EMB 312 Tucano
EMB-312 Tucano (Toucan in English) was developed by Embraer beginning in the late 1970s to replace Brazil's Air Force Cessna T-37 training aircraft. The Brazilian Air Force took delivery of the first production machine in 1983. Despite Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6A is the standard engine in production aircraft it can be powered by alternative powerplants according to end customer requirements. The basic EMB-312 Tucano aircraft entered into service in 1983 with more than 600 aircraft sold to at least 15 international customers.
In the mid-1970s, the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) pilot training system was based on three aircraft: the Aerotec T-23 Uirapuru, Neiva T-25 Universal and Cessna T-37 jet. The latter had high operating costs and suffered from a long-term lack of spare parts, making its operation more and more complicated. As a result, at the end of the decade the T-37 started being replaced in the basic-advanced instruction programs by the T-25 Universal. However, FAB needed more modern aircraft for training, mainly because the new, advanced Mirage III and Northrop F-5E jet-fighters were then starting their operations.
Detecting a business opportunity, Embraer started analyzing the alternatives available in the market, which at that time were restricted to jet aircraft or conventionally propelled aircraft, adapted with turboprop. The turboprop option soon proved to be more appropriate, mainly due to its more economical operation, an essential characteristic in face of the worldwide oil crisis and one of its side effects: the increase in fuel prices, which made training flight hours more expensive. In 1977, Embraer forwarded the first proposals for the EMB 312 to what was then called the Ministry of Aeronautics. The ministry signed a development agreement at the end of 1978, and the project was officially started in January 1979.
The EMB 312 aircraft, known by the name T-27 at FAB, had an advanced design for the time and several innovative features which ended up becoming the international standard for basic training aircraft. The EMB 312 was the first trainer to be developed and manufactured as a turboprop from its very beginning, while keeping the operational features of a jet aircraft. Furthermore, unlike other trainer of the FAB inventory, the EMB 312 did not have side-by-side seats, but a tandem layout, with the instructor and the student pilot seated one behind the other, and the rear seat elevated for the instructor’s better front view. This layout, besides reducing the frontal area of the aircraft, also allowed for the cadet’s better adaptation to the environment of a jet fighter.
Another innovative feature was the inclusion of ejection seats. The EMB 312 was the first basic training turboprop aircraft to be equipped with this important safety mechanism. The crew members were sheltered under a large, transparent, single-piece canopy made of Plexiglas®, especially manufactured for avoiding optic distortions.
The EMB 312 was designed to be a stable aircraft at low speeds and highly maneuverable, important features for basic trainers. Besides its basic mission as a trainer, it could also receive external loads on four hard spots on the wings, allowing its utilization in armed training missions, air support and air-to-ground attack.
The first prototype, registered as YT-27 1300, was officially presented in the rollout ceremony on August 19, 1980—Embraer’s 11th anniversary—when the aircraft also made its first official flight. Due to the excellent performance of the EMB 312 on its first test flights, the Ministry of Aeronautics signed an order for 118 aircraft with Embraer in October 1980, enabling the beginning of serial production. In the following year, the aircraft was christened the “Tucano,” after a naming competition held among cadets of the Brazilian Air Force Academy (AFA).
The aircraft soon garnered international attention, and several countries began to test it. The first orders were placed by Honduras and Egypt. In Egypt, the Tucano was manufactured under license for that country’s air force and also for Iraq, becoming Embraer’s first experience in assembling aircraft abroad.
A short time later, the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) issued the demanding requirements of their future trainer, setting off the toughest military bidding process of that time. Embraer set up a partnership with the Irish company Short Brothers PLC, and the Tucano was largely modified, giving origin to the Shorts Tucano, which won the bidding process. This victory was a landmark in Embraer’s history, with great repercussions in the international media, besides leading to the installation of a third assembly line in Northern Ireland for manufacturing the Shorts Tucano.
In 1991, an agreement was signed concerning the sale of 80 Tucano aircraft to the French Air Force, and the first deliveries were made in 1994. The Tucano was also greatly accepted in South American countries, where it was highly successful in training missions and the patrolling of air space, and an important tool in combating drug trafficking. This operational experience was fundamental for the development of the EMB 314 Super Tucano, successor to the EMB 312 Tucano in anti-narcotics missions and air space patrol, as well as in FAB’s advanced training squadrons, replacing the Xavante.
The EMB 312 Tucano revolutionized the training aircraft. Since then, the majority of turboprop trainers developed in the world have had very similar features and solutions. A total of 15 air forces from different countries operate or have operated Tucano aircraft.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|