May 7, 2013: Guatemala is buying six Brazilian A-29 Super Tucano aircraft for their air force. The Super Tucano is a single engine turbo-prop trainer/attack aircraft that is used by over a dozen nations. This aircraft carries two internal 12.7mm (.50 caliber) machine-guns and can carry up to 1.5 tons of bombs and rockets. It can stay in the air for 6.5 hours at a time. It is rugged, easy to maintain, and cheap. You pay $15-20 million for each Super Tucano, depending on how much training, spare parts, and support equipment you get with them.
This aircraft can be equipped to carry over a half dozen of the 250 pound GPS smart bombs (or half a dozen dumb 500 pound bombs), giving it considerable potential firepower if rigged to handle smart bombs. The Super Tucano comes equipped with a GPS guidance system. Max altitude is 11,300 meters (35,000 feet) and cruising speed is 400 kilometers an hour. Naturally, this aircraft can move in lower and slower than any jet can. The Super Tucano is also equipped with armor for the pilot, a pressurized cockpit, and an ejection seat. Not bad for an aircraft with a max takeoff weight of 5.4 tons.
The Super Tucano can double as trainers. It's easier to train pilots to use the Super Tucano, cheaper to buy them, and much cheaper to operate them. It costs less than a tenth as much per flying hour to operate a Super Tucano compared to an F-16.
Guatemala is the sixth South Latin American customer for the Super Tucano, joining Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. Twelve countries (including Afghanistan, Angola, Burkina Fasso, Indonesia, Mauritius, and Senegal) have bought Super Tucano, which has become the world’s leading counter-insurgency aircraft. Guatemala will use it to help control the growing problem with drug smugglers moving cocaine to North America.
These "trainer/light attack aircraft" can also operate from crude airports or even a stretch of highway. Aircraft like this can carry systems to defeat portable surface to air missiles. They can carry smart bombs as well.