The Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA, Argentine Air Force) participated in a wide-ranging exercise from September 20 to October 6 to improve strategic airlift operations, utilising its newly acquired 737-700 transport aircraft (serial T-99), which was delivered in March this year, among other assets.
During the first day of the exercise, dubbed General Manual Arias and organised and hosted by the Ejército Argentino (Argentine Army), the FAA performed a 36-hour strategic air deployment at Martín Miguel de Güemes/Salta International Airport, Salta, transporting a total of 9,000 Argentine Army troops. This was the first strategic airlift mission performed by the FAA since the Falklands War in 1981.
On the second day of the exercise, four Embraer-312 Tucanos of the FAA arrived at Salta to provide defensive air cover for the KC/C-130H aircraft engaged in both personnel and cargo air supply missions throughout various locations in northwest Argentina. Launch zones operated by the FAA Special Operations Group in the towns of San Antonio de Los Cobres, Salta, while Pumahuasi in Jujuy province, was set up for the air supply drops.
The C-130s would drop up to 300 troops and six cargo containers from early morning to the early hours of the afternoon throughout the exercise. The FAA also had a rotary wing presence at the exercise with two Aérospatiale SA-315B Lama helicopters, which were transported by C-130H to the exercise and were to provide search and rescue capability.
In addition, at the start of the second week, three Fábrica Argentina de Aviones IA-63 Pampa III jet trainers of the VI Air Brigade of the FAA arrived at Salta Airport to perform close fire support drills, among other activities.
The aircraft were attending the exercise to participate in a close aerial fire support drill in a controlled area of northeast Argentina. The jet trainers also performed aerial manoeuvre training in pairs during the exercise and were provided search and recuse coverage from the SA-315BS.
Frontline fighters of the FAA also took part in the exercise, with two Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawks conducting aerial refuelling missions with KC-130H tanker-transport aircraft.