By the mid-1950s a number of Western European air forces were in need of a jet aircraft to equip their advanced flight schools and to serve as a transitional aircraft to the new supersonic fighters. An international tender was established under NATO, to select a new advanced trainer. Among the several proposals, there was an Italian jet, the M.B. 326, developed by Aermacchi Spa which, although not selected in the tendership, was the choice of the Aeronautica Militare Italiana - AMI (Italian Air Force).
The Brazilian Ministry of Aeronautics wanted to replace the T-33A jet and was seeking military training aircraft options which could be assembled in Brazil for subsequent nationalization. After evaluating several alternatives, the Aermacchi MB-326G jet, manufactured by the Italian aviation company Aeronautica Macchi, was chosen. The aircraft had been designed back in the 1950s and had been in operation since 1962.
In 1970 a contract was signed between the "Aeronáutica Macchi Spa" and the "Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica - EMBRAER". EMBRAER, which had been created by Executive Order no. 770 in 18 August 1969, was to assimilate the technology involved in the aircraft and to build an initial batch of 112 aircraft, which were designated as the EMB.326GB by the EMBRAER. The FAB designated it as the AT-26 (attack/training type no. 26) and it was to be known as the "Xavante", the name of a Brazilian Indian tribe.
The license agreement allowing Embraer to manufacture it was put into effect in 1970, and the aircraft was named the EMB-326GB Xavante. The name was given in honor of the pre-Columbian native Brazilian warrior tribe. It would be the third model to go into production at Embraer, and the first jet to be manufactured in Brazil.
On May 29 of that year, the Ministry of Aeronautics closed a deal with an order for 112 units of the aircraft. Embraer sent engineers to take courses in the city of Varese, where Macchi was located, and other Italian experts came to Brazil. To meet the needs of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), some changes were made to the original model. In addition to its use in training tasks, it would also need to meet the demands for technical support and military use.
On September 3, 1971, the Xavante took its first test flight, commanded by Major-Aviator Carlos Rubens Resende and Embraer test pilot Brasílico Freire Neto. The aircraft’s 90-minute test flight over the region of São José dos Campos and cities in southern Minas went smoothly and was met with great enthusiasm by the Brazilian media, who applauded “the first jet entirely manufactured in the country.”
On the 7th of that month, it took its first official flight, during the celebrations of Motherland Day (Independence Day). The following day, FAB took delivery of the first three Xavante airplanes, with the military designation AT-26. By December 1976, FAB had already acquired 119 Xavantes. Embraer produced a total of 182 EMB-326 Xavante units—167 for FAB, 9 for Paraguay and 6 for Togo.
The Xavante Indians of the Mato Grosso plateau of central Brazil live in traditional lands in a mosaic of ecosystems including dense gallery forests covering the banks of wild rivers, impassible jungle, palm forests, grasslands, parklands, and wetlands. Jaguar and puma roam the savannah searching for an abundance of prey. For millennia, the Xavante have lived a semi-nomadic life in a remote part of the country where their strong cultural heritage, connection with the ancestors and hunting and gathering practices have enabled them to maintain their traditional way of life.
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