Argentinian air force’s modified AT-63 makes debut ahead of delivery next year

Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina (LMAA) has begun flight tests of its upgraded AT-63 Pampa advanced trainer/light attack aircraft, with first deliveries to the Argentinian air force due to begin in February 2006.

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Flight tests began officially on 22 June and will run for about six months, says company president Alberto Buthet. “We will use this time to do typical certification tests for the new avionics, and after that will begin test work on the weapons integration – particularly the HUD [head-up-display].”

The Pampa upgrade includes an Elbit Systems weapon system, a new mission computer, Elop HUD, colour multifunction display, Honeywell global positioning/inertial navigation system and radar altimeter, and a mission planning system with digital map.

Eleven airframes will be upgraded to the new standard, with deliveries to take place at one a month throughout 2006. Assembly has also started of the first of 12 new-build AT-63s, six of which will be delivered to Argentina before November 2007. The rest will be offered to the Argentinian military or for export. “We are working with different countries, as well as offering them to the Argentinian air force and even the navy,” says Buthet.

LMAA believes the improved AT-63 would provide the Argentinian navy with a suitable advanced trainer to replace its obsolete Aermacchi MB326s. The Argentinian government has begun internal studies of the requirements. Buthet thinks the six unallocated AT-63s will be relatively easy to place because “we can offer attractively early delivery dates from late 2007”.

The upgrade is being flight tested using LMAA’s Pampa prototype, which is expected to be retained as a testbed. The aircraft may also be used for company-sponsored flight tests of the 4,200lb-thrust (18.7kN) Honeywell TFE731-40 turbofan, which is being studied as a replacement for the 3,500lb-thrust TFE731-2-2C. Buthet says the prospects of the re-engining option are growing, particularly because the newer engine offers longer operational life if derated for a training role.

“I think it will go eventually, but slowly,” he says. “The engine will need a new internal mixer, but we will adapt the exhaust design developed originally for the -2B-powered variant that was offered for the [US] Joint Primary Aircraft Training System contest.”


Source: Flight International