The Argentina Pucara combat aircraft can be traced back to the mid-1960's. The Argentina Airforce requested the Fabrica Militar de Aviones (Military Aircraft Factory) to develop a new combat aircraft capable of performing COIN, CAS and reconnaissance missions. "Pucara" is named after a form of South American stone hill fortress.
Powered by a pair of Garrett TPE331-U-303 turbo props, the first flight of the prototype AX-2 Delfin was on 20 August 1969. Subsequent prototypes turned to use the French Turbomeca Astazou XVIG turboprops.
The Pucara turned to be initial operational capability in 1975. Approx. 70 are in service in two countries, Argentina & Colombia. Initial production began in early 1970s and 60 were procured. This was followed by a production run of 48 more later in the 1970s. The Pucara is one of the few modern combat aircraft with turboprop power. It has two Turbomeca Astazou XVIG turboprops, max power 978 equivalent shaft hp each. It can be used on unimproved airfields and to maximize loiter time. Its slender profile and narrow fuselage cross-section reflects its "gunship" mission. In fact, Pucara is some how similar to attack helicopters.
The Pucara's narrow, semi-monocoque fuselage has a deep forward section. An armored cockpit floor protects the pilots. The g limits of Pucara is +6/-3. The stalky main landing gear struts retract forward into the engine nacelles. The nose gear retracts forward into a well ahead of the cockpit. A single-piece canopy is hinged to the rear. The pilot rides in the forward, lower seat; the rear, co-pilot seat is 10 in (250 mm) higher. The pilot has a reflector gunsight for the weapons system.
The Pucara`s armament are 2 internal Hispano HS804 20-mm cannon and 4 internal FN Browning 7.62-mm guns on each side of the cockpit. Modern attack aircrafts seldom carry the machineguns because of the short range and little damage to armor targets, but Pucara is widly used in low intension mission against guerilla. On the centerline pylon, it can carry 2,205-lb (1,000-kg) weapons, as well as a 1,102-lb (500-kg) pylon under each wing, outboard of the engines, carry bombs, rocket pods, gun pods, and drop tanks.
The IA58A is the first production 2-seat version. 108 produced for Argentina, six of which were later sold to Uruguay. Some have been fitted with an extra fuel tank in place of the rear seat, opaqued rear half of canopy. The IA58B is fitted with 30mm cannon armament in deepened front fuselage, avionics upgraded. Prototype flew on 15 May 1979, but never enter production. The IA58C Single-seat version with "broken nose" housing 30mm DEFA 553 cannon, hardpoints on outer wings for Magic 2 air-to-air missiles, existing wing pylons able to carry and launch Martin Pescador anti-ship missiles or 2 more Magic 2. Avionics include Head-Up Display, SAAB RGS-2 lead-computing sight, Omega/VLF navigation system, Identification Friend or Foe (IFF). Some IA58A Pucaras may be converted to IA58C configuration.
The IA66 is a IA58A fitted with 1,000-shp Garrett TPE331-11-601W turboprops and first flown in late 1980. Different nacelle with deeper ross-section and intake over propeller shaft. But this type was not placed into roduction.
The Pucara attacked the UK Royal Navy & Army in the Falklands War. They were mainly from the Argentina 3rd Attack Group (Grupo 3), about 24 Pucaras to Falklands. Nearly a third of the force was destroyed on the ground by special units of UK. Another quarter was lost to ground fire, accidents, and other causes. The remainder was captured when the British forces seized the Islands. Some were shot down by Sea Harrier fighter. A Pucara shot down a Westland Scout helicopter on 28 May 1982, which the only one Royal aircraft shot down by Argentina Airforce. In the San Carlos area, the Pucara attacked the HMS Ardent with rockets ripping her side open. Warships of the time relied heavily on high use of aluminum for their construction, certainly offering an inviting target for an armor-piercing rocket.
In December 1989, three Pucaras were loaned by Colombia against drug manufacturers and smugglers. It is believed that these aircraft come from undelivered aircraft that had been held in storage. It has been reported that over 40 used Pucara aircraft are available for export and Argentina is actively seeking buyers.
In 2007, an FAA FMA IA 58 Pucará was converted to carry a modified engine operating on soy-derived bio-jet fuel. The project, financed and directed by the Argentine Government (Secretaría de Ciencia Tecnología e Innovación Productiva de la Nación), made Argentina the second nation in the world to propel an aircraft with biojet fuel. The project intends to make the FAA less reliant on costly fossil fuels.
wing span: 47 ft 6 3/4 in (14.50m)
never-exceed speed (Vne): 405kts (466mph; 750km/h)