On November 28, the U.S. Department of Defense placed an order with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) for 12 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft for supply through Foreign Military Sales channels to the Nigerian Air Force. Based at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) is the contracting agency. Although the deal contains an “undefinitized contract action” (UCA) clause, in which the exact terms and costs are yet to be defined, an initial sum of $329 million is authorized, with a not-to-exceed value of $344.7 million.
Nigeria has been eager to acquire Super Tucanos since 2015, but a sale was held up by U.S. concerns over Nigeria’s human rights record and also instances of civilian deaths in refugee camps caused by bombing raids. President Trump signaled an intention to proceed with the sale in April 2017, at which point Nigeria made an official request, despite causing some domestic political controversy due to the sums involved. U.S. Congressional approval was received in August for a deal that is estimated to be worth nearly $600 million by the time all elements such as weapons and new ground infrastructure are included.
Delivery of the A-29s will improve the Nigerian Air Force’s attack capability against Boko Haram and ISIS West Africa insurgents. Six of the aircraft will have electro-optical turrets, significantly improving the NAF’s ability to attack pinpoint targets. The contract includes the provision of training devices, spares and logistics, mission planning systems and contractor logistic support including field service representatives.
The aircraft will be built by Embraer at its plant in Jacksonville, Florida, before being modified by SNC at its Centennial, Colorado, facility. The final aircraft is due for delivery in 2024. It is likely that training will be conducted by the U.S. Air Force at Moody AFB, Georgia, where crews from SNC’s other A-29 customers have undergone instruction. Afghanistan has received 26 A-29s from SNC through the U.S. Air Force’s Light Air Support program, while the Lebanese air force bought six. The last of them was delivered in June this year.
Embraer has already achieved considerable success in the African market for the Super Tucano, which has been delivered to Angola, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania, with orders from Ghana and Senegal.