Long live the IA-58 Pucara

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Next October 4th, the Argentine AF will phase out its IA-58’s in a ceremony at the Reconquista AB. This will close a 44-year service span of the argentine designed and built aircraft. The Pucara have been exported to Colombia, Uruguay and Sri Lanka. It has seen combat in the South Atlantic Conflict in 1982, between Argentina and the United Kingdom. But considering its intended Counter Insurgency light attack role, was better used in low level guerrilla jungle fighting both in the Colombian civil war and against the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers with its 20mm guns, 7.62 machineguns, bombs and rockets.

The IA-58 was intended to receive several upgrades in its lifetime but actually received only light avionics replacements. Its operators considered it a logistical nightmare not because of the aircraft itself but the -both civilian and military- management of the Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA). Turbomeca suspended the support of the Astazou XVI-G engine, which accelerated the pressure on phasing out the aircraft, this led to the Uruguayan AF’s Pucara being phased out in 2017.

In 2010, the argentine Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) -formerly FMA- was tasked to provide an engine conversion, which with assistance of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) produced an IA-58H demonstrator with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-62 engines but much too late since the AF was already scraping most of the aircraft.

Like the upgraded OV-10G+ Bronco, the AF has intended to upgrade at least a pair of IA-58 with this new engine, avionics and a locally built gyrostabilized platform by FixView to use as an ISR platform. But the argentine peso collapsed 20% in Aug 2019 and the AF’s finances have been impacted very hard. This will take a considerable effort even based on the fact that one of the aircraft to be used will be the engine conversion demonstrator, now designated OVX-501, and thus the uncertainty on the fact if the repurposed aircraft will continue flying or not.

The IA-58’s will be replaced by the EMB-312 Tucanos which have abandoned their role as trainers when the T-6C+ Texan II trainers were purchased.

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