Delivering the first A-29 Super Tucano to the US Air Force in less than a year will be challenging but within Embraer's capability, says the president of the company's US subsidiary.

"It's going to be a challenge obviously to maintain that schedule," says Gary Spulak, president of Fort Lauderdale-based Embraer Aircraft Holding.

The terms of the light air support (LAS) contract require Embraer and prime contractor Sierra Nevada to deliver the first A-29 in the first half of 2014. In the meantime, Embraer must stand-up a final assembly plant in Jacksonville, Florida, hire and train about 50 workers and delivery the fully-assembled and weaponised light attack fighter.

Spulak, however, notes that Embraer faced a similar challenge when it created a second final assembly plant for the Phenom-series light business jets in Melbourne, Florida, complimenting an existing assembly line at the Brazilian company's headquarters in Sao Jose Dos Campos, Sao Paulo.

Embraer completed construction of the Melbourne plant in February 2011, and delivered the first US-assembled Phenom 100 less than a year later in December. Production output increased to 20 aircraft in 2012, and is expected to reach 32 this year and nearly 60 in 2014.

The Super Tucano assembly process is modeled on the Phenom experience, with joined fuselage structures shipped to Jacksonville and assembled with tail, wings, landing gear and aircraft systems in the USA.

"It is just as substantial a process as what you see there in Melbourne," Spulak says. "In terms of the delivery, by coincidence, that is also identical. So we're very, very comfortable with the lead time that we have."

Source: Flight International