After many years of performing MRO and modernization, Argentina’s historic military aircraft factory at Córdoba is back in business building new aircraft. Now known as Fábrica Argentina de Aviones “Brigadier San Martin” or Fadea for short, the factory has put the IA-63 jet trainer back in production in a new-generation version, which is known as Pampa III. The factory has amassed an impressive roster of international partners for the project, but there is no place for any UK supplier.
“We are not going to use any British-made components. It’s impossible,” said Raúl Alberto Argañaraz, speaking to AIN here at the show. “We have to remember we are civil servants of the government. Our policy is to defend and secure our national interests. We are always looking for the best alternatives to give us [technological] autonomy.”
One element of the current Pampa that thus needs replacement is the original Martin-Baker Mk 10 ejection seat. Fadea has turned to Zvezda to provide the seats for the new IA-63 variant. Argañaraz noted that the Russian company has offered good technology transfer terms, whereas none would be available from Martin-Baker. However, he conceded that, “If some customer prefers the Martin-Baker seat then we will offer it…if Martin-Baker are willing to work with us, of course.”
Pampa III represents the third generation of the trainer. Designed with the help of Dornier, the original aircraft entered service in 1988, and 18 were built for the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Argentine air force). The type was also proposed (in conjunction with Vought) as the Pampa 2000 for the U.S. Jpats competition. In 2004-05 12 were given a partial avionics overhaul to become Pampa IIs and were joined by six similar new-build aircraft.
As a first step to a third generation of Pampa, Fadea re-engined the aircraft with a Honeywell TFE731-40-2N engine (replacing the original TFE731-2-2N) to create the Pampa II-40. The “Dash 40” engine will also power new-production Pampa III machines.
This program got under way in October 2012 with the initial aim of producing 40 new aircraft for the FAA. Following on from that, Fadea is hopeful of selling another 60 or so aircraft and signed a deal with Grob to market the Pampa III jointly as part of an integrated training system with the Grob G 120TP. As well as the new engine and ejection seat, the Pampa III has an all-new avionics system provided by Elbit. It has three large-screen displays and is integrated with a helmet-mounted display. The system allows data-linked training.
Fadea now has the first of an initial batch of 18 Pampa IIIs in production and is scheduled to roll out the first aircraft in October. First flight is expected in December, leading to certification by Argentina’s military approval authority in May next year. The factory will deliver at a rate of one per month.
With development of the IA-63 Pampa III trainer version complete, Fadea and its partners are working on a light attack/weapons trainer version, designated IA-63GT. The final 22 aircraft of the FAA’s order will be in the armed configuration. A first IA-63GT should be built next year, and all deliveries are scheduled for completion by 2017.
As well as Pampa production, Fadea is hoping soon to begin construction of the CZ-11 Pampero helicopter. This is a version of the Chinese Changhe Z-11, itself a copy of the Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil. A prototype was built and has flown more than 200 hours as it moves towards certification.
In terms of international co-operation, Fadea is a partner in the Embraer KC-390 military transport and a major participant in the yet-to-be-named Unasur I regional basic trainer program that brings together a number of South American countries. The consortium is currently evaluating powerplant options for this project, which aims to produce a prototype by the end of next year. Final assembly will be conducted by Fadea, and it will be initially certified in Argentina.
Pampa III and Unasur I illustrate Fadea’s desire to grow in capability through technology transfer and international collaboration. The company’s management has high ambitions: referring back to two indigenous fighter projects from the 1940s and 1950s, Argañaraz remarked, “One day we would love to have an aircraft called Pulquí III.”