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FMA IA-58 Pucara (Fortress)

Argentina (1975)
Picture of FMA IA-58 Pucara (Fortress) Counter-Insurgency Platform / Ground Attack Aircraft

The impressive FMA IA-58 Pucara was fielded by Argentine forces during its Falklands War with Britain and remains in active service today.


Detailing the development and operational history of the FMA IA-58 Pucara (Fortress) Counter-Insurgency Platform / Ground Attack Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 6/21/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The impressive-looking, two-seat IA-58 Pucara (meaning "Fortress") was produced by the Fabrica Militar de Aviones of Argentina. The aircraft was classified as a counter-insurgency ground-attack system capable of rough-field operation and designed with a multitude of munition options to suit the role. The Pucara was built for speed, maneuverability, lethality and crew survivability in mind. In many regards, the Argentine Pucara shared many similarities - in both its combat role and outward design - to the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco. As many as 160 Pucaras are thought to have been produced in total.

Development

The Pucara was designed to meet an Argentine specification requirement for a counter-insurgency platform. Development of the aircraft began in 1966 with the initial prototype achieving first flight on August 20th, 1969 as the AX-2 "Delfin". The first prototype Delfin was powered by twin Garrett AiResearch TPE331I/U-303 turboprop engines of 904 shaft horsepower while the second prototype featured the production-common Turbomeca Astazous series turboprops. The second prototype took to the air in September of 1970. The first production Pucara became airborne on November 8th, 1974 and this was followed by quantitative production as handled by the government-run Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA). Deliveries to the Argentine Air Force's 3rd Air Brigade began in 1975 and continued on into 1976.

Walkaround

Design of the Pucara was relatively conventional. The tandem two-seat cockpit was situated in the extreme forward area of the fuselage with seating for pilot and copilot. This area was covered over by a clamshell canopy with light framing, divided up into two major pieces made up of the forward windshield section and the main canopy body covering both pilot positions. Visibility from either cockpit was good-to-excellent thanks to its somewhat raised position and clear views throughout.

Both positions are also afforded Martin-Baker Mk 6AP6A "Zero-Zero" ejection seats as well as dual pilot controls. The AP-6A series seats allow for ejection at zero speeds and at zero altitude (hence the name) and could be activated by pulling the faceblind situated over the operator's head.

Wings were low-mounted monoplane types with integrated engine nacelles and sported noticeable dihedral outboard of each engine placement. The engines were placed close to the fuselage and wingroots and sported three-blade French Ratier Forest propellers of solid Duralumin construction. A careful observer would be quick to note the propellers placement well ahead of the engine cowl - this was necessitated by the length of the gearbox (the gearbox matches engine speed to the speed of the propeller). Engine inlets are electrically heated.

The engine nacelles also housed the dual-wheeled main landing gears while the nose gear sat forward and below the fore-most cockpit position. The undercarriage was of a conventional tricycle arrangement and fully retractable with the main legs retracting forward and covered over by twin doors. Similarly, the fully-steerable single-wheeled nose leg also retracted forward and covered up by twin doors. When at rest, the aircraft provided a tall ground clearance making work underneath the airplane more "ground crew friendly". The fuselage was streamlined and finished in a raised empennage adorned with a single vertical tail fin containing a large-area rudder. The horizontal tailplanes sat high on the fin in a "T-style" arrangement. Construction of the aircraft in whole was of all-metal.

Armament

As a close-support/counter insurgency role aircraft, the system was inevitably defined by its the armament options. This included standard armament such as the 2 x 20mm Hispano-Suiza HS-804 series autocannons mounted in the lower forward fuselage and supplemented by a battery of 4 x 7.62mm Browning FM M2-20 machine guns fitted in pairs on either side of the forward fuselage. Beyond that, the forte of the Pucara lay in the plethora of air-to-surface munition options afforded to the system. This included various 7.62mm and 12.7mm gun pods, conventional drop bombs (triple rack capable), 2.75" rocket pods, mine dispensers and anti-ship torpedoes on two underwing pylons and one centerline fuselage hardpoint.
Performance

Performance for the Pucara was provided for by 2 x Turbomeca Astazou XVIG turboprop engines delivering up to 978 horsepower apiece. Maximum speed was approximately 310 miles-per-hour with a cruising speed listed at 267 miles-per-hour. A range of 2,305 miles was complimented by a service ceiling of up to 31,800 feet.

Variants

Variants have been few and far between for the limited-production Pucara. This included the AX-2 "Delfin" prototype followed by the base (and definitive) IA-58A two-seat production model. The IA-58B "Pucara Bravo" was a proposed single-seat prototype development featuring improved avionics and an "upgunned" armament suite consisting of 2 x 30mm DEFA cannons. First flight was achieved on May of 1979. The IA-58C was another proposed single-seat prototype design but this model featured a faired-over front cockpit, similar 30mm cannon armament, improved avionics, additional armor for the second enlarged cockpit and provision for Matra Magic air-to-air missiles and Martin Pescador anti-ship missiles. This variant prototype first flew in December of 1985 though the financial situation in Argentina killed the project by the late 1980s. The IA-66 became yet another "one-off" prototype aircraft that fitted two Garrett TPE331-11-601W turboprop engines of 1,000 horsepower in place of the Turbomeca powerplants but, again, no production orders were forthcoming. Beyond that, the Pucara has never evolved past its original two-seat counter-insurgency form.

At War

In its first year of operation, the Pucara was put to good use by the Argentine government in combating rebel elements in the country's northwest region. The aircraft also played a prominent role in Argentine Air Force operations during the upcoming Falklands War with Britain in 1982. In the conflict, the Pucara's limitations (and that of her warplanners) shown painfully through. Of the twenty-four that were fielded by the government at the time, all were lost to either destruction while still on the ground, by sabotage courtesy of British special forces SAS members or by capture courtesy of the British Army. One such captured Pucara went on to serve as a showpiece in the RAF Museum Cosford after undergoing evaluation by the Royal Air Force. Another found a similar home as a British trophy in the Imperial War Museum. The Argentine Air Force was credited with its only air kill of the war when a Pucara shot down a Royal Marine Westland Scout helicopter on May 28th, 1982.

Pucara Future

The failures of the Pucara in the Falklands War did not endear the type to future Argentine military endeavors and, as such, the system was generally relieved of service with many out of frontline operation by 1986. As of this writing, current military operators of the Pucara still include the Argentine Air Force (and still operating with the 3rd Air Brigade) and the Uruguayan Air Force, though in very limited numbers with the latter as well. Former operators of the type have included the Columbian Air Force and the Sri Lankan Air Force. Sri Lanka utilized the type in their counter-insurgency strikes occurring between 1993 and 1999 to which three were known to be lost.

Despite its lackluster combat performance in the Falklands War, the Pucara netted some potential production contracts during her tenure for at her core she really was an exceptional low-altitude, close-support aircraft. However, production contracts Egypt (50 units), Central African Republic (12 units) and Iraq (20 units) were all cancelled by the buyer or vetoed by the Argentine government.

At least 20 Pucaras are being modernized for the Argentine Air Force and there is growing talk of restarting the production lines to filfull demand for a conventional counter-insurgency platform across South America.

FMA is now known under the Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) brand label.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (311mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
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LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
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  LAX
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  NYC
Graph showcases the FMA IA-58 Pucara (Fortress)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
155
155


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


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Origin: Argentina
Year: 1975
Type: Counter-Insurgency Platform / Ground Attack Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA) / Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) / Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina SA - Argentina
Production: 155
Status: Active, In-Service
Global Operators:
Argentina; Uruguay; Colombia; Sri Lanka
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the FMA IA-58 Pucara (Fortress) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
46.75 ft


Meters
14.25 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
47.57 ft


Meters
14.5 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
17.59 ft


Meters
5.36 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
8,863 lb


Kilograms
4,020 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
14,991 lb


Kilograms
6,800 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Turbomeca Astazou XVIG turboprop engines developing 978 horsepower each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
311 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
500 kph


Knots
270 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
2,305 mi


Kilometers
3,710 km


Nautical Miles
2,003 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
32,808 ft


Meters
10,000 m


Miles
6.21 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (3):

STANDARD:
2 x 20mm Hispano-Suiza HS-804 autocannons mounted under the nose.
4 x 7.62mm Browning FM M2-20 machine guns, mounted in pairs on the fuselage sides.

OPTIONAL:
2 x 7.62mm Gun Pods
2 x 12.7mm Gun Pods
2 x Conventional Unguided Drop Bombs
2 x 2.75" (70mm) Rocket Pods / Rockets
1 x Mine Dispensers
1 x Torpedo
Variants: Series Model Variants
• AX-2 "Delfin" - Prototype Model Designation
• IA-58A - Initial Production Model Designation; two-seat attack platform.
• IA-58B "Pucara Bravo" - Single Prototype Example; revised avionics suite; fitted with 2 x 30mm DEFA cannons.
• IA-58C "Pucara Charlie" - Single Prototype Example; single-seat; improved avionics; faired over front cockpit; additional armor in enlarged second cockpit; 2 x 30mm cannons; provision for Matra Magic air-to-air missiles and Martin Pescador anti-ship missles.
• IA-58D - Upgraded Pucaras with minor revisions.
• IA-66 - Single Prototype Example; fitted with 2 x Garrett TPE331-11-601W turboprop engines of 1,000ehp.