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Sierra Nevada awarded $42.7M to train Afghan Air Force on A-29 Super Tucano

By
Allen Cone
An A-29 Super Tucano taxis across the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan, in January 2016. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb/U.S. Air Force
An A-29 Super Tucano taxis across the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan, in January 2016. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb/U.S. Air Force

April 5 (UPI) -- Sierra Nevada Corp. has been awarded a $42.7 million contract for A-29 Super Tucano pilot and maintenance training for Afghanistan's Air Force.

The contract is for five years, according to a Thursday announcement by the Department of Defense.

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The training, which is expected to be completed by Dec. 31, 2023, will be performed at Moody Air Base, Ga., and in Afghanistan.

Fiscal 2019 building partner capacity/pseudo-foreign military sales funds in the amount of $5.6 million have been obligated at the time of award.

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The planes are built in Jacksonville, Fla., in a partnership between Sierra Nevada Corporation and Brazil's Embraer.

More than 220 aircraft have been delivered to multiple nations, including the United States and Brazil, according to Embraer.

The A-29 is "the most reliable and cost-effective solution for basic and advanced flight and combat training, close air support operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance counterinsurgency and irregular warfare scenarios," Taco Gilbert, senior vice president at Sierra Nevada, said in February in announcing a contract award of 12 A-29 planes to Nigeria.

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The A-29 Super Tucano, which includes room for a pilot and navigator, flew its maiden flight in June 1999.

The plane can operate in Afghanistan's high temperatures and in extremely rugged terrain. With a highly maneuverable fourth-generation weapons system, it is capable of delivering precision guided munitions.

Eight combat-ready Afghan pilots and some maintenance personnel graduated in 2015 after a year of training with the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, according to the U.S. Air Force.

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Following the training, the first four of Afghanistan's 20 A-29s were delivered to Hamid Karzai International Airport in January 2016 by the U.S. Air Force.

The Afghan Air Force acquired the A-29 as a replacement for the Mi-35 attack helicopter, which the U.S. at the time called a "monumental leap in capabilities."

"The A-29 program has been an integral part of the U.S. government's overall 'Building Partnership Capacity' efforts around the world and immediately supports the development of an indigenous air force in Afghanistan," Brig. Gen. Christopher Craige, commanding general at Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air, said at the time.

As of May 11, 2018, A-29 Super Tucano pilots have supported approximately 30 Afghan ground missions, successfully dropping over 50 laser guided bombs on enemy targets, according to the U.S. Air Force.

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