Nov 9, 2015
By Drew Dixon
A Jacksonville manufacturer of light attack aircraft got an additional contract to produce the planes for the Republic of Lebanon.
Embraer Defense & Security along with Sierra Nevada Corp. announced Monday that they landed a new contract with Lebanese government officials to purchase six new A-29 Super Tucano turbo-prop aircraft. The contract also includes logistical support for operations and training systems for Lebanese Air Force pilots and mechanics.
The planes will be built in the Jacksonville facility on the Northside at Jacksonville International Airport. That’s where Embraer has already been producing the aircraft as part of the $427 million contract for 20 light-air-support planes, trainers and technical support for Afghanistan. That contract was secured in 2014.
The Lebanese deal means more work at the Jacksonville facility.
“The selection of the A-29 by the Lebanese Air Force is a great testament to the superiority of the Super Tucano and its ability to meet the challenges of the operating theater in the Middle East,” Embraer CEO and President Jackson Schneider said in the statement. “The Super Tucano is the best and most capable aircraft in the market with a proven record of success with air forces around the world.”
Aaron Bowman, a Jacksonville city councilman who is also the military affairs liaison for JAX Chamber, said the increase in activity at the Embraer facility in Jacksonville is an important step in the evolution of aerospace development on the First Coast.
“It’s absolutely a big deal because the original contract that the [government] let out was for a limited number of aircraft to go over to Afghanistan,” Bowman said. “In order for that line and production to keep going on in Jacksonville we always needed other countries to see the aircraft and get it for their own. So, this is a huge deal.”
The Embraer Jacksonville facility, which is intended for more than the Afghanistan contract, employs about 140 employees and contractors, and Embraer has estimated that the facility will support 100 parts suppliers in 20 states for an additional 1,400 U.S. jobs.
Embraer and Sierra Nevada did not specify the value of the Lebanese contract. However, the website Aviationweek.com reported the deal is worth $173 million and runs through 2019.
The increased profile Jacksonville is getting from the Super Tucano production is essential to the competitive nature of aerospace manufacturing, Bowman said. The Southeastern United States is now one of the most attractive areas for that industry and Jacksonville is constantly competing against other areas in this region such as Charleston, S.C. and Savannah, Ga.
“The Southeastern United States has really exploded in Aerospace,” Bowman said. “A lot of people, internationally, are looking at the Southeastern United States as having a strong aerospace presence. …
“Anytime we can get projects that show that we’re strong in aerospace and we’ve got the people to do the work and the logistics structure to deliver the work on time, it gets noticed all over the place,” Bowman said.
Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098