How do Light Attack Aircraft (LAA) such as the Embraer Super Tucano descend from their cruise altitude to their loiter altitude to be on-station above ground troops? I want to know the way these airplanes descend and what are typical rate of descent and descent gradient. Do they descend steeply and accelerate?

I know that commercial airplanes descend at a 3 degree angle. Do the LAA also descend at this angle?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Commercial airplane approach and land at 3 degree. Descend is not necessary 3 degree. $\endgroup$
    – vasin1987
    Mar 20, 2021 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not an expert on this particular subject but commonly any manoeuvre is Executed in the most fuel efficient manner unless operational conditions require otherwise. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Mar 20, 2021 at 18:01

1 Answer 1


I cannot answer for the Supertocano, or even light attack aircraft, but I can tell you that in a tactical environment nobody cares about your rate of descent or descent angle, only that you are in your assigned block altitude at the appropriate time.

Descents aren't planned or adhered to in same way that airline descents are, and fighter type aircraft aren’t controlled in the same manner. There is no need to be smooth for paying passengers either - As long as airspeed and G restrictions for your type aircraft are followed, and you don’t violate any theater safety rules, (like blowing through another airplane’s block altitude while they are on station) the area commander just needs you to be on-station, on-target, on-time.

One day you might make an easy cruise descent, the next you might do a split-S. The threat environment plays a part as well. You may have the luxury of making a long easy fuel efficient descent, or you may need to stay high to avoid ground threats, then expedite your descent overhead your station.

I used to like to make a slow descending barrel roll because it was a good way to lose a lot of altitude quickly while visually clearing the airspace 360 degrees around me.


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