Mercenary Air


This morning has a story on America’s most famous (or infamous) private security contractor, Blackwater USA, purchasing a light attack aircraft.

Report Says Blackwater Bought Fighter (AP)

A subsidiary of U.S. military security contractor Blackwater Worldwide has purchased a fighter plane from the Brazilian aviation company Embraer, a Brazilian newspaper reported June 1.

The 314-B1 Super Tucano propeller-driven fighter – the same used by the Brazilian military – was bought for $4.5 million and delivered to EP Aviation at the end of February, according to the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper.

First of all the headline is misleading. The Tucano isn’t a “fighter” unless you’re a seriously third world air force. But it has been bandied around as a good answer for a “counter-insurgency” aircraft. So Blackwater has clearly done some research (and been reading DT, I have to assume) on the best plane to fight a dirty war. It’s interesting, too, that the company is buying new. Seems to me there’d be a lot more surplus gear on the market for them to snap up — and keep it low profile as well.

It was not clear if it was Embraer’s first sale of a military-style aircraft to a private company. EP Aviation has 33 planes and helicopters registered with the FAA, according to the agency’s Web site, only one of which is from Embraer.

Officials with Brazil’s government and Embraer declined to comment on the Estado report. Phone calls to Blackwater were not returned.

The sale was apparently approved, the Estado report noted, by Brazil’s president in a deal negotiated with the U.S. government.

Brazilian law prohibits the sale of arms to companies or for use in existing conflicts.

It does worry be a bit each time a company like Blackwater continues this arms build up. Sources tell me they’ve got a “Spectre’-like” gunship already, and they’ve been buzzing around Baghdad in spec-ops-style armed Little Birds. So what happens when a contract with the US Gov goes bad — say Congress pulls funding from a contract midway through the agreement. Will Blackwater use this kind of equipment to come collect what it’s owed? Seems far fetched, I know, but Blackwater officials are downplaying the Tucano buy to curb fears.

The newspaper reported that Blackwater president Gary Jackson said the plane would be used for training.

The plane sold to EP Aviation did not include the two .50-caliber machine guns normally attached to the wings.

Oh, I’m sleeping better already…

— Christian

  • Chris

    The reality is most Blackwater staff are former US military and are loyal to the US. Short of civil war Blackwater isn’t going to use this equipment on its own country.
    Like it or not, Blackwater is a necessary evil in a time when, frankly, the US military is a bit too slow and politically correct. Spec Ops may have the fastest response time of any organization, but the political B.S. that goes on before they are called costs lives.

  • Foreign.Boy

    Maybe they are joining the air races?

  • Patrick

    Is it just me or does the 314-B1 Super Tucano look a lot like a P-51?

  • Roy Smith

    Blackwater USA is the “American Foreign Legion” that David Hackworth envisioned(but I’m sure not as a Private Military Company).Instead of the Air Force being forced to buy planes that they don’t want for counter-insurgency missions,the “counter-insurgency” mission can be contracted out to Blackwater.Let Blackwater send their Super Tucanos to take out Colombian cocaine fields or Afghan opium fields & nobody will mourn the loss of life of their “operators” in such missions.
    Blackwater,like it or not,is a globalist corporation(a small one,but one nonetheless).Read Bob Shepherd’s book “the Circuit” for a good description of Private Military Companies.

  • Graham Strouse

    It DOES look a lot like a P-51. Huh…

  • C-Low

    At some point as the V-22 goes full op they will require the gunship half of the equation.
    I am thinking this or a US version of this little bad boy will be the answer. Fast enough to keep up and short take off enough to operate in a austere helicopter base dirt rolling take off strip.

  • Foreign.Boy

    I don’t know how stingers work…
    But would a 314-B1 Super Tucano be safe from Stingers.

  • TB

    The article is about a mercenary company who’s primary mission is being state department body guards, not Special Forces. What do they need a third-world prop fighter to “train” for anyway?

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,
    Lets see the U.S.A.F. wants F-22’s, F-35’s and manned B-3’s.
    Our enemy is a stateless, air forceless insurgency operation operating in both urban and isolated areas.
    Blackwater has been sub-contracting Afghanistan and Iraq on the ground and on the water.
    What about aquiring this aircraft by Blackwater is not understood, dah.
    Byron Skinner

  • Rick

    Foreign Boy,
    Stingers work just fine against propeller driven aircraft of all types. That’s both fixed and rotor wing. Air friction heats the propeller enough to get a lock-on.

  • pete

    This should be pretty safe from Stingers, Iglas and Strelas. None of those missiles will be able to lock onto the relatively negligible heat signature of this plane. Heck they can’t even lock onto most modern civilian jets with modern engine design.
    As for it looking a bit like a P-51, it seems quite a bit smaller to me. Still, if you are going to build a design on top of another older design then that is a great place to begin.

  • W Jacobs

    It looks more like the T6 Texan II or the Pilatus.
    And hey look it uses the exact same P&W engine as those two. They are all actually real close in design. Fast decent handling would be good to keep track of arms and drug smugglers. Good heaters will hit this plane. The odds of a terrorist actually hitting it with a heater is 50/50. Flares on the plane would drop that down considerably.
    Let them have it. It is nothing but a target to our fighters so poses no real threat in the event they want to try and use it to get their contract money.

  • Charlie

    Ray – you might note that the Columbians have a nice force of Tucano’s already, and are a crackerjack COIN force at this point.
    This is a logical outgrowth of doing COIN without US official supporting assets. I’m given to understand they have financing for a lot of other assets as well.

  • Mike

    The plane or jet of this type is not a good COIN aircraft at all, even a A-10, no matter what type. A good COIN aircraft is something with a good observation capability such as a helicopter, a predator, or a C130 Gunship that can make good observations and precision strikes. An attack helicopter like the Apache is by far the best type of COIN aircraft out there.
    Aircraft like the A-10, and other strike aircraft are good at when fighting a known enemy, or instances like the initial invasion, but are not good in the COIN role.
    What is needed is an aircraft that can do two things..
    ONE: Make good observations with high tech sensors . (found on predator, gunships, or attack helicopters)
    TWO: Make precision strikes.
    Some aircraft can do observation part well, and have an F16 make the strike, and vise versa, but without the both of those you cannot have a good COIN aircraft.

  • pfcem

    Byron Skinner,
    The USAF NEEDS F-22’s, F-35’s & manned B-3’s to replace its aging fighter & bomber fleets which have been neglected for far too long so that heaven forbid should a REAL war break out, we will win. And don’t forget that we had to (& did) win a war vs “conventional” Iraqi military forces before we could even get to the point where we are at today.
    The current stateless, air forceless insurgency operation “enemy” NEVER was a credible MILITARY threat & never required any specific/special military equipment/system to defeat. All that is/was REALLY needed is/was the will (& the political permission) to actually FIGHT them.
    As for COIN, MQ-1 Predator & more recently MQ-9 Reaper have been doing that job for the USAF.

  • Reginald Oka

    A little backup if the U.S. or Iraqi forces are slow on the response. Two .50 calibers isn’t much firepower, but enough to hose the bad guys long enough to allow for an extraction or a quick getaway. Buys time for the little birds to get inbound with more firepower.

  • SCC

    “Two .50 calibers isn’t much firepower, but enough to hose the bad guys long enough to allow for an extraction or a quick getaway.”
    The Tucano isn’t limited to two .50 cals, it was designed to carry two fixed .50s and mount weaponry on up to 5 hardpoints. The hardpoints can take 20mm cannon pods, rockets and bombs (including a limited variety of precision guided munitions) and air to air missiles. Load her up and she’ll do more than allow forces under fire to make a quick getaway…
    “The plane or jet of this type is not a good COIN aircraft at all, even a A-10, no matter what type. A good COIN aircraft is something with a good observation capability such as a helicopter, a predator, or a C130 Gunship that can make good observations and precision strikes. An attack helicopter like the Apache is by far the best type of COIN aircraft out there.”
    Excuse me? Did you ever hear of the Hawker Typhoon or the A-1 Skyraider? Aircraft like the Tucano & A-10 are excellent COIN aircraft, particularly when a JTAC (or similar) is on the ground.
    They carry enough firepower for multiple attacks (including with precision munitions if needed), can transit to hotspots quicker than any attack helicopter can and have battlefield loiter times in excess of 2 hours (greater than most, if not all, attack helicopters). Fitted with drop tanks (or even air-to-air refuelling capability for the A-10) they can increase their loiter time & range considerably further, making them more useful over a wider area than an attack helicopter. Recon/targeting pods (like the Litening) can also be fitted to some of these low’n’slow aircraft giving them excellent observation capabilities.
    They’re also arguably less vulnerable than rotary winged aircraft being able to loiter at higher (and safer) altitudes and attack at greater speeds reducing the chance of being hit on attack runs.
    COIN aircraft are a valuable part of COIN air-ops, they offer a subtly different set of capabilities that complement those of choppers and UCAVs. Writing them off so easily is a mistake…

  • W Jacobs

    Mike you might want to check out the article.
    They will be no slouch with that kind of avionics suite. Also they will be a great deal cheaper than an Apache or AC-130. The super Tucano is capable of delivering precision weapons.

  • W Jacobs

    Heres a link to a Tucano working with an observation aircraft. You will see the little fighter come in and take shots on the drug plane.

  • ohwilleke

    There are lots of ideas floating around out there about how to find a politically feasible way to replace or supplement the capabilities of the A-10 for counterinsurgency warfare. This one is a might bit too creative for my tastes.

  • Roy Smith

    C’mon,whats the problem? The U.S. contracts Blackwater to perform counter-insurgency missions “off the books;” Blackwater uses “their own money” to purchase Super Tucanos for the counter-insurgency missions;no “tax money” is diverted from F-22 or F-35 programs to pay for this purchase.Everybody’s happy all over.
    Maybe Blackwater’s “Air Force” is the 21st Century “Seaspray” organization for Black-Ops’ air missions.
    NOBODY would seriously believe that Blackwater would attack the U.S.,especially using Super Tucanos.Arguing if the Super Tucano is the right choice…..for Blackwater,only makes sense if you are on the board of directors for Blackwater.

  • Maluka

    Blackwater is smart. They know that if Hussein Obama is elected president those with firepower will be the only ones able to protect themselves after Obama sells us out.
    Remember Obama’s words from his book the Audacity of Hope: “I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.”
    That sounds like a sell out to me.

  • what ever

    “The reality is most Blackwater staff are former US military and are loyal to the US. Short of civil war Blackwater isn’t going to use this equipment on its own country”
    If they re so loyal why not return to the military and serve thier country again or taking the pay cut is too much service for them

  • Patrick

    A prop job with a couple of 50’s and a rocket or two and folks are manning the sweat pumps about Black Water(again)! We trust our politicians flying about in their private jets loaded with fuel& hot air. Me thinks I’ll trust Black Water.

  • J.Koehler

    (With credit to Simon & Garfunkel for the tune):
    Hello Darkness my old friend
    I see the Republic is soon to end
    In a world of chaotic stateless crime
    The New Empire will rise in time
    and the Caesars will contend
    (Toynbee said these cycles never end)
    and a vision comes to mind
    of Nietzche’s future world of war
    and Orwell’s 1984
    Oh yes, “Rome” will decline and fall,
    (can’t we hear the clarion call?)
    and the music thunders loud
    and the vision of the cloud
    is of a mushroom bright and tall
    and shattered cities, dieing trees
    and shattered peoples,scattered leaves,
    Baghavad-Gita The Song of God
    repeats this is a road down which we’ve trod
    and this vision is the vision of a player
    designated as the “red slayer”
    and the slayer is merely a tool
    used by the universal fool
    for “if the red slayer thinks HE slays
    he knows not the ways” of the endless maker-user
    there is no winner there’s no loser
    no victim, no abuser,
    just a wheel turning once again
    Hello Darkness, my old friend.
    ——olde father-the-recalcitrant

  • Roy Smith has an article about the U.S. Government buying 8 Super Tucanos for use in Iraq.
    Now since the article is very vague about what they are being bought for,I wonder if they are buying them to “give” to the new Iraqi Air Force? Blackwater could provide “trainers(?)” to “teach” Iraqi pilots how to use it(which is stupid because Iraq had pilots who flew MiG-25s & MiG-29s).Is this a new Counterinsurgency “Air Force” to be used by Blackwater in Iraq?

  • Damn

    Good for them doing the right thing. But people its not like they have F14’s or something come on. Mostly anything can shoot down those planes even bebe guns. Let them do their business in the other countries everything will be fine.

  • justbill

    “So what happens when a contract with the US Gov goes bad — say Congress pulls funding from a contract midway through the agreement. Will Blackwater use this kind of equipment to come collect what it’s owed?”
    Thanks, I just spit-up some of my ceral laughing at this.
    The only person Blackwater could extort with this kind of firepower is Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans the next time he uses mercenaries to confiscate guns from their legal owners.

  • Rhyno327/lrsd

    I got no problem with it. Companies like Blackwater will, and are now, work hand in hand with the US military. These guys are pro’s, and having them on our side is a plus. They are able to do things for the US that official military can’t.

  • Opfor6

    This would be perfect for our Border Patrol, of course armed with the .50cal for deterring infiltration along our borders.
    Low and slow, armed to the teeth. That’s the ticket.
    Coyote season is now open.

  • Edward

    I think you are missing why blackwater would like a aircraft like this. Blackwater already has a failr decent Helicopter fleet of Little Birds. They bought a single plane from the looks of the article. It is unarmed, the wing guns were removed. It can fly higher and faster than a helicopter can as well. This is a perfect platform for recon. Most times it can fly high enough to avoid most ground fire, although stingers and MANPADS will always be a threat, but they aren’t really concerned with those coming after this aircraft.
    It will have a small footprint and since its most likely going to be unarmed, it can probably also be used as a sensor platform. I can picture them hooking up some FLIR pods to this thing so they can see bad guys during low light missions. If they are using it for training, it could also possibly mean that they are trying to bid on contracts to train pilots, perhaps Afghani or Iraqi Airforce pilots on their limited aircraft currently available. This thing is faster than most prop plane they would have, but not jet speed yet and would give them the option of using it for route recon missions.

  • Torch

    I think you’ve been watching too many spy movies.:) Most, if not all of Blackwater, is made up of prior service and special forces members of our military. I seriously doubt they have any intention, other than providing support for our front line troops, dignitaries, and senior ranking officials. It’s not like they’re a bunch of “Ruby Ridge” survivalists, waiting to take down our Government.
    Having Super Tucanos provide COIN and FAC for US, Iraq, and Blackwater is a perfect match. We haven’t had a plane, like this one, available to us, since the OV-10.

  • freefallingbomb

    I bet that in the near future the U.S. Armed Forces only exist to “project power” abroad (= to impress street children in Third World harbour cities with their fancy aircraft carriers), to receive vassals of the U.S.A. at the airport with fanfare and to spin Propaganda, because the Nazi invasions themselves will be increasingly perpetrated by foreign “civilians” “working” for U.S. American mercenary companies at the U.S. Emperor’s fickle whims…

  • Rottie

    Our army has not had an effective propeller driven ground support aircraft since the A1 Skyraider in Vietnam, aside from helecopters. It is about time we started looking at that type of asset again. It certainly is not the “Mudfighter” our defense folks looked at after Vietnam and that the Air Force protested against as an infingement upon their territory, but is a step in the right direction. Perhaps a “Mudfighter” type of aircraft will emerge from this step. Our ground troops require this type of support which contrary to popular opinion was not filled by the F15 or F16. “Go Army”!

  • The Cenobyte

    The question here more than anything else is why? Why do they need to train pilots to fly what is really a ground attack aircraft? There are much better aircraft for recon for far less money. Do we really want companies with the systems and know how to fly ground attack missions against insurgence? Remember this same company send armed people into NO after the flood. For that matter, whats going to happen to those armed helos when they come home?

  • WR

    Byron Skinner,

  • WR

    Not all reporters are draft dodgers, and not all of us are puddy boys. Strange conclusions you have, baby boy.

  • Phil White

    They probably bought it because the Iraqi air force is buying several. I imagine Blackwater is looking at training Iraqi pilots on that aircraft. Just a guess.

  • John

    St. Peter was welcoming some new arivals at the Purly Gates……He asked each arrival what their name was and what they were noted for.
    A black guy comes up to him and St. Peter says:
    “What is your name?”
    The guy says “Barack Obama.”
    “And what are you noted for Mr. Obama?”
    “I was the first black man ever elected as president of the United States.”
    “Oh, when were you elected?”
    “About 20 minutes ago.”

  • Mike

    Yes I still believe this plane is a good close air support aircraft, but not the best COIN aircraft.
    Like I said before, an aircraft like an attack helicopter, AC130 gunship, or something like the predator are all great COIN aircraft because they can 1. Observe with great sensors for the few enemies making the attack and causing the trouble, and 2. Make the precision strike or more if needed.
    Some aircraft can do one or the other, but the ones I mentioned above can do both very well. This plane mentioned can make strikes.. but we have plenty of aircraft that can do that. What is needed is an all in one aircraft such as an AC130, Attack helo (Apache) or UAV like the predator with a great sensor pod below it and hellfire precision strikes. Aircraft like the A10, Tucano, and Fighter jets able to make precision drops are all good ground support craft, but not COIN aircraft. Theres a difference.

  • S M C H

    The problem is 20 billion racketeering and orgnanized ‘terror’ and ‘anti-terror’ groups and growing all under satellites while running trillions behind it in fraud, leaving every part of society baren, while setting up ‘new’ militaries, deals, organized crime; and those who are willing to validate it as ‘peace’ and other terms which never come about, nor democracy; all being indicted and in line for indictments and ‘privately’ run as ‘state’ Over 50 trillion a year in fraud with tax payer dollars and lives. not one military, UN, USAID, national area of government, business, nongovernment not indicted or will be in line for it for running the crime money. Every bit of it, totally ran by a only a few while disseminating claims of ‘peace’ The destruction is well ahead of any ‘reform’ or fixing. Over 50 million displaced by mortgage fraud and crimes in the U.S. last year, and over 50 million indicted for obstructions of justice, organized hate crimes, including military, war all under satellites growing fraud; more than 50 times the amount of ‘war’ and hate groups from the 1920’s at which time there also was used ‘Foreign legions’ in France, and elsewhere all on their very own public and others; to believe the Patriotic plore and ‘hate’ and ‘war.’ Even the ‘Empire’ is now just a vaccuuming, of every dime in radiation, chemical, drugging using all agents, gangs. All agencies used as private dollars and money, including the torture facilities and prison programs, and kidnappings, even legal kidnappings resorting to using military. This has taken place again, nonstop running crime money for over 50 years, and increasing. Crime money doesn’t have full brains.

  • osama

    go go gadget
    gota love them nuckel heads
    usa is soon to be a third world country if we allow the things that are going on like they are
    im ready for most anything are you.
    time for a all out revelutionary war in this country.
    get rid of w dc and start all over
    vote ron paul

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  • Yerik

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    I am from Spain and now study English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “”
    Thank :D Yerik.

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