Comparatively smaller air powers of the world - such as that of Argentina - rely on more cost-effective measures to stock their aircraft inventories. In 1988, the Argentine Air Force adopted the FMA IA-63 "Pampa" (translated as "Prairie") as its standard advanced jet trainer with an inherent light strike capability as secondary. Twenty-seven of the type were procured from 1984 onwards with manufacture handled by Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA). The IA-63 continues in active service as of this writing (2014).
Because of the limited capabilities of the Argentine aviation industry, the country teamed with aero manufacturer Dornier of Germany to develop its Pampa aircraft. Up to this point in its history, the Argentine Air Force utilized the French-originated Morane-Saulnier MS-760 "Paris" as its primary trainer. The French company produced just 165 of these in all and these served from 1959 until 1997 at which time they were retired by the French in 1997. The Argentines carried them forward a little longer, retiring their stock as recently as 2007.
Design work on what would become the "Pampa" began in 1978 and a single-engine, high-wing monoplane platform was selected for general simplicity in maintenance and repair. Rather than bring about a completely new aircraft from the ground up, the Dornier "Alpha Jet" was selected as the basis for the Argentine Air Force requirement and this led to the FMA / Dornier partnership taking hold.
The end result was a dimensionally smaller aircraft that mimicked the design lines of the original Alpha Jet. Other key differences were the single engine layout as opposed to the Alpha Jet's dual-engine configuration and the Pampa's straight monoplane wings (the Alpha Jet held swept-back wing mainplanes). A wheeled tricycle undercarriage was wholly retractable, intakes were mounted along the fuselage sides, and the crew of two sat under a single-piece, side-hinged canopy offering good vision out-of-the-cockpit. The wing mainplanes were high mounted along the fuselage sides with two hardpoints featured to each wing element. Their high positioning provided excellent ground clearance for the management of stores (bombs, rocket pods, gun pods). The empennage showcased a sole vertical tail fin with the engine jettisoning from the base of the tail unit.
Dimensions included a length of 35.10 feet, a height of 14 feet, and a wingspan of 31.9 feet. Empty weight was 6,220lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 11,025lb.
Suitable performance was made possible by a single Garrett TFE731-2-N turbofan engine outputting 3,500lbf. Maximum speed remained subsonic at 510 miles per hour with cruising speeds in the 465mph range. Operational range was out to 932 miles with a service ceiling listed at 42,325 feet. Rate-of-climb reached approximately 6,000 feet-per-minute.
As the IA-63 was envisioned with a secondary light strike combat role, a 30mm DEFA-GIAT 554 series cannon was supported by its design. Five total hardpoints (four underwing) allowed for up to 1,430lb of external stores to be carried. The fuselage centerline position was restricted to 550lb of that total as were the two outboard underwing positions.
Initial service models were the IA-63 and aircraft were realized as soon as 1984 but the Argentine economical situation at the time meant that viable strength was not reached until 1988. Two production batches were signed with the first delivering eighteen airframes and the second and additional six airframes. These aircraft were later upgraded to the AT-63 Pampa standard by Lockheed Martin and featured a more advanced/modern avionics kit, broader weapons support for existing Argentine Air Force munitions, and a new engine fitting. Lockheed had absorbed FMA of Argentina by this time.
The Vought "Pampa 2000" was a short-lived upgrade endeavor of the 1990s lead by LTV (Vought) with the project goal to provide the United States Air Force (USAF) / United States Navy (USN) with a new "joint service" universal trainer. The services instead selected the Beechcraft T-6 "Texan II" as the winner of the competition in 1995.
The Argentine Air Force remains the sole operator of the IA-63 Pampa.
FMA is now known as Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA).
The Pampa has been put through a modernization program that includes new-generation avionics (Elbit glass cockpit, helmet-mounted sighting system). Known as "Pampa III", forty systems are earmarked for the Argentine Air Force with 20 set to be configured for the light attack role. First-flight of an aircraft fitting this standard was on March 29th, 2016. The Pampa III was offered to India to replace its outgoing Kiran jet trainer line.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
35.9 ft (10.93 m)
31.8 ft (9.69 m)
14.1 ft (4.29 m)
6,217 lb (2,820 kg)
11,023 lb (5,000 kg)
+4,806 lb (+2,180 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base FMA IA-63 Pampa (Prairie) production variant)
1 x Garrett TFE 731-2-2N turbofan engine developing 3,500lb of thrust.
Gunpods, rocket pods, and conventional drop bombs; up to 1,430lbs of external stores allowed across five total hardpoints (four underwing).
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 5
IA-63 "Pampa" - Base Series Designation; 24 examples delivered beginning in 1988.
"Pampa 2000" - Proposed Joint Primary Aircraft Training System for USAF competition; modification by LTV/Vought.
AT-63 "Pampa" - Modernized IA-63 by Lockheed Martin who acquired FMA; advanced/modernized avionics, new engine, improved weapons support.
"Pampa III" - Modernized model with all-glass cockpit by Elbit of Israel; helmet sighting system; 40 expected for AAF with 20 of these to be made to a light attack standard.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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