Back in Business: The Pampa III is part of FAdeA's effort to return to the aerospace market after leaving airframing activities for years. (FAdeA)
PARIS — Relegated to the maintenance and upgrade business when its assembly activities collapsed in the late 1990s, Argentina’s FAdeA hopes to return as a force in the Latin American aerospace market. That includes projects to revive its Pampa jet trainer, assemble Chinese helicopters and partner with Embraer in the KC-390 airlifter program.
State-owned FAdeA — Fabrica Argentina de Aviones “Brig. San Martin” — was out of the airframe business for 14 years before a recent effort to build a new version of the IA-63 Pampa trainer/light attack aircraft resulted in a restart of aircraft assembly.
Before the government took back ownership in 2009, operations were ceded to Lockheed Martin, which performed maintenance of the C-130 Hercules at the company’s site in Cordoba.
The company has been around since 1927 and has designed several fighters, including the Pulqui I, the region’s first combat jet, and the Pulqui II.
FAdeA President Raul Arganaraz joked with reporters at the Paris Air Show last week that one day there might be a Pulqui III.
The new jet-engined Pampa III trainer/light attack aircraft, meanwhile, carries a full glass cockpit supplied by Israel’s Elbit Systems and a host of other updated systems supplied by the likes of Israel Aerospace Industries, Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Liebherr, Sagem and others.
Intriguingly, the suppliers list has been joined by Russian ejection seat builder Zvezda. The move came after FAdeA was banned from installing a British-made Martin-Baker ejection seat on the orders of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s government, according to the FAdeA boss.
Arganaraz told reporters that the ban had been imposed to “guarantee autonomy” of the Pampa III trainer.
Argentina fought a war with the British in the early 1980s over sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and recently the two nations have been at diplomatic loggerheads over the issue, with the Argentine president again raising the temperature over ownership of the South Atlantic islands.
A Martin-Baker Mk10 seat had been used in an earlier version of the aircraft. Arganaraz said the Martin-Baker equipment could be fitted if export customers specified it and the British company wanted to work with them. However, the world-leading British-designed system would not be used in any of the trainer or light tactical aircraft scheduled for delivery to the local armed forces starting mid-2014.
Eighteen of the Pampa IIIs will be for trainer duties, with the remainder of the order of 40 to be for light attack.
The FAdeA president said the Pampa III would make its first flight in December. Target production, including exports, is 100 aircraft, and the company is also looking at a single-seat design, Arganaraz said.
FAdeA signed a pact with German company Grob to offer a training package, including the Pampa III and an elementary flying trainer from the European concern.
Aside from the new Pampa, FAdeA is building a prototype of the CATIC CZ-11 helicopter known locally as the Pampero and is already well into a flight test program.
The plan is to set up its first helicopter production line for local and regional sales of the Eurocopter-derived design.
FAdeA is also involved in a 12-nation effort to develop a new primary/basic trainer. Arganaraz said the partners, which include Brazil, Chile and an array of smaller Latin American countries, are 90 percent through discussions on a way ahead for the Unasur 1.
The company, along with other regional and European aerospace concerns, is also aligned with Latin American aerospace powerhouse Embraer in the Brazilian company’s KC-390 twin-jet airlifter.
FAdeA signed a deal in 2011 to produce a range of structures for the C-130 rival, including spoilers, doors, flap fairings and tail cone.
Argentina is committed to buying six KC-390s in an order book so far dominated by the Brazilian Air Force.
Announcing a marketing deal with Boeing for the airlifter at the Paris show, Embraer said it believed there was a market for up to 700 KC-390s.