After years of foot-dragging, the US State Department has finally approved a $593 million sale to Nigeria of A-29 Super Tucano attack planes with associated parts, training, facilities and weapons.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered their certification of the foreign military sale to Congress, as required by law, on August 2, according to United Press International.
The twelve A-29s, equipped with wing-mounted machine guns, weapons integration with advanced surveillance… precision-guided bombs, and even air-to-air missiles” are expected to be used by Nigeria to combat the Boko Haram insurgents and other extremist groups, such as the Islamic State West Africa splinter group. They will also serve to counter smuggling and other trafficking in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.
The DSCA has determined that U.S. security interests are served by assisting Nigeria in its counter-insurgency operations and that the A-29 sale will not significantly alter the military balance of power in the region.
The contract will require U.S. Government or private contractors to provide training and support, and will include instruction on rules of engagement and human rights to help prevent civilian casualties.
The Embraer A-29 Super Tucano is a turboprop light attack plane in service with countries across the world. It is designed for counter-insurgency operations and close-air support in areas lacking significant air defenses. It is also widely used as a training aircraft.
It is a contender in the U.S. Air Force’s OA-X light attack aircraft competition for a low-cost and easy to operate and maintain air support platform.
Light planes like the Tucano can fulfil air support and surveillance needs in low-risk environments at a much lower operational cost then heavier jets like the A-10 or F-16 and require less flight and maintenance training.
The attack planes will be a big boost for Nigeria’s military anti-terrorism campaign in the north east of the country.
Past attempts to procure the plane under the Obama administration was frustrated by accusations of human rights abuses against Nigeria’s military.
According to Defense Industry Daily, the Super Tucano is known as the A-29 or ALX in Brazil, but abroad, it’s the EMB 314 successor to Embraer’s widely-used EMB 312 Tucano trainer.
The plane offers better flight performance than the EMB 312 Tucano, plus armoring and wing-mounted machine guns, weapons integration with advanced surveillance and targeting pods, precision-guided bombs, and even air-to-air missiles.
This makes it an excellent territorial defence and close support plane for low-budget air forces, as well as a surveillance asset with armed attack capability. Brazil uses it this way, for instance, alongside very advanced EMB-145 airborne radar and maritime patrol jet platforms.
In Africa, Ghana, Angola, Burkina Faso, Angola, Mauritania, either have the Tucano in their air forces, or they had placed orders for new supplies.