The Afghan Air Force, which has 20 A-29 Super Tucano light-attack planes, will receive six more through a recently announced U.S. Air Force purchase.

“The order of these six A-29s is part of the Afghan Air Force modernization plan that is a [U.S. secretary of defense]-approved initiative to grow the Afghan Air Force into a sustainable and professional force,” U.S. Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick said Oct. 26.

Two Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos fly over Kabul in 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Two Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucanos fly over Kabul in 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Production of the six A-29s will start “immediately” at an Embraer plant in Jacksonville, Fla., according to prime contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC).

“We believe this decision demonstrates that the A-29 Super Tucano is the best aircraft for close-air-support operations, as well as the most proven, reliable and cost-effective solution for counterinsurgency and irregular warfare scenarios,” said Jackson Schneider, president and chief executive officer of Embraer Defense & Security.

The six aircraft are valued at $174.5 million and are being paid for with fiscal year 2017 funds, Gulick said. The first two A-29s are slated for delivery in August 2018. The next four will be delivered from March to July of 2019. There are no plans to buy any more A-29s for the Afghan Air Force.

SNC said the A-29, which has been active in Afghanistan since early 2016, has completed successful operations from at least four bases in the country.

Separately, Leidos [LDOS] announced Oct. 24 that it has received a U.S. Army contract valued at up to $728 million to support Afghan military aircraft.

Under the contract, which runs through May 2020, Leidos will provide flight operations, maintenance and logistics for Afghan Air Force and Afghan Special Mission Wing fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. It will also mentor aircraft operators and maintainers.