The Short "Tucano" is nothing more than a British local, license-built version of the Brazilian Embraer EMB-312 "Tucano" twin-seat, single-engine light trainer/light strike aircraft. The original form was debuted through a first-flight on August 16th, 1980 and went on to become a globally popular light training platform since evolved through the newer EMB-314 "Super Tucano" (detailed elsewhere on this site). The Short Brothers version was primarily developed for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) though it went on to claim a few notable foreign operators before the end.
By the early 1980s, the RAF was seeking to retire its fleet of aging 1950s-era turbojet-powered BAC "Jet Provost" advanced trainers from service. Production of these machines yielded 734 examples and went on to serve with various global customers. Instead of seeking another complex, expensive, and fuel-thirsty jet trainer as a successor, it was decided to pursue a more economical turboprop-powered form. This led Short Brothers to partner with Brazilian-based Embraer to locally manufacture the proven Tucano for the RAF. The Tucano faced stiff competition from other players such as the equally-excellent Pilatus PC-9 (detailed elsewhere on this site).
In order to prepare the Tucano for British service, Short Brothers was allowed to modify the Brazilian design to meet the RAF requirement. Changes included an air brake seated ventrally and power from a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C2 turboprop engine. The cockpit was revised to fit more the form and function of the BAe Hawk advanced jet trainer - making pilot transitions easier and the airframe was further reinforced for the rigors of RAF airman training - helping to extend the life of the aircraft under such hard, prolonged conditions. A flight data recorder was standard as well.
An early specimen was debuted by Short at 1984 Farnborough and testing followed in 1984 at the famed Boscombe Down military aircraft testing site. In this time, the PT6 proved unsatisfactory for the British requirement and led to the adoption of the Garrett TPE331 series (specifically the TPE331-10) in its place. The engine would be used to drive a four-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
After the testing phase, RAF authorities selected the Short Brothers take on the Brazilian Tucano over all other submissions. The initial contract covered a total of 130 aircraft with an option for an additional fifteen airframes down the road. Then followed the first-flight of a pre-series aircraft on February 14th, 1986. In June of that year, the TPE331-12B was introduced as the primary powerplant for the series and a production-quality form went into the air for the first time that December. Form series introduction occurred in 1989.
As built, the Short Tucano maintained much of the form and function of its Brazilian counterpart. The student and instructor sat in tandem under a single-piece, lightly-framed canopy (hinged to open towards starboard). Views from the positions were excellent for an aircraft of this type. The engine was fitted to the long nose and drove a four-bladed Hartzell propeller unit. The fuselage was streamlined and capped at the rear by a single-finned tail unit with low-mounted horizontal planes. The wing mainplanes were situated near midships and of a straight design with clipped tips. The undercarriage, fully-retractable, was of a tricycle arrangement.
Performance from the Garret turboprop included a maximum speed of 315 miles per hour with a cruising speed closer to 255 miles per hour. Range was out to 1,035 miles and the aircraft's service ceiling reached 34,000 feet - requiring an oxygen supply for the two pilots. Rate-of-climb measured 3,510 feet per minute.
Deliveries of the new trainer into RAF hands in late 1988 and spanned into 1993. The aircraft eventually stocked the Empire Test PIlots' School and the Royal Air Force's Central Flying School. All 130 delivered airframes to the RAF were of the Tucano Mk.T1 basic two-seat trainer model.
Just two other global operators were interested in the Short Tucano: Kenya and Kuwait. The former operated the Tucano Mk.51 variant across twelve examples and the latter acquired the Tucano Mk.52 in a batch of sixteen aircraft. Kuwaiti models were notable in being combat-capable, able to undertake both basic airman training and light combat duties - supporting bombs, cannon pods, and rocket pods as armament in either case.
In all, just 160 Short Tucanos were manufactured by Short Brothers from the period spanning 1986 to 1995. The type does remain in active service as of this writing (2018).
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