Malang based Air Force 21st Squadron which operates EMB-314 Super Tucanos are geared for night operations. Not only their aircrafts are NVG capable, but in a move that have never seen before, Indonesian Air Force are equipped the Tucanos and the pilots with pods and NVGs that enables them to fly attack missions in the complete darkness or adverse weather.
All the 16 Super Tucanos ordered from Brazil is already delivered from the Embraer plant to the Indonesian Air Force. Delivered in batches, some of the plane delivered in the last batch came with surprise: the addition of FLIR Systems Star Safire III pods with hangs under the mid fuselage. Embraer itself offers the integration of the Star Safire as part of the option offered with the purchase of EMB-314, so it seems Indonesian Air Force is exercising those option. The black colored ball-pods integrates electro optical sensor such as thermal camera with 71x zoom capability, laser rangefinder and telemetry, and day camera with 18x zoom. The installation of the FLIR system enables the EMB314 Super Tucanos to perform ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconaissance) mission in squadron without help from other Air Force asset that is not always available in theater.
This is a great leap compared to the previous asset that had been operated by the 21st Squadron, the legendary OV-10F Bronco. Back in the Bronco’s day, the squadron are using handheld Fairchild KB-18 panoramic aerial camera to conduct aerial photography, where the film needs to be developed first and then analyzed by intel team. The Star Safire FLIR will enable real time image capture, processing, and transmitting provided that the plane has the compatible datalink. The FLIR can also be used to mark waypoint and provide safe paths to the friendly forces on the ground by using its laser rangefinder, or marking the ground target for other plane in the flight element, to increase the bombing or rocket strafing accuracy.
21st Squadron pilots are also equipped with ANVIS (Aviator Night Vision System) AN/AVS-6 made by Harris, which also a standard item for US Army pilot. The 3rd gen tube equipped AN/AVS-6 will enable the Super Tucano pilot to see through the bad weather, or the laser marking from the Star Safire III equipped Super Tucanos. Indonesian Air Force has plans to buy more NVGs next year so that all Super Tucanos can be flown in all weather conditions. Hopefully the Indonesian Air Force will also acquires laser guided weapons such as APKWS 2,75” rockets or laser guided bombs so that the Tucanos will be able to fulfill its potential and offers surgical strike capability that is direly needed by the Army.