Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) and Embraer Defense & Security have unveiled the second of three A-29 Super Tucano they are delivering for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).
SNC shared first photos of the aircraft after it landed at its Centennial, Colorado, modification facilities on February 23, 2021.
What makes this aircraft unique is its special paint scheme honoring the P-51 Mustang and P-47 Thunderbolt flown by US Army Air Forces during World War II combat operations in the China, Burma, and India campaigns (Circa 1944).
The paint scheme features the iconic stripes, which first appeared in white paint on aircraft fuselages to easily identify allied air forces planes – primarily the B-25s, C-47s, and P-51s flown by Project 9 American airmen supporting British Chindits. These striped aircraft flew combat operations in the China, Burma, India (CBI) campaign of WWII, circa 1944.
Each stripe represents the five operational sections of Project 9, and eventually the 5318th Provisional Air Unit – ancestor to the 1st Special Operations Wing of today.
These markings appeared after the leader of the Fighter Section – Lt Col Grattan “Grant” Mahony – said he did not want to be fired on by his own fighters during the chaos of combat in the skies of the CBI Theater. Approved by Col Phil Cochran, Project 9 commander, ground crews painted the stripes on P-51 Mustang fighters, L-series aircraft, UC-64 Norseman transports and (later) B-25H Mitchell bombers during reassembly in theater. Whatever the origin, these markings had a second purpose, according to a book on the original Air Commandos. The stripes were “to let the Japanese know who was dominating the skies of Burma.”
Because Lt Col Johnny Alison, co-commander and planner for Project 9, helped plan D-Day operations, some consider the black and white paint scheme on invasion aircraft a lesson-learned from his days with Project 9.
The three Super Tucanos that are being built for AFSOC will not be used in combat, and are being bought to help Combat Aviation Advisor (CAA) train US allied pilots. CAA are air commandos responsible for special operations activities by, with, and through foreign aviation forces. The operators are trained in a wide range of specialized skills that they use to carry out SOF mobility, ISR, precision strike and agile combat support.
The final delivery of all three aircraft takes place this year, with training and support activities continuing through 2024. The first two A-29s, including the one pictured, are currently undergoing modification in SNC’s facilities in Centennial, Colorado, with final production and assembly of the third underway now at Embraer´s facilities in Jacksonville, Florida.
SNC, as prime contractor, and its partner, Embraer Defense & Security, are contracted to deliver the light attack combat and reconnaissance aircraft aircraft, as well as ground support equipment, pilot training, including difference training and instructor pilot upgrade training, contractor logistics support, spares, and sustainment for AFSOCs CAA mission, which helps build international partner capacity.