September 25 2014
Ashley Mitchem, morning reporter, and Kelly Goddard, Flagler College intern
Sierra Nevada Corporation, Embraer Defense and Security and the U.S. Air Force held a roll-out ceremony Thursday at a North Jacksonville plant for the first United States-built A-29 Super Tucanos, a light-air support aircraft.
The aircraft, which also performs as an advanced trainer, is the first of 20 that are being delivered to the Air Force for its Light Air Support program, which supports the stability of Afghanistan as that country assumes increased responsibility for its own defense.
Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw said after 13 years building up Afghanistan's military, it's important to teach them how to protect themselves.
"There is a real need in their air force they do not have the capability to protect their military forces from the air except in a very limited way right now," said Titshaw.
The training will take place at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta. The exercises will teach Afghan pilots how to help the security efforts in their own country.
So far, one A-29 is ready for flight and six more in various states of building, with a total of 20 that will go to the Afghan Air Force. It takes about five months to complete each aircraft.
“The Super Tucano is a robust and powerful turboprop aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of missions and, in more than ten years of operations, it has confirmed to be a cost-effective air power solution for nations around the world,” Jackson Schneider, president and CEO of Embraer. “These characteristics, along with its well-proven combat record, make it highly reliable and the logical choice for the LAS mission.”
In March 2013, Embraer officially opened a 40,000-square-foot facility in Jacksonville to produce the LAS aircraft and to date has hired 72 employees. The facility in Jacksonville performs pre-equipping, mechanical assembly, structural assembly, systems installation and testing, and flight testing of A-29 aircraft. Through the LAS program, SNC and Embraer support more than 1,400 jobs with more than 100 companies throughout the United States.