Aviation Historian 8
B.Dunnell - Flying the Pucara
Although of poor quality, this is a unique photograph; it shows the ghostly image of the Pucara through the head-up display of David Morgan’s Sea Harrier, XZ459 (itself a veteran of Operation Corporate, the Falklands campaign), during the comprehensive air combat trial undertaken on July 18, 1983.
Pucara A-515 was the best airframe found on the Falklands after the ceasefire in June 1982, and is seen here being inspected at Stanley Airport by British forces including members of the Ministry of Defence’s Technical Intelligence (Air) Department, sent over from London. Note that the serial number was not applied to the port side.
Pucara A-567 photographed by MICHAEL O’LEARY while up from BAM Reconquista in November 1982. This was one of 14 new Pucaras received by Grupo 3 de Ataque in 1982 as replacements for those lost in the Falklands conflict, and remained in service until 2002. The long-serving Pucara still operates with the FAA today.
FMA IA-58A Pucara ZD485, formerly A-515 with the Fuerza Aerea Argentina, with which it served during the Falklands conflict, up from Boscombe Down on June 17, 1983. The manoeuvrable ground-attack aircraft retained its Argentinian camouflage but had RAF roundels and fin flashes applied for its A&AEE evaluation.
On April 28, 1983, Sqn Ldrs Russ Peart (front cockpit) and Tony Banfield took Pucara for its first flight after its reassembly in UK. Despite the ground-attack and counter-insurgency aircraft's reputation as an agile and effective performer at low level, the evaluation team found the type to be something of an under-achiever.
The Pucara at the RAF Cosford Aerospace Museum (now RAF Museum Cosford), where it was delivered in September 1983. It retained its RAF roundels and fin flashes for some time, but was later repainted in its original Argentinian markings and pre-Falklands light camouflage. In 1995 it was allocated Maintenance Serial 9245M.
The Pucara continues to soldier on with the Argentinian and Uruguayan air forces, and there are plans to modernise those still on the former’s inventory with 950 s.h.p. Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprops, to create the IA-58D “Super Pucara”. The Sri Lankan Air Force also used the type in the nation’s civil war during 1993-99.
The Pucara at the International Air Tattoo at RAF Greenham Common on July 23, 1983. Although the Argentinian machine flew in and out of the show, it remained in the static aircraft park for the duration of the weekend.
Despite British curiosity about the Falklands war prize, the Pucara made only two appearances at public airshows during its A&AEE evaluation; one was at RNAS Yeovilton on July 11, 1983, and the other was at the International Air Tattoo at Greenham Common two weeks later, where it is seen here making a pass on arrival.
With its British military serial ZD485 applied and wearing RAF roundels and fin-flashes, the Pucara was demonstrated at the Empire Test Pilots’ School open-day held at Boscombe Down on June 11, 1983. Eagle-eyed observers will notice that the nosewheel door carries the last two digits of its original Argentinian serial, A-515.
Royal Navy Sea Harrier pilot David Morgan strikes a pose at the Pucara graveyard at Stanley Airport. Morgan was an RAF Harrier pilot who was on an exchange programme to learn to fly the Sea Harrier when the Falklands conflict began. He later shot down four Argentinian aircraft and flew a Sea Harrier against the Pucara during its evaluation in the UK.
THE FMA IA-58 PUCARA was designed as a rugged, manoeuvrable dedicated ground-attack and counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft capable of operating from unprepared strips when required. The prototype made its maiden flight, with Garrett turboprop engines, on August 20, 1969, the second prototype switching to Astazou power and first flying on September 6, 1970. The type was put into production and entered service with the Fuerza Aerea Argentina in May 1975.