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Mercenary Air

by Ward Carroll on June 2, 2008

blackwater-tucano.jpg

This morning Military​.com 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

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