The FMA IA 58 Pucará (Fortress) is an Argentine ground-attack and counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft manufactured by the Fábrica Militar de Aviones. It is a low-wing twin-turboprop all-metal monoplane with retractable landing gear, capable of operating from unprepared strips when operationally required. The type saw action during the Falklands War and the Sri Lankan Civil War.
In August 1966, Dirección Nacional de Fabricación e Investigación Aeronáutica (DINFIA), the Argentine state aircraft factory began development of the AX-2, a Counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft to meet a requirement of the Argentine Air Force. The project was promoted by engineer Ricardo Olmedo and came under the guidance of engineer Aníbal Dreidemie, who also designed the IA-52 Guaraní II and the IA-63 Pampa. The chosen layout was a low-wing monoplane powered by two turboprop engines mounted in wing-mounted nacelles and fitted with a T-tail.
Testing of the glider showed no major handling problems, and in September 1968, construction began on a powered prototype, given the designation FMA IA 58 Delfin, but later renamed Pucará, to be powered by a pair of Garrett TPE331I/U-303 engines. (DINFIA had been renamed the Fábrica Militar de Aviones (FMA) earlier that year). The first prototype made its maiden flight on 20 August 1969, with a second prototype, with power switching to Turbomeca Astazou XVIGs, following on 6 September 1970. The first prototype was later re-engined with the Astazou, this engine being chosen for the production version, and a third production prototype followed in 1973. The first production model flew on 8 November 1974, with deliveries beginning in early 1976.
At least three projects were related to the IA-58 development. The first was an extended Pucará airframe with pressurized cabin for six passengers, equipped with Astafan turbofan engines for light transport and photography duties. The second was an observation and reconnaissance aircraft having the same configuration as the Fairchild-Republic A-10. The third was denominated IA-60 and was an advanced trainer and light attack platform powered by two Astafans conserving the basic airframe and canopy of the Pucará with T-tail incorporating high wings. Some tests were made on wind tunnels but no further development was made in order to proceed with the IA-63 Pampa program.
The IA 58 Pucará is of conventional, all-metal (mainly duralumin) construction. The unswept cantilever wings have 7 degrees of dihedral on the outer panels and are fitted with slotted trailing-edge flaps]]. The IA-58 has a tandem cockpit arrangement; the crew of two is seated under the upward opening clamshell canopy on Martin-Baker Mk 6AP6A zero/zero ejection seats and are provided with dual controls. Armour plating is fitted to protect the crew and engines from ground fire. The aircraft is powered by a pair of Turbomeca Astazou engines, driving sets of three-bladed Ratier-Forest 23LF propellers; the propellers are also capable of being used as air brakes.
The Pucará was designed for operations from short, rough airstrips. The retractable tricycle landing gear, with a single nosewheel and twin mainwheels retracting into the engine nacelles, is fitted with low pressure tyres to suit operations on rough ground, while the undercarriage legs are tall to give good clearance for underslung weapons loads. Three JATO rockets can be fitted under the fuselage to allow extra short takeoffs. Fuel is fed from two fuselage tanks of combined capacity of 800L and two self-sealing tanks of 460L in the wings. The undercarriage, flaps and brakes are operated hydraulically, with no pneumatic systems.
Fixed armament of the Pucará consists of two Hispano 804 20 mm cannons mounted under the cockpit with 270 rounds each and four 7.62 mm Browning machine guns mounted on the sides of the fuselage with 900 rounds each. Three hardpoints are fitted for carrying external stores such as bombs, rockets or external fuel tanks, with one of 1000 kg capacity mounted under the fuselage and the remaining two, of 500 kg capacity beneath the wings. Total external weapons load is limited to 1620 kg. Onboard armaments are aimed by a simple reflector sight.
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