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A-29 Super Tocano

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A-29 Super Tucano of Afghan Air Force
Photo from RS HQs Twitter feed 24 Mar 2017

The Afghan Air Force (AAF) has been fielded the A-29 Super Tocano light air support aircraft. The A-29 provides close air support, armed escort, aerial reconnaissance, pilot training, and armed overwatch capabilties. This turboprop aircraft is designed for counterinsurgency operations and can be equipped with a wide array of bombs and machine guns. It can carry precision guided munitions to enhance accuracy.

A-29 Super Tucano of AAF
A-29 Super Tucano Flies Over Kabul (Photo: Sgt Larry Reid USAF)

Fielding of these extremely important aircraft was continually delayed (costing lives on the battlefield) by Congressional politicians who wanted to see a different U.S. firm from Texas get the contract award for the Beechcraft AT-6. The A-29 is an ideal COIN aircraft which is cost effective for the Afghan Air Force.

The early history of the failure to procure the A-29 starts years ago with the Imminent Fury Combat Dragon II program. Testing was supposed to start in 2010 in a combat evaluation in Afghanistan. In August 2009 CENTCOM had sent in a request for four such aircraft but it was never fullfilled. In May 2010 General Stanley McChrystal - then commander of ISAF - requested a light attack aircraft to support special operations forces. 9.

A-29 Super Tucano of Afghan Air Force (AAF)
A-29 Arrives in Kabul in Jan 2016 (photo RS HQs)

The aircraft uses the same engine as the Cessna 208 - another Afghan aircraft - so the maintenance and training issues should be lessened.

Timeline. The first A-29 Super Tocano was scheduled to come off the assembly line (Jacksonville, FL) in June 2014; it was delivered to Moody AFB in September 2014 in preparation for the Afghan pilot and maintenance training mission.  It will take a while for the rest of the A-29s to be manufactured and delivered to Afghanistan. Add to that the training time for pilots and maintenance personnel and you have a critical capability gap for close air support between the departure of U.S. aircraft (like the A-10 Warthog) and actual employment of the Super Tocano.

A-29 Super Tocano
A-29 Super Tocano

Training.  The training of Afghan pilots and maintenance personnel is ongoing (as of 2014-2018) at Moody Air Force Base in the United States. Eight AAF pilots in training had their first flight in the A-29 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia on March 5, 2015. 2. 

AAF pilot in training flying A-29 Super Tucano at Moody AFB
AAF Pilot in Training Flying A-29 at Moody AFB March 2015
(Photo posted on RS Website)

Fielding. The first A-29 was scheduled to arrive in December 2015 followed by more deployed over the next three years. 1. The bulk of the A-29s will arrive in 2017 and 2018 under the current schedule. This is a fairly conservative fielding plan. It took over three years to get the first model built from the first bids on the contract to when the first A-29 was was delivered to Moody Air Force Base in the fall of 2015. Pilot training did not start until 2015. In comparison, in the few short years of World War II (short when compared to the 13-year plus long war in Afghanistan) over 15,586 P51 Mustangs were contracted, built, pilots trained, and fielded in multiple theaters. .

Fielding Update. Four A-29s were delivered in January 2016. In late March, 2016 four additional A-29s were delivered. This brought the total of A-29s in Afghanistan to 8 aircraft.  5.  As of March 2018 it has been reported that there are now 12 A-29s in the Afghan Air Force inventory. UPDATE: Four A-29s arrived at Kabul's international airport on January 15, 2016. (watch video of arrival) 4.  

Fielding Update. Two more A-29s were delivered to Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. This brings the number at Moody to 9 and in Afghanistan to 12. 8.

Armament. The A-29 is armed with two 500 lb bombs, twin .50 caliber machine guns, and rockets. Some A-29s can be armed with a 20mm cannon. More information on the armament that the A-29 can carry is provided at the Embraer website.

Laser Guided Bombs. In early 2018 the AAF started to train with GBU-58 250-pound bombs using the Paveway laser guidance kit. The laser-guided bomb enables the pilot to attack ground forces that are close to friendly or civilian positions. This will bring an added capability to the AAF in support of the ANA. 6. and 7.

Missions. The A-29 can conduct reconnaissance and close air support missions. It can stay in the air more tha 6 hours.

Capabilities. It can fly up to 35,000 feet and attain speeds of 400 kilometers an hour. The aircraft moves slower and lower so it is very effective for ground support. The pilot has some armor protection, a pressurized cockpit, and an ejection seat.

Cost of the AAF A-29 Program. Estimates are that the U.S. Air Force's program to outfit the Afghan Air Force with twenty A-29s is about $427 million. That is a little over $20 million for each A-29. One news report suggests that the cost per hour to fly the A-29 is only $1,000. That is a huge difference in the cost to fly the F-35 Lightning II which the U.S. Air Force says will replace the A-10 Warthog (our current AF CAS platform).

Contested Contract Award. Embraer won the contract and is partnered with Sierra Nevada Corporation to build the aircraft in Jacksonville, Florida. The competition for the contract came from the Hawker Beechcraft's AT-6B Texan aircraft.

The A-29 fleet should be fully operational by 2018. The twenty A-29s will replace the five Mi-35 Attack Helicopters that will be phased out in 2016 due to age.

Rear cockpit of A-29 Super Tucano of AAF
Photo of the rear cockpit of the A-29 Super Tucano

Videos about the A-29 Super Tucano

September 12, 2017. The A-29: Crucial to Afghan Security, posted on YouTube by Resolute Support. TAAC Air pilot / advisor explains his role and the A-29 in 43-sec video.

May 17, 2016. Afghan Air Force A-29s Flying Over Afghanistan, posted on YouTube by Resolute Support HQs. 1-minute long video.

April 28, 2016. A-29 Super Tucanos Fly Over Kabul, Afghanistan. DVIDS. A 7-min long video (with cockpit voice - English) of a flight of A-29s flying over Kabul firing guns and rockets.

January 16, 2016. The Afghan National Airforce gets four new A29s, posted by Resolute Support Headquarters on on Jan 16, 2016, 1 min long.

January 19, 2012. Air Force Report: A-29 Super Tucano. DVIDS.

Flight of 4 A-29 Super Tucanos over Kabul Jan 2016
Four A-29 Super Tucanos Arrive Kabul in January 2016 (Photo USAF)

Papers and Publications about the A-29


Trimble, Major Michael M., USAF, Asymmetric Advantage: Air Advising in a Time of Strategic Competition, USAF Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, August 2019. This 131-page report includes a chapter about the training effort for the Afghan Air Force A-29 program.

News Reports about the A-29 Super Tucano for the AAF

November 19, 2020. "Air Force Ends Program That Trained Afghan Pilots to Fly the A-29 Super Tucano", The instruction at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia graduated its last class in November. The training program will now take place in Afghanistan with Afghan instructor pilots taking a leading role.

April 16, 2020. "Beyond Advice - Operationalizing the Light Attack Aircraft", Over the Horizon.

April 9, 2019. "Air Weapons: Afghan Pilots Strike at Night", Strategy Page.

April 5, 2019. "Sierra Nevada awarded $42.7M to train Afghan Air Force on A-29 Super Tucano", UPI.

December 9, 2018. "Afghan Air Force conducts first nighttime airstrikes", Stars and Stripes.

September 7, 2017. "A-29 Super Tucano - A Force Multiplier in COIN", by Dan Goure, Real Clear Defense. The author provides the rationale for the use of the A-29 in counterinsurgency in Africa and other hotspots around the world.

August 18, 2017. "As U.S. debates policy, Afghan pilots fear for families' lives", Reuters. The Taliban are threatening the A-29 pilots and their families. Pilots ask government for protection.

July 26, 2017. "Afghan Air Force takes over A-29 Maintenance Ops", 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, DVIDS. Currently 80% of maintenance is done by contract workers. Hopes are that percentage goes down over time.

March 21, 2017. "Afghan Air Force expands A-29 fleet strength", RS HQs.

March 20, 2017. "For Nations Without Big Defense Budgets, Small Tactical Air Forces Are The Trend", The Aviationist. Tom Demerly writes on increased popularity of prop-drive COIN airplanes.

March 20, 2017. "A-29s arrive at Kabul in time for fighting season", U.S. Air Force. The AAF received four more A-29s bringing its total to twelve aircraft.

February 10, 2017. "More Afghan Pilots Flying A-29 Super Tucanos", In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee General Nicholson (RS Cdr) says that the number of A-29 pilots has increased.

June 4, 2016. "A-29 Ground Attack Planes Tally More Than 260 Sorties n Afghanistan", Since the arrival of four A-29s in Afghanistan in January 2016 the A-29 Super Tucano has been flying hundreds of sorties including close-air support missions. They have reportedly become operational in April 2016.

May 4, 2016. "Afghan A-29 COIN fighters begin combat operations", Defence Blog.

March 29, 2016. "Afghan Air Force receives four more A-29 Super Tucano attack aircraft", Afghanistan Times. As of March 2016 there are now eight A-29s in-country.

March 7, 2016. "Afghan Air Force receives light attack aircraft in Mazar-e-Sharif", Khaama Press. Two A-29s deployed to Balkh province.

January 19, 2016. "Afghan Air Force receives first four A-29s", U.S. Air Force News.

January 14, 2016. "Afghan Airman Missing in US Located, 1 Still Unaccounted for", ABC News. Two of 14 maintenance airmen undergoing training at Moody AFB, Georgia for the A-29 went missing in December one week prior to their scheduled graduation and return to Afghanistan.

December 28, 2015. "After Delays, A-29 Attack Aircraft to Arrive in Afghanistan",

December 22, 2015. "First Afghan A-29 pilots, maintainers finish training", Air Force Times. Eight pilots and twelve maintainers completed their training course at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, U.S. Two pilots (or maybe maintenance personnel) went missing prior to graduation.

December 22, 2015. "Afghan Air Force expecting to receive 4 light attack aircraft in January". Khaama Press.

April 5, 2015. "No A-10 Warthog for Afghanistan  - - but Here's the Next Best Thing". By Rich Smith of The Motley Fool. The author says the A-29 is good for the Afghan Air Force, cites its operational capabilities, says that the AAF may receive more of the A-29s in the future, and thinks that Embraer is a good investment.

March 12, 2015. "When Will the Afghan Air Force be Ready to Fight the Taliban?", The Diplomat. A news report about the fielding of the A-29 CAS for the AAF.

March 8, 2015. "AAF pilots take to the air during U.S.-based training". RS News. On March 5, 2015 eight AAF pilots took their first flight in the A-29 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia during their pilot training.

September 25, 2014. "First Super Tucano Accepted into U.S. Air Force," Aviation Week. The aircraft, built by Embraer in Florida, is to be eventually delivered in late 2015 to Afghanistan.



1. For the A-29 delivery schedule see "Afghan Military to Receive A-29 Close Air Support Planes in December", Most of the A-29s will arrive in 2017 and 2018.

2. For the date of the first training flights see ISAF Facebook posting dated March 8, 2015.

3. Cost of $1,000 per flying hour for the A-29 is from "When Will the Afghan Air Force Be Ready to Fight the Taliban?", The Diplomat, March 12, 2015.

4. For the 15,586 P-51 Mustangs fielded during World War II see "North American P-51 Mustang", Wikipedia.

5. For numbers of total A-29s by the end of March 2016 see "Afghan Air Force Ready to Confront Threats", Gandara Blog, March 29, 2016.

6. See "In another first, Afghan pilots are now dropping laser-guided bombs", Air Force Times, January 29, 2018.

7. See "Afghan A-29 pilots drop laser-guided bomb in combat", Military Times, March 27, 2018. The AAF dropped its first laser-guided bomb on a Taliban compund in Farah province, Afghanistan, on March 22nd, 2018. The GBU-58 - a 250-pound bomb - saw its first use in combat by the AAF.

8. See "Afghan Air Force receive latest Super Tucano shipment", Janes 360, May 2, 2018.

9. See "Imminent Fury Combat Dragon II", Global


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