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Embraer EMB-312 Tucano - Brazil, 1983

Detailing the development and operational history of the Embraer EMB-312 Tucano Basic Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 8/3/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Embraer EMB-312 Tucano  
Picture of Embraer EMB-312 Tucano

The Embraer EMB-312 Tucano proved itself a modest success for the Brazilian company, finding favor with several notable operators worldwide.

Brazilian defense industry suffers what most mid-sized military powers suffer - a heavy reliance on foreign products to satisfy local requirements. In recent decades, the South American nation has joined others like China, India and Turkey in nurturing local design, development and production of such systems to eliminate the need for foreign dependency. In 1969, this movement led to the formation of state-owned Embraer and the company began by producing the Italian Aermacchi MB-326 advanced jet trainer under license - this experience proved fruitful as it led to an expansion of capabilities for the brand which, today, includes production of indigenous light aircraft, large aircraft and business jets.

The EBM-312 "Tucano" would go on to become one of the company's greatest achievements on the global stage - its first true commercial success. The aircraft was backed by the Brazilian Air Force in a 1978 initiative which produced a prototype first-flight on August 16th, 1980. The versatile aircraft could be used in both basic training and light attack roles and the service liked what it saw to commit to a first-batch of 118 aircraft with an option for 50 further units. First deliveries commenced in September of 1983 and another ten aircraft were added in 1990 (the last forty of the original option was also eventually exercised).

At its core, the Tucano was built around proven qualities common to many basic trainers already on the world stage. A lightweight design was chosen that featured low-mounted, straight wing mainplanes, a nose-mounted engine, tandem seating under a long, unobstructed canopy and a traditional single-finned tail unit. The undercarriage was wholly retractable and of a tricycle arrangement. The compact aircraft proved robust enough to mount external munitions (or fuel tanks) under its wings for the training or attack roles.

Dimensions included a length of 32.3 feet, a wingspan of 36.5 feet and a height of 11 feet. Empty weight was 4,000lb against an MTOW of 7,000lb. Power was from a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C turboprop engine developing 750 horsepower and driving a three-bladed propeller unit at the nose. Performance specs included a maximum speed of 285 miles per hour, a range out to 1,200 miles, a service ceiling up to 28,700 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 1,900 feet-per-minute.

Globally, the Tucano went on to become a customer favorite as it was taken on by the air services of Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Honduras, Iran, Mauritania, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela (former operators include both France and Iraq). The Brazilian Air Force expects to withdraw and replace its fleet of Tucanos sometime in the early 2020s. Total production of Tucanos reached 624 units during the span of 1980 to 1996.

Variants of the line began with the base EMB-312A form and these followed the YT-27 pre-series aircraft. The T-27 was its basic trainer model and the AT-27 became the dedicated light attack form. The follow-up EMB-312F was a more powerful design developed specifically for the French Air Force. The EMB-312S became a local British-built version (known as the Short Tucano by Short Brothers) and was powered by a Honeywell TPE331-12B engine and fitted with minor improvements. The T.Mk 1 was ordered by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) while the Mk.51 was purchased by Kenya and the Mk.52 by Kuwait.

The EMB-312G1 existed as a prototype only and outfitted with a Garrett engine. Another abandoned effort was the EMB-312H sponsored by Northrop Grumman for possible sale to the USAF - it did not succeed.

The Embraer EMB-314 (A-29) "Super Tucano" is an advanced version of the original Tucano platform and has been developed as a basic trainer and attack / counter-insurgency aircraft. Over two-hundred of this variant have been built to date (2017) and a key operator is the rebuilding Afghanistan Air Force which has ordered 20 units. The Brazilian Air Force itself has a fleet of 99 of the type and the model is challenging the ongoing USAF basic trainer competition.

Embraer EMB-312 Tucano Specifications

Service Year: 1983
Type: Basic Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft
National Origin: Brazil
Manufacturer(s): Embraer - Brazil
Total Production: 624

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 32.32 feet (9.85 meters)
Overall Width: 36.58 feet (11.15 meters)
Overall Height: 11.15 feet (3.40 meters)

Weight (Empty): 3,990 lb (1,810 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 7,000 lb (3,175 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C turboprop engine developing 750 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 248 knots (286 mph; 460 kph)
Maximum Range: 1,034 nautical miles (1,190 miles; 1,915 km)
Service Ceiling: 28,707 feet (8,750 meters; 5.44 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,900 feet-per-minute (579 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

Optional: Gun pods, rocket pods, conventional drop bombs, practice bombs and fuel tanks as needed across four underwing (two per wing) hardpoints.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Angola; Argentina; Brazil; Colombia; Egypt; France; Honduras; Iraq; Iran; Mauritania; Paraguay; Peru; United Kingdom (Short Tucano); Venezuela

Model Variants

EMB-312 "Tucano" - Base Series Designation
EMB-312A - Primary design model
YT-27 - Pre-series aircraft based on EMB-312A.
T-27 - Basic trainer variant based on EMB-312A.
AT-27 - Light attack variant based on EMB-312A.
EMB-312F - More powerful version developed for the French Air Force.
EMB-312S ("Short Tucano") - Improved model produced in Britain by Short Brothers; fitted with Honeywell TPE331-12B engine mated to a four-bladed propeller; other improvements fitted.
Tucano T.Mk 1 - RAF trainer mount
Tucano Mk.51 - Kenya Air Force designation
Tucano Mk.52 - Kuwait Air Force designation
EMB-312G-1 - Proposed model of 1986 fitted with Garrett engine.
EMB-312H - Proposed model intended for the USAF; sponsored stateside by Northrop Grumman; lengthened fuselage; more powerful engine; revised to become EMB-314 Super Tucano.
EMB-314 "Super Tucano" - Advanced, modernized training and attack platform.

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