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FMA SAIA 90 - Argentina, 1989

Detailing the development and operational history of the FMA SAIA 90 4th Generation Multirole Fighter / Fighter-Bomber.

 Entry last updated on 6/22/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  FMA SAIA 90  
Picture of FMA SAIA 90

The FMA SAIA 90 of the mid-1980s stood as a rather ambitious multirole fighter platform for the nation of Argentina - it did not progress far.

In the middle part of the 1980s, Argentine aero-industry laid plans for what was to become a largely indigenous air superiority fighter through the FMA "SAIA 90". The project was headed locally by Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA) with assistance from Dornier of what was then West Germany. The SAIA 90 represented the final stage of what was to encompass a the FMA IA-63 "Pampa" advanced trainer and the eventually-abandoned IA-67 "Cordoba" attacker. The SAIA 90 project followed the IA-67 in becoming an unrealized aircraft for the South American country.

As FMA lacked the knowhow to produce a complete aircraft all on its own it was to rely heavily on outside assistance to brining the program to fruition. It leaned on Dornier as the two companies had already worked on the aforementioned IA-63 and production of this compact aircraft began in 1984 but resulted in only 27 examples completed. From this work, design studies were formed by the German half and the new fighter aircraft was slowly fleshed out. Carbon fibers were selected for part of the aircraft's construction as was titanium for high heat resistance of certain areas of the fuselage.

On paper, what became the SAIA 90 was to feature many of the relatively advanced concepts appearing in fighter designs of the period - attention would be particularly paid to reducing the radar cross-section. Concept work revealed a sleek aircraft with the radar system mounted in a streamlined nosecone ahead of the single-seat cockpit. The wing mainplanes were shoulder-mounted with straight trailing edges (swept along the leading edges) and wingtip support for short-range Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs). A twin-engine configuration would provide the necessary power and operational ranges needed while being aspirated through side-mounted intakes. Vertical tail fins, canted outward from centerline, were to be mounted well-ahead of the tail unit and the planned horizontal tailplanes would feature sweepback.

In many ways, the physical characteristics of the Argentine SAIA 90 mimicked that of the American McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A-18 "Hornet" carrier-based fighter complete with leading edge extensions at the wingroots (reaching forward to the cockpit), the twin-engine configuration, and the forward-set stabilizers.

In service, the aircraft was to carry a multirole capability and a two-seat trainer form was also planned to cover the nuisances of flying the advanced aircraft. Dimensions included a length of 15.5 meters, a height of 3.9 meters, and a wingspan of 10.9 meters. Empty weight was 7,800 kilograms against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 14,500 kilograms.

While never settled, the engines would most likely have been 2 x General Electric F404 series afterburning turbofan units (or similar) perhaps in the 11,000/17,000lb (dry/afterburning) output range. Estimated performance would net a maximum speed of Mach 2.25 with a service ceiling up to 50,000 feet and a range out to 3,380 kilometers - very similar to the American F/A-18 series.

In terms of armament, an internal 27mm Mauser cannon was projected as a standard fit and eleven hardpoints (all external), including the wingtip missile mounts, would be featured for stores. Several would also be plumbed for jettisonable fuel tanks. Up to 5,000 kilograms of munitions could be carried in the form of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles as well as more conventional ordnance. It is conceivable that, with the right armament, the aircraft was also to undertake anti-radar sorties and general airspace denial roles as required.

Despite the many obstacles in the way of the project, it was foreseen that deliveries of the new machine could begin as soon as 1991. However, FMA became burdened with financial troubles of its own and failed to entice global industry partners to help the product succeed. As a result, the ambitious SAIA 90 initiative was abandoned and eventually fell away to history.

FMA SAIA 90 Specifications

Service Year: 1989
Type: 4th Generation Multirole Fighter / Fighter-Bomber
National Origin: Argentina
Manufacturer(s): Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA) - Argentina / Dornier - West Germany
Total Production: 0

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 50.85 feet (15.5 meters)
Overall Width: 35.93 feet (10.95 meters)
Overall Height: 12.99 feet (3.96 meters)

Weight (Empty): 17,196 lb (7,800 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 31,967 lb (14,500 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: PROBABLE: 2 x General Electric F404 turbofan engines developing 12,345 lb of thrust each.

Maximum Speed: 1,501 knots (1,727 mph; 2,780 kph)
Maximum Range: 1,825 nautical miles (2,100 miles; 3,380 km)
Service Ceiling: 57,415 feet (17,500 meters; 10.87 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 50,000 feet-per-minute (15,240 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

1 x 27mm Mauser internal Gatling gun

Support for up to 5,000 kilograms of external stores across eleven hardpoints; ordnance support for Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) and Air-to-Surface Missiles (ASMs) as well as smart munitions, guided ordnance, and conventional drop bombs.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Argentina (cancelled)

Model Variants

SAIA 90 - Base Series Designation
SAIA 90A - Proposed single-seat multirole fighter / fighter-bomber.
SAIA 90B - Proposed two-seat trainer variant

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