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HistoryEdit

Initial serviceEdit

Built by Fabrica Militar de Aviones, Argentina, and originally intended for export to Mauritania as M4/5T MAB, A-515 was one of 70 Pucara reconnaissance and counter insurgency attack aircraft delivered to Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Argentina) by early 1982. The airframe had accrued a total of 762.05 airframe hours by 22nd March 1982, including early operational use against guerilla groups operating in northwest Argentina.

As part of the Argentine force invading the British held Falkland Islands, A-515 was one of the 12 Pucaras flown to the Falklands on or after 15 May 1982, later serving as one of the five attrition replacement aircraft flown from Rio Gallegos, Santa Cruz to Stanley Airport on 27/28 May. On arrival a darker green/brown camouflage scheme more appropriate to operations in the Falklands had been crudely applied over the lighter standard scheme, though A-515 was repainted at III Brigade Aerea’s Reconquista Air Base, using Fiat car paint, in tan and light green, with undersides and upper tail unpainted. Initially with yellow stripes on tail and wings, these were later overpainted with sand paint. A-515 was one of the last Pucaras to reach the islands to reinforce the Escuadron Aeromovil Malvinas. This force received 24 Pucaras, all of which were destroyed or captured. When initially deployed to Rio Gallegos, Santa Cruz before flying east to the Falklands some distance opposite, A-515 and other Pucaras were deployed and used for armed reconnaissance flights over the Argentine coast to prevent any British Special Forces attacks on mainland bases.

On 10 June 1982 Pucaras A-515, A-522 and A-536 flew the last Pucara mission of the war, against British artillery positions and troops on the northern side of Mount Kent and Murrell Ridge on East Falkland, the FIERRO escadrille taking off at 08.28, returning at 08.45, having attacked with rockets and guns with A-515, flown by Lt Morales, receiving hits from small arms fire. The Pucaras remaining on the Falklands did not fly there again.

After the surrender of Argentine forces on 14 June 1982, A-515 was captured by British Forces at Stanley (renamed BAM Malvinas by the Argentines) in lightly damaged but airworthy condition with underwing rocket pods fitted - one of only 3 or 4 Pucaras still airworthy in the Falklands at the end of the campaign. [2]

Transfer to UKEdit

Airlifted by 18 Squadron Chinook ZA707 to the Atlantic Causeway in Port William on 10 July 1982, A-515 was Shipped back to the UK onboard the Atlantic Causeway, via San Carlos Water on 13 July, arriving at Devonport naval dockyard on 27 July.

Following offloading and stripping down, and taken by road to A&AEE Boscombe Down on 1 August. A-515 was then transferred to MoD (PE) Air Fleet at A&AEE for limited flying trials/handling evaluation as the only captured Pucara to be flown in the UK. At this point the aircraft was allotted it's RAF serial, which together with RAF roundels was painted over the original Argentine camouflage scheme, and the airframe was surveyed, with damaged and missing parts replaced.[2]

TrialsEdit

Following taxying trials on 22 February 1983, ZD485 began flight trails 0n 28 April. Using spares provided by ZD486 and ZD487, ZD485 is flown by A&AEE ‘A’ Squadron pilot Squadron Leader Russell Peart and S/Ldr Banfield for some 25 hours. Trials included take offs from grass, on which it performed well, and simulated combat against many types including the Sea Harrier commanded by David Morgan, and proved to be a robust and capable aircraft, other than being criticized for a lack of air conditioning, although no useful function for such a type in the RAF could be envisaged.

ZD485 was used for the following flights;

  • 28 Apr 83 First flight – handling assessment. (45 minutes).
  • 9 May 83 Two flights – asymmetric handling and engine relights; pilot S/Ldr Banfield (1.50 hrs)
  • 13 May 83 To Larkhill Ranges (1.30 hrs)
  • 19 May 83 Handling assessment (1.15 hours)
  • 20 May 83 Operations from grass. (40 minutes)
  • 3 Jun 83 Operations from grass; pilot S/Ldr Allen; 40 minute flight.
  • 7 Jun 83 Two flights, including further operations from grass. Total 90 minutes.
  • 10 Jun 83 Take off and landing assessment. 35 minute flight.
  • 11 Jun 83 Air Display - ETPS open day. Five minute flight.
  • 23 Jun 83 Simulated attacks on rapier missile system. One hour flight.
  • 27 Jun 83 ‘1v1’ combat against Puma helicopter. 45 minute flight.
  • 28 Jun 83 ‘1v1’ combat against Sea King helicopter. 45 minute flight.
  • 7 Jul 83 Low level trials. 40 minute flight.
  • 11 Jul 83 Air Display, NAS Yeovilton. 1.10hr flight.
  • 12 Jul 83 Fighter affiliation vs. two F4 Phantoms. 1.10hr flight.
  • 21 Jul 83 Performance Assessment and delivery to RAF Greenham Common.[2]

DisplaysEdit

On 23/24 Jul 1983, the aircraft appeared in the static display at the 1983 International Air Tattoo at RAF Greenham Common, after being flown there on the 21st July, returning to Boscombe Down, making a landing on grass after a 20 minute flight, on 25 July. On 9 September, the aircraft was flown from Boscombe Down to Aerospace Museum, RAF Cosford, Salop, where the incomplete A-528 was also displayed between Oct 1982 and May 1985; (Following disposal by the RAFM A-528 is now at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum, Flixton, and A-533/ZD487 with the Imperial War Museum).[N 2]

Since repainted into original Argentine light camouflage scheme colours, ZD485 was allotted instructional serial 9245M on 23 August 1995. Donated to RAFM by MoD on 3 August 1998, the aircraft remains on display at Royal Air Force Museum, Cosford.[2]

NotesEdit

  1. Photograph depicts the aircraft conducting a low fast run on arrival at RIAT 83, 21 July 1983. Photographer: Mike Freer - Touchdown-aviation.[1]
  2. Footage of the aircraft being flown in RAF markings is included in the documentary Alas Argentinas: Reflejo De Un Pais (Alas Argentinas: Reflection Of A Country).[3]

SourcesEdit

  1. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FMA_IA-58A_Pucara,_UK_-_Air_Force_AN1222539.jpg
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 TEXT; ANDREW SIMPSON ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM 2012
  3. http://impdb.org/index.php?title=Alas_Argentinas:_Reflejo_De_Un_Pais