In 2019, the FMA IA-58 Pucará will mark 50 years since its first flight. Ironically, this rugged close air support aircraft may not reach that milestone, as its final operator prepares to fly the type’s last missions.
The growth of communist guerrilla factions across Latin America, as well as in Africa and Asia, led to the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina, FAA) evaluating a new counterinsurgency aircraft in partnership with domestic manufacturer Fábrica Militar de Aviones (FMA). This was not only to meet an indigenous need but also for wider export to take on the evolving threat. Initial designs were for a small, single-engine aircraft, and these soon grew into a proposal that was externally very similar to the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco. After a glider proof-of-concept model, built with the support of German engineer Reimar Horten, was flight-tested in 1967, there came the confidence to press ahead with a prototype. The first IA-58 Pucará (meaning fortress) made its maiden flight on August 20, 1969, powered by a pair of Garrett TPE331-O3H-U303 engines. They were later replaced by two Turbomeca Astazou XVIG engines producing more power.