PRODUCTION OF THE IA.63 Pampa jet trainer could be restarted to meet Argentine air force and navy requirements for 48-50 aircraft, if additional customers can be found to make the production run economical. The Pampa was built by FMA, now operated by Lockheed Martin as Lockheed Aircraft Argentina (LAASA), and all the tooling remains in place, says president Harry Radcliffe.

No production work is yet planned for Cordoba-based LAASA, which was taken over by Lockheed Martin in July 1995 as part of a programme to upgrade 36 McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawks for the Argentine air force. Radcliffe says that refurbishment of 18 A-4s is already under way at Lockheed Martin Aircraft Services (LMAS) in the USA and rework of the remaining 18 aircraft will begin at LAASA in mid-year.

LMAS is responsible for design of the upgrade, and configuration definition is to be completed in March. US-upgraded A-4s are scheduled for delivery in 1997, with locally reworked aircraft following in 1998. Four ex-US Marine Corps airframes have already been delivered to Cordoba and are being used to develop tooling for the upgrade.

LAASA, meanwhile, is being reshaped into a maintenance centre, underpinned by a $40 million-a-year Argentine air force contract for depot maintenance of a range of aircraft, including the IA.58 Pucara and the 14 Pampas which were built by FMA during the original production run. Some air force Lockheed Martin C-130 maintenance is to be moved to LAASA, Radcliffe says.

Civil certification of the Cordoba plant is under way, and should be completed by the end of 1996, and LAASA plans to offer airframe and engine maintenance for commercial aircraft. Radcliffe notes that new airlines are starting in Argentina, operating types which include the Boeing 737 and British Aerospace Jetstream 31. The company is also looking at improving its engine-overhaul capability.

Other initiatives, include efforts to form partnerships with US and European suppliers of commercial and military components, to provide a support base in South America. The Cordoba workforce has been reduced from around 2,200 when Lockheed Martin took over the former state-run plant, to 1,250, Radcliffe says.

Source: Flight International