Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador Exchange Information on Attack Aircraft
By Andréa Barretto/Diálogo June 28, 2017At the start of the second half of 2017, A-29 Super Tucano aircraft pilots from Brazil and Chile are preparing for an exchange on issues related to the operation of this light attack fighter. The exact details have yet to be disclosed, but the initiative is part of a series of activities that Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador are developing based on the memorandum of understanding signed by the four countries’ air forces.
The document spells out the institutions’ commitment to creating a forum for cooperation on the technical, logistical, and operational aspects of the Super Tucano. All the squadrons that deploy these aircraft in the participating countries will comprise the group of operators taking part in the forum.
“The expertise of the A-29 handlers can be shared through periodic conferences, and also by operational and logistical exchanges,” said Brazilian Air Force Colonel Marco Antonio Telles Ramos, the chief of the Deputy Directorate of International Agreements and Exchanges at the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, per its Portuguese acronym) Joint Staff. “For example, these exchanges will allow us to reduce the costs of equipment maintenance and operation,” Col. Ramos emphasized.
He added that the idea of creating a pilots’ group came from the Chilean Air Force (FACh, per its Spanish acronym), spurred by the good results had by the sharing of experience with other countries on another aircraft, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Out of that came the proposal for Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil. The latter manufactures the Super Tucano fighters via the Brazilian company, Embraer.
The meeting to sign the agreement was held in Santiago, Chile, on the eve of commemorating the 87th anniversary of that country’s Air Force on March 20th. The event was attended by General Paulo João Cury, the commander of the General Support Command of the FAB; Major General Patricio Mora Escobar, the commander of the Ecuadorean Air Force; and General Jorge Robles Mella, the commander in chief of FACh. The Colombian Air Force (FAC, per its Spanish acronym) is scheduled to sign the agreement.
“The signing of the agreement between the air forces of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile is the manifestation of the common interest in having a tool that permits the development of capabilities and stabilization of operational costs through improvements in logistics and plans for obsolescence, given that we operate in different scenarios, missions, and configurations,” Gen. Robles emphasized at the time.
A-29 in Latin America
FAB received in 2003 its first A-29 aircraft, purchased to use in the activities of the Amazon Monitoring System project. Around 90 of these aircraft are in operation in Brazil, used mainly for training fighter pilots, and in air defense operations on the Amazonian border. “The aircraft is ideal for missions to intercept low-performance aircraft used in illegal activities in this region,” reported FAB’s Communications Office.
In Brazil, four FAB squadrons fly the Super Tucano: the First Squadron of the Third Aviation Group (1st/3rd GAv), in Boa Vista (state of Roraima); the Second Squadron of the Third Aviation Group (2nd/3rd GAv), in Porto Velho (state of Rondônia); the Third Squadron of the Third Aviation Group (3rd/3rd GAv), in Campo Grande (state of Mato Grosso do Sul), and the Second Squadron of the Fifth Aviation Group (2nd/5th GAv), in Natal (state of Rio Grande do Norte). It is in the latter, called the Joker Squadron, that Brazilian fighter pilots are born. Through the Operational Specialization Course in Fighter Aviation, the airmen are trained for nine months on an A-29 aircraft.
Colombia has 24 Super Tucano aircraft. They were purchased by FAC in 2005, to meet the force’s requirements for a combat plane as a means to enhance the fight against guerrillas and drug trafficking. The units were delivered between 2006 and 2008, making Colombia the first South American export destination for the Super Tucano.
Chile was the third Latin American country to establish a fleet of A-29 aircraft. Between 2009 and 2010, FACh received its 12 units, initially purchased with the intent to have them serve for pilot training. Ecuador came to use the A-29 between 2010 and 2011. The purchase of 18 aircraft was motivated by its Air Force’s need to regain the ability to perform operations in the Amazon and border regions.
When a foreign air force acquires the Super Tucano, often, as in the case of Chile and Colombia, FAB pilots carry out an operational exchange on how to fly the aircraft. With the memorandum of understanding and the creation of the pilots’ group, the exchange became permanent, said Col. Ramos. “This agreement’s importance for FAB, and for the other countries, lies in the creation of a permanent forum to share operational and logistical experiences, making possible an exchange of ideas and mutual interests, in addition to strengthening the friendship that binds these countries and their air forces.”