 Super Tucano turboprop light attack aircraft/trainer, designated the A-29N, have paid off with the aircraft’s selection by Portugal.

Speaking to the National Defence Commission of the Portuguese Parliament on 25 June 2024, Portuguese Defence Minister João Nuno Lacerda Teixeira de Melo referred to the acquisition of “an Embraer-based ground attack aircraft, with Portuguese technology incorporated, in a project that will see the light of day and that will be legally approved, moving from plan to political and legislative implementation very soon”. He then added specifically, “I’m referring to the Super Tucano.”

While there is no contract yet, it is expected that around 10 A-29Ns will be acquired to replace the Portuguese Air Force’s (FAP’s) fleet of Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet advanced jet trainer/light attack aircraft. The FAP acquired 50 former Luftwaffe Alpha Jet As in 1993, but those remaining in service were retired in January 2018.

Launched in April 2023, the A-29N was developed by Embraer to meet the needs of smaller European air forces and includes new equipment and features to fulfil NATO operational requirements, such as a new datalink and single-pilot operation. These features expand the aircraft’s potential mission set, for example by allowing it to be used for Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training. The A-29’s training devices have also been upgraded to accommodate virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality training scenarios.

Embraer states of the A-29 Super Tucano more generally that it “can perform a broad range of missions, including light attack, aerial surveillance and interception, and counter-insurgency. The A-29 is rugged and versatile, operating from remote and unpaved runways on forward-deployed operational bases with little support, all with low operating costs and high availability (above 90%).

“In addition to combat roles,” the company adds, “the aircraft is widely used as an advanced trainer. Its ability to simulate combat missions and upload and download flight data has made it a highly effective training platform.”

The fact that the A-29N can act as an advanced trainer as well as a light attack platform makes it a good fit for the almost continually cash-strapped FAP.

Meanwhile, Embraer announced on 26 June 2024 that it had delivered the second KC-390 tanker/transport aircraft to the FAP, which ordered five KC-390s in 2019.

The first FAP KC-390 entered service on 16 October 2024 and is operated by Squadron 506 ‘Rinocerontes’ from Air Base No 11 in Beja. The three remaining KC-390s on order are expected to be delivered by 2027.

Embraer launched the NATO-configured A-29N variant of the Super Tucano in April 2023. The Portuguese Air Force appears set to become the type’s launch customer. (Photo: Embraer)