Originally designed by the Brazilian aerospace company Embraer, the Tucano was selected in 1985 to replace the Jet Provost as the RAF basic trainer. The development and production contract was awarded to Shorts of Belfast under licence. The first squadron aircraft was delivered in June 1988. Student training on the aircraft started at RAF Church Fenton in December 1989. The RAF version of the Tucano, designated the Tucano T1, has been modified in many ways from the basic Embraer 312.
The Tucano replaced the Jet Provost in RAF service and its two-seat tandem cockpit makes it an ideal lead-in to the Hawk, which is flown at the next stage of training. The turboprop Tucano was chosen to replace the RAF’s Jet Provosts because of its greater fuel efficiency and lower operating costs.
The Tucano is operated primarily from No 1 Flying Training School, at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, to provide basic fastjet flying training to RAF and RN student pilots, and basic WSO training to all potential RAF WSOs. Student pilots fly around 130 hours during their training course on the Tucano before progressing to the Hawk T1 aircraft at RAF Valley.
The aircraft is powered by an 1150shp Garrett Turboprop engine, has a maximum speed of 300kts (345mph) and can maintain 270kts (310mph) at low level. It can operate at up to 30,000 feet and has an initial climb rate of 4000 feet per minute.
The aircraft handling is similar to that of a jet aircraft and it is fully aerobatic, thus providing an excellent workhorse for training fast-jet pilots in all aspects of military flying. It is used to develop students in a full range of skills, including general aircraft handling, formation flying and low-level navigation and, due to its comprehensive avionics and ice-protection packages, it can be flown in all types of weather, by day and by night.
The Tucano’s all-weather flying capability, plus its excellent endurance, allows a great measure of flexibility in the training role. Should weather conditions be poor at their home base, crews operating from RAF Linton-on- Ouse can fly low-level sorties to locations as far away as Wales or the north of Scotland.
The Tucano has recently undergone a wing and fuselage strengthening programme to overcome aircraft stress problems and will remain as the RAF’s primary fast-jet basic flying-training aircraft until later in the decade.