The Argentine Air Force enhances its search and rescue, air assault, and internal security operations with new equipment.
The Argentine government incorporated four Bell 412EP helicopters into the Argentine Air Force (FAA, in Spanish) as part of its efforts to upgrade its aerial fleet. The move improves FAA’s search and rescue, humanitarian aid, natural disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations. The new units were formally introduced on February 20th in the military sector of the Jorge Newbery Airfield in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“The modern aircraft acquired under the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales Program will allow the Air Force to fulfill the responsibilities assigned by the Argentine government,” Colonel César Grando, chief of FAA’s Department of Institutional Communication, told Diálogo. “They will be used in important tasks such as air assault, troop transport, aerial refueling, aeromedical evacuation, and air transport.”
The aircraft will be based in the 7th Air Brigade of Moreno in Buenos Aires, where FAA houses its helicopters. The four aircraft were assembled at the Quilmes Material Area, an FAA workshop in Buenos Aires, after fully completing technical requirements. The helicopters are in optimal flight condition.
“National aviation will help with other types of tasks, including some that are outside the realm of the Air Force, such as surveillance command and control, reconnaissance and intelligence, domestic security support, assisting Antarctic operations, and participating in the construction of the Subregional Defense System,” Col. Grando said. “The arrival of these helicopters is of fundamental importance for missions to control illegal movement across Argentine borders, peacekeeping work in hostile areas, and training crews.”
Argentina submitted a proposal for the aircraft, which the U.S. Department of State approved in 2015. Valued at $80 million, the purchase includes associated equipment, spare parts, pilot training, logistical support, tools, and technical assistance. Bell Helicopter, a Textron Inc. company in Fort Worth, Texas, designed and manufactured the aircraft.
“Since FAA had already incorporated this kind of aircraft, there were technical personnel and pilots who knew this weapon system,” Colonel Fernando Valentich, chief of FAA’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, told Diálogo. “Even so, as part of the contract, a small number of pilots and technicians were trained.”
“In particular, in reference to more of a practical question, such as the technical and operational compatibility of this weapon system, this model is a continuation of the Bell 212 [that Argentina has],” Col. Valentich said. “That doesn’t make it 100 percent compatible, but the similarity between the two makes logistics, maintenance, and operations work on the aircraft much more practical.”
According to the Bell website, the Bell 412EP has a Pratt & Whitney PT6T-3DF engine—with 25 million flight hours logged on more than 2,000 aircraft worldwide—and a dual digital automatic flight control system. Its safety features include rupture-resistant fuel cells and shock-absorbing seats for crewmembers, a flight range of up to 357 nautical miles, and can be equipped with a cargo hook. Its spacious cabin provides flexibility for various missions. The aircraft can be configured to accommodate up to 14 passengers and a pilot.
The new version of the Bell 412EP has a series of innovations such as auxiliary fuel tanks, adaptability of configuration to carry stretchers for medical evacuations, and a search and rescue tracking for downed aircraft. The cabin also has a night vision panel, FAA indicated in a press release.
“It will be the responsibility of Argentine Air Force personnel, from the General Materiel Directorate at the most senior level, to the maintenance personnel under the 7th Brigade Technical Group, to carry out security and defense missions in the country and be more efficient to support natural disaster relief,” Col. Valentich said. “The Argentine Ministry of the Interior manifests its plans and programs for the governmental and provincial police, along with the prefecture and the National Gendarmerie. The Armed Forces lend their support, especially logistical support, to execute these missions.”
The new helicopters will join the rotary-wing systems already in operation, placing Argentina among a select group that possesses first-rate technologies, FAA pointed out. In 2015, the force incorporated two Bell 412EP units into its fleet.
“The plan that allowed for the incorporation of these helicopters anticipates a total of 12 to complete the fleet,” Col. Valentich said. “So, we will completely replace the old Bell 212 in our current arsenal that fulfilled all their assigned tasks up to today,” he concluded.