For the Royal Air Force, 2019 sees the retirement of two very different but equally important aircraft types. The Tornado GR4 bowed out in March, while the Shorts Tucano T1 is now into its last months of operation. Derek Bower charts the history of the aircraft that helped to train most of today’s RAF frontline fast jet pilots.
The Royal Air Force Tucano was born out of a requirement to replace the BAC Jet Provost Basic Fast Jet Training (BFJT) aircraft. This process began with the issue of Air Staff Target 412 (AST.412) that saw no fewer than 17 types being considered for the role.
Staff from the Central Flying School (CFS) conducted months of flying evaluations and on March 21, 1985, the Embraer EMB-312 Tucano was selected. The choice wasn’t without controversy – it was widely rumoured that the preferred platform was the Pilatus PC-9. Before the selection process had begun a long list of ‘must meet’ and several ‘would be valuable’ requirements had been specified.