The A-29B Super Tucano versus the AT-6B Texan II

Revised January 20, 2014. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history

An AT-6B Texan II. Photo by Airwolfhound thru Flickr.
An AT-6B Texan II. Photo by Airwolfhound thru Flickr.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is actively looking for a new Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft to replace its aging fleet of OV-10 Bronco Aircraft. Not a lot of details have been released to the public, just that they intend to get half a dozen aircraft (6) and that procurement will be thru Foreign Military Sales (FMS).1 We don’t exactly know which aircraft the PhAF are considering, but right now there are two aircraft of this type that has been competing actively against each other for awhile now, and that is the A-29B Super Tucano and AT-6B Texan II. There are a LOT of materials in the internet comparing these two aircraft, and you can now add this one as my take on the matter.

‘Aircraft Backgrounds’
The EMB314 or A-29 is made by Brazil’s “Embraer” company, it is a turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, Counter Insurgency (COIN), CAS and Aerial Reconnaissance missions in low threat environments, and also for Pilot Training. It is based on the EMB312 Tucano Trainer Aircraft, but is has a longer fuselage, more powerful engine and strengthened airframe. It first flew in 1999, and since then over 170 aircraft has been built and went into service in eleven countries around the world. The A-29B is the two-seat version of the aircraft, and its official nickname is the “Super Tucano”.2

The AT-6B is made by the American company “Beechcraft Corporation“, and it is also a turboprop aircraft designed for the light attack role. Unlike the Super Tucano, the AT-6B has not yet been formally adopted by any air force in the world right now, but it is based on the very successful T-6 Trainer Aircraft of which over 636 has been built and in service in the air forces of 8 countries worldwide.3 The AT-6B prototype first flew in 2009, and is generally marketed as an alternative to the the Super Tucano in the light attack market which the A-29 has been dominating since the turn of the century.

‘Evaluation Notes’
For the “Maneuverability” and “Payload and Range” sections, the following considerations were made:
– Weights with 100% internal fuel was used to try to simulate the aircraft going into combat with full internal fuel after dropping their External Fuel Tanks.
– The weights of the armaments were not included as the RATIOS and DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOTH AIRCRAFT will remain the same if they will be armed with the same type and same number of armaments.
– Data for each aircraft was derived from various websites at 4 5.

For both aircraft’s maneuvering capability, I am looking at their LIMIT LOAD FACTOR*, WING LOADING* and POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO.* I would’ve wanted to take a look at more aspects like Stall Speed, Maximum Alpha, etc., but those data are hard to come by for both aircraft. Hence, these should suffice for now. Remember that a lower Wing Loading means the aircraft can turn tighter and vice-versa, and a higher Thrust-to-Weight Ratio means the aircraft can go faster going straight up or straight down and vice-versa.

– LIMIT LOAD FACTOR: Equal for both aircraft
– WING LOADING: Practically equal for both aircraft, with a very small difference of only 2%
– POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO: 20% advantage for the Texan II over the Super Tucano

+++ The Texan II is the better aircraft than the Super Tucano in the vertical plane by a good margin. This is mainly due to the Super Tucano having a 23% heavier empty weight than the Texan II while having the same engine power.

‘Payload and Range’
For Range, I am using INTERNAL FUEL FRACTION (INTFF) as a rough indicator how far each aircraft can go based on the internal fuel available to them.

– INTFF: Favors the Texan II by 16%, meaning for the same engine efficiency the AT-6B will travel 16% further.
– PAYLOAD: Favors the Super Tucano as it can carry 17% (229 kg) more load than the Super Tucano

+++ With both aircraft at full internal fuel, the Texan II will have better range as the same engine will have to work harder with the Super Tucano because it is heavier. But then the A-29B will have better payload than the AT-6B.

‘Avionics and Weapons’
Although these aircraft are propeller-driven and thus may seem “obsolete” to some, they actually have some of the most advanced Avionics available in the world today, ranging from Heads Up Displays (HUD), Hand On Throttle And Stick (HOTAS) controls, “Glass” cockpits, etc. Here is a list of the Avionics Suite and weapons of both aircraft:

– WEAPONS: The advantage goes to the Super Tucano’s two internal guns despite the fact the Texan II has two more additional hardpoints.
– AVIONICS: The Texan II has the advantage of having the Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS).

An A-29 Super Tucano. Photo courtesy of mashleymorgan thru Flickr.
An A-29 Super Tucano. Photo courtesy of mashleymorgan thru Flickr.

+++ Although the Texan II has more hardpoints than the Super Tucano, the A-29B’s internal guns have less drag than the comparable gun pods that the AT-6B will have to carry.

+++ Although the Scorpion HMCS6 will allow the Texan II to use High Off-Boresight Short Range Air to Air Missiles like the AIM-9X or Python 5, it will be used more for easier and faster acquisition of ground targets for Precision Guided Munitions (i.e., Laser/GPS Guided Bombs/Missiles, etc.). It may even be possible to synchronize and guide the Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) turret using the Scorpion HMCS.

‘Other Factors’
I started this evaluation with a bias for the Super Tucano, after all, it had been dominating the prop-driven light attack market for over a decade now, so I am a bit surprised with the above results. So far it has been relatively even, with one aircraft having advantage in one area, but with the other aircraft having the advantage in another area.

Embraer put up on an entire page on their website dedicated to the apparent advantages of the A-29B versus the AT-6B, complete with pictures, illustrations and videos.7 Beechcraft has been unable to answer point by point Embraer’s assertions above so far, but has come up with a page of their own touting the AT-6B’s advantage over the A-29B. The page is a little bit spotty with some of its data (doesn’t jibe with brochure data), but most do seem to check out.8

‘Lack of Air to Ground Radar’
One thing to note about both of these aircraft is that unlike an aircraft like the FA-50 Fighting Eagle, for example, they lack an air to ground radar, and as a result they are LESS accurate when using CONVENTIONAL bombs, guns or rockets when attacking ground targets. This is because they are unable to determine the EXACT altitude of the target in relation to the aircraft, which is KEY in computing for where the bomb/gun/rocket will hit.

An aircraft with air to ground radar can slew the radar to determine a target’s EXACT distance from the aircraft and a ballistic computer then computes its height relative to the aircraft. On radar-less aircraft like the AT-6B or A-29B, the target’s altitude can only be ESTIMATED and fed into the computer, and therefore a less accurate value of the location of weapons impact can be computed.9

The Super Tucano and Texan II can have Laser Rangefinders integrated into its Electro-Optical System to determine exact target range, but lasers can be affected by smoke or certain atmospheric conditions, hence they are less reliable than radar. Still, the fact that the A-29B and AT-6B have BALLISTIC COMPUTERS will be an improvement over the MANUAL sights being used on our OV-10 Broncos right now.

‘Parting Shot’
Summarizing the advantages for the AT-6B Texan II:
– Can climb or dive faster
– Can travel further or has better endurance
– Has more hardpoints for external stores
– Has a Helmet Mounted Sight
– Better compatibility with NATO equipment
– More modern ejection seats designed for newer and better standards
– Higher airspeed with external stores
– Can carry more fuel with additional internal fuel tank space (at the expense of less payload)
– Can carry more fuel with external fuel tanks

Summarizing the advantages for the A-29B Super Tucano:
– Can carry more payload on full internal fuel
– Has internal guns
– Larger cockpit offering better visibility
– No power limitations on all flight phase with its engine
– Longer wheelbase giving better stability on rough landing strips
– Longer rear frame and bigger rudder means better stability as weapons platform
– Forward placement of FLIR means less wing and weapons store interference in terms of view
– Higher rear seat having better visibility from that area
– Five bladed propeller means less noise generated

The Super Tucano’s advantages were enough for it to beat the Texan II in head to head competitions for the United States Air Force Light Attack aircraft contract (not just once, but TWICE10), and also for the Light Air Support contract for Afghanistan last year. 11

It would seem that the Super Tucano is the better aircraft, but the gap between it and the Texan II is not as wide as I once thought it was, or what Embraer would have us believe. Politically, because of its success with the USAF and Afghan Air Forces against the AT-6B, and the fact it is in service with a lot countries already, the A-29B would be the “safer” bet as it has that prestige of being a “winner” and a service-proven platform.

But I feel that even if the PAF does end up with the Texan II, it won’t really be such a bad thing as after all, it does enjoy some advantages over the Super Tucano also. In terms of price, the AT-6B is about 50% cheaper at its estimated price of USD 14 million per plane based on an unfulfilled order (for some unknown reason/s) in 2008 by the Iraqi Air Force,12 compared to the Afghan Air Force order for the A-29B which cost USD 21 million per plane. In the end, either aircraft would be a good choice for the PAF to replace the OV-10 Bronco.

An AT-6B Texan II. Photo courtesy of Airwolfhound thru Flickr.
An AT-6B Texan II. Photo courtesy of Airwolfhound thru Flickr.


  • LIMIT LOAD FACTOR = is the maximum amount of stress load on its structure an aircraft is rated for, and is expressed in number of “G”. The “stress load” refers to the ratio of the Lift of an aircraft to its weight.

  • WING LOADING = is the amount of weight the wing supports during flight, and is expressed in weight per area, or in the metric system, kg/m^2. This is computed by: (Wing Area divided by Weight).

  • POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO = means how much power the aircraft has compared to its weight, and is expressed by a simple number. This is computed by: (The maximum power of the aircraft’s engine divided by weight).

  • INTERNAL FUEL FRACTION = is the weight of the internal fuel the aircraft compared to its maximum take-off weight, and is expressed by a simple number. Formula used is: (Maximum internal fuel capacity divided by maximum take off weight).

Revision History:
* January 17, 2014: Originally posted
* January 20, 2014: Major re-write of blog, changed data and conclusions. I made some wrong assumptions and calculation errors, coupled with misleading and/or lack of data from both Embraer and Beechcraft made for some wrong conclusions. I apologize to the readers if I caused some confusion.


  2. Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano,
  3. Beechcraft T-6 Texan II,
  4. Beechcraft AT-6 Flip Brochure,
  5. Super Tucano,
  6. Scorpion Helmet Mounted Cueing System,
  7. A-29 vs. AT-6,
  8. Outperforming the Competition,
  9. FLIGHT TEST: Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano – Amazon warrior,
  10. No Break For Beechcraft: U.S. Federal Court Sides With Brazil Defense Contractor,
  11. Super Tucano beats out AT-6 for Afghan Light Air Support tender,
  12. Iraq – Texan II Aircraft, Spare Parts and Other Support,

58 thoughts on “The A-29B Super Tucano versus the AT-6B Texan II”

    1. Yeah, but it is a bit expensive. I think for our purposes against the Insurgents and Separatists, the cheaper by 50% AT-6B Texan II would be MORE than enough. Plus I think it will still do well against the Chinese forces, but that’s just my opinion …

  1. well you have a point there…the AT-6B is cheaper today because it need to penetrate the A-29B market. now i see, being practical the AT-6B is also ideal to the PAF.

  2. I hope the PAF has already thought of using UCAVs to fulfill the CAS role. If the PAF thinks that they still need the capability of strafing runs with a gun on CAS missions then it is understandable to select the Super Tucano or Texan II.

    Now if the PAF thinks that strafing runs are out of vogue, I think there could be UCAVs that can do CAS and provide persistent ISR at the same time (because of longer loiter time). UCAVs could also be cheaper to operate. Lastly there might be UCAVs that have FLIR, electro-optical targeting and radar all in one package.

    One definite drawback would be the payload. I don’t think the UCAVs on the market can match the payload of the Tucano or Texan.

  3. The best normally cost more…PAF would be better off with the best material money can buy. I only hope that budgetary constraints will not affect their will to have the best equipment. After all, the best Air Force needs the best aircraft.

  4. both of this aircraft could not sustain their power against chinese sam missile and aircraft. this is useless for philippines to buy and priority rsthen than fa50 from korea

    1. Both aircraft do have good Radar/Missile Warning and Countermeasure Systems, hence I don’t think they will do that bad. Plus they will mainly be used against Insurgents and Separatists as they will have lower operating costs than the FA-50 Fighting Eagle …

    2. A29 tucano is a close ground support aircraft unlike the FA50 which is an interceptor.. but you have a point, chinese ground striking force is composed of mbt, ifv, inf., anti air and support.. that is the main striking force.. super tucano speed is only 500 kph sitting ducks for AA and SAM.. F16 variants however can dodge those but barely can survive except climbing up just like what they did in Iraq.

  5. On that 20 plane CAS order for Afghanistan, the AT-6B was cheaper by a whopping $130m. That’s a lot of money. AT-6 B is cheaper to operate on the cost per hour basis. But to me the biggest advantage of the mini-Warthog is that weapons system as far as small precision guided munitions which the ST does not have it yet configured for that plane. The cheap PGM’s like the new DAGR or Turkish Cirit are cheap like 1/10th the price compared to the bigger Hellfire but just as precise with a 12 km and 8 km range respectively. It can fire also the latest standoff glide bombs with almost the range close to 100km the Mini-Talon. Which can be perfect for the WPS patrols against moving ships. The two MG advantage of ST is not really an advantage because the AT-6B can carry more potent MG’s than ST.

    But to me the best CAS prop plane for us since there are no Anti air threat is the slow, the IOMAX Archangel. It has 3 times the payload of ST and have a loiter time of 10+ hour (in ISR mode), but the best thing is it has the lowest cost per hour at only $400 per hour. Almost half of the Super Tucano. Weapons……fully customized for what ever we need up to 15 hard points. PGM’s ..all the latest. And the price…at half the Super Tucano. UAE was the first customer and they may have seen something that was more appropriate for them. It uses Cirit 2.75 PGM that cost only $6,000 a piece. A far cry from the $100,000 hellfire.

      1. That right. It’s the AT-802U which is basically the same plane that can carry 8,000 lbs. or at least 2 1/2 times vs the Super Tucano. Nevertheless, it is still big and that’s just one of the glaring disparity. What about the $400 cost per hour. No one can beat that. The budget conscious DND should think twice why buy a BMW 330 when a Ford Mustang can whip it’s ass at half the price. I though we didn’t have money?

      2. No, the official brochure for the Iomax Archangel says payload is 2,522kg or 5,548 lb, not 8,000 lb. That is 68% the 1,500 kg load of the Super Tucano.

        As for the claimed USD 400 per hour Operating Cost by the manufacturer, that is good, but that will have to be verified by the PhAF when and if they evaluate the aircraft.

      3. IOMAX is a systems integrator. It gets a plane and customizes it. But the real plane is the Air Tractor AT-802u which more rugged than the Super Tucano or the AT-6B. If you go central California, you will see the San Joaquin Valley. The bread basket of the US. You will see in countless unpaved airtstrips of local farmers how this plane dives and sprays the agricultural fields. This plane meets the CAS role/objective and a lot more of PAF. It is also good for ISR because of its 10+ hour loiter time.

    1. we have 10 warthog at the hangar i think that would be enough for now.. instead we need more interceptor/ multirole aircraft.

  6. RHK,

    Beechcraft did answer the so-called advantages posted in Embraer’s website.

    They made a dedicated website to emphasize their advantages versus the Super Tucano.

    Here is the dedicated website for the AT-6:

    I hope you incorporate the data in there in your blogpost.

    1. Thanks very much for this, some of the figures there jibe with what I wrote on my blog.

      However, I do have a question about the claimed fuel capacity of only 495kg for the Super Tucano. This reference ( from Embraer does not give the maximum internal capacity, but I derived it by using this formula:
      Max. Int. Fuel = MGTOW – Empty Weight – Max. Payload, which came up to 700kg of fuel.

      If that 495kg fuel for the A-29B is accurate, it will have significant effects on the Range, Wing Loading, Power to Weight Factor, etc. Need to confirm it, though …

  7. Here’s at least 2 sources saying the AT-6 indeed can store more fuel internally than the Super Tucano

    1) source 1 says 427 lbs more int. fuel for AT-6:

    2) source 2 did not mention a specific weight but recognize the aT-6 does indeed storesmore int. fuel:

    There could be more possible sources out there but I’ll leave it up to you find more sources in the net but so far we have 3 sources saying the AT-6 can carry more int.fuel than the Super T.

    IMO, the slightly higher int. fuel is significant esp. since the AT-6 is a lighter plane than the A29.

    1. Thanks for the lead, redbarron. I think the fuel capacity might be due to the fact that the A-29B’s empty weight is really 3,400kg instead of the 3,200kg they wrote. Pretty sneaky of Embraer NOT to specifically point out the fuel capacity of the Super Tucano, probably because they know it is a disadvantage. This will mean a lower Internal Fuel Factor for the A-29B since it is a much heavier aircraft than the Texan II. I will revise the blog once I confirm the references. Thanks again …

      1. I suggest also cross-referencing it to the original Tucano (EMB-312). I think there are sources quoting it’s int. fuel capacity and if my memory serves me right I have read somewhere that Embraer has only able to improve the int. fuel capacity just a little bit esp. since the -314 airframe is basically almost the same as the EMB-312.

        You are right in your observation Embraer does not publicize data that is perceived as a disandvantge. It’s the same as Israel not advertising the KFIR block 60 of not having fly-by-wire. They left that out as well in their marketing.

      2. Some of the data from Beechcraft published is not too trustworthy, like on this picture, for example:

        The data for Basic Weight and Wing Area for the AT-6B does not jibe with the data from their very own brochure at And how come they expressed the second value for Wing Area in meters, and the second Maximum Gross Take Off Weight in HP?

        I will have to redo this blog, need to correct some figures which turn have a large effect on the conclusion. Such a mess …

      3. I’m doing a messy, regretful re-write of the blog, it’ll be out in a day or so, will be putting in your contribution about the AT-6B webpage about its advantages over the A-29B.

        Actual internal capacity of the A-29B is 695l (from, which is about 560kg using a Jet Fuel density that I always use of 0.81kg/l. This means the AT-6B will have better INTFF (16%) since the A-29B is the heavier aircraft.

        I’m assuming a higher empty weight for the A-29B than Embraer’s data, but I will still be using Embraer’s data for MTOW and Payload which I think is best assumption I can make right now.

  8. 695L? You need to have at least 1-2 more sources to support that as well or you are going to have another mess. Research more for additional info. from other sources that says it’s 695L. airforce technology has had some data published diff. from what the manufacturer publishes as well. Experienced that 1st hand when researching data for the KT-1. They gave diff. data from KAI’s wesbite. Who would I trust more? Ofcourse the OEM.

    airforcetechnology is not on the same level as Jane’s or other publications.

      1. Should be for the 2 seat, its the same capacity as the Embraer 312 Short Tucano. As far as I know, the single seat version has an extra fuel tank in place of the second seat …

  9. Good post.. But in reality there is no comparison since the Texan is commercially non-existant while the ST is already dominant in a niche market with several countries using it already.

  10. tma ka dyan lem1. look indonesia they have a better military set up than philippines and more quicker act to upgrade its entire forces. what a lousy afp we have. let’s just hang all the generals of pnoy. they have nothing.

    1. All, let’s not forget that PNoy has done a lot for the AFP already, much more than most of our other Presidents after Marcos. Much more needs to be done, but the AFP is moving forward.

    2. pls do not make a quick judgment on our generals…there are still a lot of good generals. but in regards to requisition of military equipments do not put the blame to the generals..the generals are even very happy that as soon as possible they can have the modern equipments but the decisions are not in their hands, it is with the policy makers…congress, senate and the executive are the ones that is responsible for these..they are the ones who sit down on these projects after the overthrow of Marcos. Pnoy made a lot of requisition during his term the del pilar frigates and soon to be interim fighter of our air force the FA-50. but think of it most of these decisions come from Pnoy. but still we need real MRFs and missile firing frigates and early warning radar system.

  11. Buy the cheaper Texan and the money that was saved should be use to procure second line (of defense) fighter planes like the F5 (soon to be decommissioned by S.Korea) we need more BADLY. Or another C130, or the Cobra helicopters up for sale by the Israel Defense Force.

  12. If the Texan were 50% cheaper than the Super Tucano it wiould negate all its advantages over the Texan. Especially for us with a very limited budget! Imagine buying 24 texan II rather than 12 Super Tucano. No brainer I guess.

  13. Good day sir, I am just wondering if we could buy the A-10 warthog thru EDA as CAS and defence against the chinese than buy expensive plane that can not defend our territory from the intruders

    1. The Warthog is nice, but a bit expensive to maintain. We will probably get the Super Tucano as CAS due to its lower operating and maintenance costs.

      As for expensive planes that cannot defend our territory, are you referring to the FA-50 Fighting Eagles?

  14. How can the 2 internal .50 cal guns be an advantage of AT-29 over the AT-6. I means you have to carry the guns even if it isnt needed in a mission. What if you needed a bigger 20mm gun? you will be forced to carry 2 .50 & a 20mm gun?

    1. Pedestal mounted guns create more drag, and are less accurate compared to the fixed mounting of internal guns.

  15. (2) internal .50 cal trade off vs (2) Harpoints? 2 harpoints can be converted into 4 using special pedestals. It can also carry additional fuel when conducting SAR & ISR mission…. Guys the ,50 cal guns are not needed all the time. The Super Tucano is not a world war 2 fighter plane!

  16. The only reason AT-29 won the Afghan competition was because it was ferociously lobbied by Boeing thinking that Brazil might select its F-18 E/F…. Boeing even integrated its own Jdams to the ST. In the end Brazil back stabbed Boeing & went for SAAB instead….

  17. “My view is that the Super Tucano is a bruiser,” said Col. Michael Pietrucha, a back-seater who has worked in light attack for the last six years. “It’s going to be tough, heavy, and will handle rougher fields with a heavier combat load. It has more internal expansion room.

    “The AT-6B is a fencer,” said Pietrucha. “It has the mission computer from the A-10, HOTAS from the F-16, a HUD from the F-18, and parts and logistical commonality with the T-6 trainer. It carries more fuel, has fancier avionics (including SADL [Situational Awareness Data Link] and HMS [Helmet Mounted Sight]), and six hardpoints allows you a little more mission flexibility. It’s very small, making it easy to park and hard to hit.”

    1. Either the Super Tucano or the Texan II would be good CAS for our PhAF, it is up to the PhAF to determine which they prefer better …

  18. Sir using a 20mm gun(3km) on the AT-6 would be safer than .50cal (1.8km) because it will have a longer stand off range & more punch to the target….. M16 (600 meters) , M14s (1000mtrs) , .50 cal (1.8km)

    1. No argument there. But gun pods will also have speed and range penalties also because of their weight and drag. I also like the Texan II with its more advanced avionics like its Helmet Mounted Display, but if the PhAF chooses the Super Tucano instead that’s fine with me …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.