Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina expects to begin test flying an upgraded version of the IA-63 Pampa by the end of November.

Although the two prototype aircraft in the programme will use existing airframes taken from the Argentinian air force inventory, the company intends to restart the production line after a lengthy break to fulfil an initial order for 12 aircraft.

The main features of the upgraded aircraft, known as the AT-63, include a new Honeywell TFE731-2C engine developing 3,500lb thrust (16kN) and an Elbit Systems digital cockpit, a new mission computer and a head-up display in the forward cockpit.

The first new aircraft is due to roll off the Cordoba production line in 2003. Twelve aircraft in the Argentinian air force inventory will be fed into the Lockheed Argentina factory for upgrade as new aircraft enter service.

Lockheed Argentina expects to boost its orderbook for the $7 million trainer later this year with an order for eight aircraft from the Argentinian navy. The air force has options for 24 aircraft which could be exercised next year, although that is dependent on economic conditions locally. It is also involved in export competitions accounting for 40 aircraft and reckons that upcoming competitions in countries like Israel could give it access to a market totalling some 300 aircraft.

Further upgrade plans for the aircraft include straightforward additions such as a radar warning receiver and conformal chaff/flare dispenser. Heavier investment on items like a structurally redesigned wing increasing load factor to +7g, and a more powerful Honeywell TFE731-40R engine, will require a launch customer.

Other work in the pipeline includes an air force C-130 Hercules avionics update for which Lockheed Argentina is seeking a supplier. It is also planning to issue a request for proposals for an avionics upgrade to the IA-58 Pucara counter insurgency aircraft.

Source: Flight International