Embraer unveils the A-29N, a redesigned Super Tucano with an eye toward the European market

The new version of the aircraft, known as the A-29N, will include the essential equipment and features to meet the operational needs of NATO.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

At LAAD Defence & Security 2023, Embraer announced the debut of a revamped version of the A-29 Super Tucano. This aircraft is designed for light assault, armed reconnaissance, and advanced training, with the primary goal of satisfying the requirements of European nations.

The new version of the aircraft, known as the A-29N, will include the essential equipment and features to meet the operational needs of NATO. It consists of a new data link and the ability to operate with a single pilot, among other upgrades.

Because of these functionalities, the new A-29 Super Tucano will have an even wider range of possible applications; for instance, it can participate in Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) training missions. The training equipment will also be brought up to the most recent and advanced standards, including both augmented and mixed virtual reality.

More than 15 different air forces worldwide, including the USAF (United States Air Force), have purchased the aircraft, which has had more than 260 units delivered to different parts of the world.

The A-29

The first flight of an Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano, ALX, or A-29 Super Tucano light turboprop attack aircraft occurred in 1999. It was created as a training aircraft, and this is it’s first plus in reputation. 

As the project progressed, the Super Tucano was repurposed as a weapon capable of launching air strikes. A lightweight Kevlar armour of low caliber was installed in the cockpit.

The final variant, which was deployed in 2003, was an attack aircraft with five weapon suspension points, a maximum speed of 590 km/h, and a Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68/3 turboprop engine producing 1,600 hp.

The official maximum flight altitude, range, and combat load for an attack aircraft are 10,670 meters, 1,330 km, and 1,500 kilograms, respectively.

These features and a starting price of only $9 million propelled the plane to the forefront of its market. 

The A-29 was designed to be an exceptionally versatile aircraft and is capable of performing a wide variety of missions. These missions include light assault, aerial surveillance and interception, and counter-insurgency operations. Robust and adaptable, it can operate from remote gravel runways in forward operating bases with minimal logistical support while maintaining low operating costs and high availability – more than 90%.

In addition to its use in combat duties, the aircraft also sees extensive service as a sophisticated trainer. Because of its capacity to replicate combat missions and upload and retrieve flight data, it proved a handy training platform. The A-29 is a multi-role aircraft versatile enough to offer air forces a single platform for light strikes, armed reconnaissance, close air support, and advanced training, maximising their aircraft fleets’ effectiveness.

It is outfitted with a wide array of cutting-edge sensors and weaponry, some of which include night vision goggles, a laser designator, an electro-optical/infrared system with a laser designator, and encrypted voice and data connections. Despite this, the A-29 Super Tucano is the best aircraft in its category. It combines excellent performance with 21st century armaments, integrated sensors, and surveillance systems to produce a very effective air power component.

Each variant of the A-29 Super Tucano has its own set of specialised capabilities and characteristics that are custom-tailored to fulfill the requirements of a particular client or mission.

The A-29A was the first model ever to take to the skies in 1999. The improved A-29B first took to the skies in 2003. Improved avionics and weaponry distinguish the 29B and A-29B Block 2 variants.

The A-29C is an adaptation of the A-29B designed for the USAF’s Light Air Support initiative. Extra avionics and weaponry were installed to meet USAF standards. It also spawned the A-29C Block, which had different avionics and weapons.

The A-29 Super Tucano AT-29 is a version that may be outfitted for light attack and surveillance missions, and it is designed specifically for the training market. 

Embraer’s cutting-edge avionics, weaponry, and other systems are on full display on the A-29B SMX-2, a derivative of the A-29B.

The A-29 Super Tucano’s primary competitor is the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, a single-engine turboprop aircraft produced by the Raytheon Aircraft Company. The AT-6B Wolverine is the armed variant of the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II training aircraft. It is designed for primary weapons training or light attack operations.

Helicopter gunship alternative

Almost immediately after it was introduced into service, this assault aircraft started being viewed as an alternative to an attack helicopter and as air support for ground corps. Compared to an attack aircraft, which typically flies faster and higher, it is much simpler to bring down a helicopter, especially in the dense foliage of a jungle.


  1. The A-29 Super Tucano, like the Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine, are the descendants of the famous Douglas A-1 “Skyraider”, nicknamed “Spad”. During the Vietnam war, these propeller-driven and well armed light aircrafts did an astounding job in supporting “grunts” on the ground. Slower and therefore more precise than the “fast mover” jets, they were also more agile and more resisting to the Nord-Vietnamese “flak” than the choppers, even the more recent AH-1 “Cobra” that were considered as true and potent gunships. Heavy attack helicopters , such as the AH-64 “Apache”, were primarily designed as “tank killers”. Employed for supporting troops on the ground, they have displayed their limits, being particularly sensitive to the AA defences (guns and MANPADS). See the history of Soviet Mi-24 in Afghanistan, or of Ukrainian and Russian helicopters in the ongoing war.
    Certainly, for most armed forces, it’s time “to go back to the future” and to leave costly and fragile attack rotary wings to switch to these cheap and efficient attack aircrafts.


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