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Embraer sets date for ALX prototype maiden flight

Embraer will fly the first prototype ALX light-attack aircraft within six months, following the signing on 18 August of the development contract.

One of the Brazilian manufacturer's two EMB-312H Super Tucano demonstrators will be fitted with an uprated, 1,190kW (1,600shp), Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68 engine for flight-testing to assess ALX handling qualities with weapons on five underwing hardpoints.

The second prototype will be flown 18 months into the 39-month development programme, says Eduardo Munhos de Campos, vice-president marketing. This will be the second Super Tucano demonstrator, extensively modified with the uprated engine, hardpoints, cockpit armour and weapon system planned for the ALX.

A contract for production of 100 ALXs for the Brazilian air force, in both single-seat A-29 and two-seat AT-29 variants, is expected to be signed around the time the second prototype is flown. The Super Tucano was developed as a private venture and the ALX development contract will allow the manufacturer to recover most of its investment in the unsuccessful bid for the US Joint Primary Aircraft Training System programme.

The ALX will be equipped with head-up and multi-function displays, mission computer, global-positioning/inertial-navigation system, and cockpit lighting compatible with night-vision goggles (NVGs). Two-seat versions will be able to carry a forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) turret.

The aircraft will be used as the enforcement arm of the SIVAM Amazon protection system and will be controlled from EMB-120 Brasilias equipped with air- and ground-surveillance radars and communications-intelligence sensors. The Raytheon-developed SIVAM is intended to protect against drug smuggling and illegal exploitation of Amazon resources.

De Campos says that the basic EMB-312 Tucano is already being used by Peru to shoot down drug-smuggling aircraft. He says that some aircraft have been modified with NVG-compatible cockpits, and some with FLIR sensors, for night interceptions. Peru is interested in the more powerful Super Tucano to counter the faster turboprop aircraft now used by drug smugglers, he says.

The ALX will also replace the Brazilian air force's Embraer EMB-326 Xavante advanced jet trainers, some of which will be retained as fighter lead-in trainers. The aircraft will also be used for proficiency training, a role already performed using the basic T-27 Tucano.

Fast-jet pilots fly the Tucano to maintain currency, de Campos says. The ALX will offer increased performance and modern cockpit systems, he says.

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