Argentine Air Force Revamps Aircraft Fleet

Argentine Air Force Revamps Aircraft Fleet

By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo
December 10, 2018

The Argentine-made Pampa III aircraft will be used for advanced pilot training and the fight against narcotrafficking.

The Argentine Air Force (FAA, in Spanish) will increase its fleet with three IA 63 Pampa III training aircraft in December 2018. State-owned Fábrica Argentina de Aviones Brigadier San Martín (FAdeA) manufactured the aircraft that will serve for pilot training and border patrols north of the country, a narcotrafficking hotspot.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri and Minister of Defense Oscar Aguad were at FAdeA headquarters, in Córdoba for the unveiling ceremony of the aircraft, December 5th. “It’s with pride and joy that we share this special moment and introduce three Pampa III aircraft that will soon protect our borders and contribute to the fight against narcotrafficking”, Macri said.

The aircraft are scheduled for delivery to FAA by year’s end. “The IA-63 Pampa III aircraft is an advanced trainer, equipped with a Turbofan Honeywell TFE731-40-2N engine [a low-power engine of U.S manufacturer Honeywell Aerospace],” Colonel Gonzalo Toloza, head of Evaluation and Approval of FAA’s Research and Development General Directorate, told Diálogo.

“The aircraft has an integrated navigation and assault system that allows the pilot to carry out navigation, air-ground assault, and air-to-air combat operations with the head up, keeping the command stick and HOTAS [hands on throttle and stick] controls in their hands,” Col. Toloza added. According to the officer, the IA-63 Pampa III is a step forward to update FAA’s materials and operational capabilities. “The aircraft will be used for combat pilot training and airspace control and surveillance missions.”

Minister Aguad said that the Pampa III will be a crucial tool in the fight against narcotrafficking. “The three Pampa aircraft that the military aircraft factory in Cordoba will deliver to the Air Force will be used in the fight against narcotrafficking on the country’s northern border,” he told Argentine daily newspaper La Nación. Its manufacture is part of the Argentine Armed Forces’ restructuring plan, which Macri made official with Decree 683/2018 in July 2018. The plan states that the military should provide logistics support to security forces in the fight against narcotrafficking on the northern border.

The first group of service members, with about 500 Army personnel, deployed in mid-August 2018 to La Quiaca, Jujuy province, and Puerto Iguazú, Misiones province, north of Argentina. The objective is to increase the number of troops to 3,000 by year’s end to patrol a 51,600-square-kilometer area with the support of the Pampas III.

Light attack aircraft

From its 1980s beginnings, the IA-63 Pampa received multiple updates. The Pampa II, with better avionics, and the Pampa II-40, with a newer engine for better performance, followed the original IA-63 model.

“With all the updates, the Pampa acquired capabilities for pilot training, becoming a next-generation fighter aircraft,” Carlos Espinedo, an engineer who heads FAdeA’s Certification and Airworthiness Office, told Diálogo. “This is Pampa III’s main mission, although it can also carry weapons and act as a light assault aircraft.”

The aircraft can transport up to 1,500 kilograms of weapons in five compartments: four under the wings and one under the fuselage. It can also carry a 30-millimeter cannon, or 7.62 mm machine guns, in addition to bombs and rockets. “Although the Pampa III’s main mission is training, we can protect our borders with this aircraft, just like the Pampa II presently does,” Espinedo said.

The old analog dashboard in the Pampa III cabin was also replaced with LCD displays. “It has a mission computer integrating all navigation capabilities with the shooting system,” the engineer said. “It also has a head-up display, so the pilot doesn’t have to keep their eyes off target to control the aircraft.”

Highly versatile

The IA-63 Pampa III is a two-seat instruction aircraft with the student sitting in front and the instructor in the rear. The aircraft’s low fuel consumption and weapons carriage capacity allow it to conduct light and tactical missions. “Maintenance is also very simple. If engine replacement is required during a mission, for example, it can be done in just one hour,” Espinedo said. “All these features make the Pampa III a highly versatile aircraft.”

According to Col. Toloza, the new Pampa version is an incentive for airmen following FAA training plans and for all the young people who want to join the institution. “They know they can count on a highly advanced aircraft and cutting-edge features for that kind of technology,” he concluded.