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Argentine Air Force

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Argentine Air Force
Fuerza Aérea Argentina
Argentine airforce wings emblem (color).svg
Badge of the Argentine Air Force
Founded4 January 1945; 75 years ago (1945-01-04)
Country Argentina
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size13,837 (2018) [1]
Part ofArgentine Armed Forces
MarchSpanish: Alas Argentinas
"Argentine Wings"
Anniversaries10 August (anniversary)
1 May (Baptism of fire during the Falklands War)
Equipment139 aircraft
Engagements Edit this at Wikidata
Commander-in-ChiefPresident Alberto Fernández
Chief of Staff of the Air ForceBrigadier Xavier Isaac
Roundel of Argentina.svg
Roundel of Argentina – Low Visibility.svg
Fin flash
Flag of Argentina.svg
Aircraft flown
AttackA-4AR, Pampa
HelicopterBell 412, Bell 212, Hughes 500D, SA315, Mil Mi-171
TrainerT-6 Texan II, T-34, Tucano, Pampa, Grob 120TP
TransportC-130, DHC-6

The Argentine Air Force (Spanish: Fuerza Aérea Argentina, or simply FAA) is the national aviation branch of the Armed Forces of the Argentine Republic. In 2010, it had 14,600 military personnel and 6,900 civilian personnel.[2]


FAA F-86 Sabre
FAA F-86 Sabre

The Air Force's history began with the establishment of the Army Aviation Service's Escuela de Aviación Militar (Military Aviation School) on 10 August 1912 by President Roque Sáenz Peña.

Several pioneers of Argentine aviation include the conscript Pablo Teodoro Fels [es] and the retired Argentine Navy officer Jorge Newbery.[3] The school began to turn out military pilots who participated in milestone events in Argentine aviation, such as the crossing of the Andes mountains.[citation needed]

Interwar period

In the years following World War I, the Argentine Air Force received a number of aircraft from France and Italy.[4] In 1922, the Escuela Militar de Aviación was temporarily disbanded, resulting in the formation of Grupo 1 de Aviación as an operational unit. Three years later, in 1925, the Escuela Militar de Aviación was reopened, and the Grupo 3 de Observación unit was created. Shortly after, Grupo 1 de Aviación became known as Grupo 1 de Observación.

In 1927, the Dirección General de Aeronáutica (General Department of Aeronautics) was created to coordinate the country's military aviation. In that same year, the Fábrica Militar de Aviones (Military Aircraft Factory, FMA), which would become the heart of the country's aviation industry, was founded in Córdoba.[3] Throughout the 1930s, Argentina acquired a number of aircraft from the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States.

FMA-built Curtiss-Hawk 75O
FMA-built Curtiss-Hawk 75O

By 1938–39, Argentina's air power comprised roughly 3,200 personnel (including about 200 officers) and maintained about 230 aircraft.[citation needed] About 150 of these were operated by the army and included Dewoitine D.21 and Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighters; Breguet 19 reconnaissance planes; Northrop A-17 and Martin B-10 bombers, North American NA-16 trainers, Focke-Wulf Fw 58 as multi-role planes, Junkers Ju 52, and Fairchild 82 transports.[citation needed] About 80 were operated by the navy and included the Supermarine Southampton, Supermarine Walrus, Fairey Seal, Fairey III, Vought O2U Corsair, Consolidated P2Y, Curtiss T-32 Condor II, Douglas Dolphin, and Grumman J2F Duck.[5]

World War II and immediate post-war

The first step towards an independent airforce came on February 11th, 1944 with the establishment of the Aeronautical Command (Comando en Jefe de Aeronáutica) directly under the Department of War. This later became the FAA by decree on January 4th, 1945, which also created the Ministry of Aeronautics [es] (Secretaría de Aeronáutica).[3][6]

FAA Gloster Meteor F.4 jet fighter
FAA Gloster Meteor F.4 jet fighter

At the end of World War II, the FAA began a process of modernization. This "golden age" (roughly 1945-1955) was ushered in by the ready availability of foreign currency in Argentina; the abundance of now unemployed airspace engineers from Germany, Italy, and France; and the willingness of Britain to provide the latest generation of motors and other supplies. In his first term, President Juan Perón brought teams of European engineers to the FMA (now called the Instituto Aerotécnico, or I.Ae.) to advance its aeronautics, totaling roughly 750 workers. This included two teams of German designers (led by Kurt Tank), and the French engineer Émile Dewoitine.[3]

In 1947, the FAA acquired 100 Gloster Meteor jet fighters. These aircraft were paid for by the United States of America as a way to partly pay back its debt due to Argentina's provision of raw materials for the US during WWII. This acquisition made the FAA the first airforce in Latin America equipped with jet-propelled combat fighters. In addition, a number of Avro Lincoln and Avro Lancaster bombers were acquired.[3]

The FAA, with former Luftwaffe officers as consultants[citation needed] and with the European teams that Perón had brought, also began to develop its own aircraft, the I.Ae. 27 Pulqui I and I.Ae. 33 Pulqui II. These creations made Argentina the first country in Latin America and the sixth in the world to develop jet fighter technology on its own. The FAA also created other bi-motor planes, the I.Ae. 35 Huanquero, the I.Ae 22 DL advanced trainer, the I.Ae 24 Calquín bomber, the I.Ae. 23 [es] trainer, the bi-motor combat fighter I.Ae. 30 Ñancú, the assault glider I.Ae. 25 Mañque, as well as rockets and planes for civilian use (like the FMA 20 El Boyero).[citation needed]

The networks used to acquire high-quality parts for the making of these planes established an industrial zone in Córdoba that formed the basis for its later urban development.[citation needed]

Cold War period

In the Liberating Revolution (1955)

The FAA opened fire for the first time on June 16th, 1955 during the bombing of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, in which government Gloster Meteors fought rebel planes attempting to assassinate the president in a coup d'etat (this plan failed, and instead the rebels bombed the city and the Casa Rosada).[7][8] In the following September coup, the FAA supported Peron's government and fought the revolution, initiating combat operations and transporting troops and arms.[9] Only five aircraft defected to the revolution side.[10] However, in 1955 these operations ceased and most FAA workers left the country, including engineer Kurt Tank who left to work in India.[citation needed]

Antarctic support

Argentine Air Force DHC-2 Beaver in Antarctica
Argentine Air Force DHC-2 Beaver in Antarctica

In 1952, the Air Force began flight to supply the Antarctic scientific bases using ski-equipped C-47s[11] and establishing Marambio Base on 25 September 1969. Previously, President Juan Peron had created the FATA (Fuerzas de Tareas Antarcticas) for this purpose.[12] On April 11th, 1970,[13] they began landing C-130 Hercules aircraft, when the TC-61 commanded by Commodore Arturo Athos Gandolfi was the first airplane to land in Marambio. The Fokker F-28 Fellowship presidential aircraft T-01 Patagonia is reported to be the first jet to have landed at Marambio, on july 28th, 1973.[14][15] and since the 1970s, Twin Otters are also deployed.[16] In October 1973, the FAA launched the Operation Transantar, achieving the first trans-Antarctic three-continental flight in history when a Hercules C-130 flew between Rio Gallegos; Marambio, Antarctica; Christchurch, New Zealand and Canberra, Australia.[17][18]

Modernization (1960s-70s)

Arrival of F-86 in September 1960, "Operation SABRE"
Arrival of F-86 in September 1960, "Operation SABRE"

In the 1960s, new aircraft were incorporated, including the F-86F Sabre jet fighter and the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk mainly used for ground-attack. (U.S. Air Force Major Manuel "Pete" Fernandez, a Spanish-speaking Sabre ace who shot down 14 MiGs over Korea in an F-86F, was dispatched to the Mendoza airbase from 1960–1962 to personally train Argentine pilots flying that model.) During the 1970s, the Air Force re-equipped itself with modern aircraft, including Mirage III interceptors, IAI Dagger multi-role fighters (Ex-Israeli, copy of the Mirage V), and C-130 Hercules cargo planes. A counter-insurgency airplane, the Pucará, was also used in substantial numbers.[citation needed] The FAA also participated in the 1976 Argentine Revolution as part of the Junta Militar that supported the new military dictatorship.[19]

Falklands War (1982)

The Falklands War was the first war fought by the Argentine Air Force against an external enemy. They were unprepared for this war: in comparison to Britain's most modern weapons, some of the Argentine aircraft were obsolete.[20] During the war, the Air Force division of the Junta Militar was called the Southern Airforce (FAS, Fuerza Aerea Sur), led by Ernesto Crespo.[21]

Air actions began on May 1, 1982.[22] The RAF initiated Operation Black Buck, in which RAF Avro Vulcan XM607 bomber attacked the military air base on the islands. The Task Force then proceeded to send Harrier planes to attack positions at Stanley and Goose Green. The first casualties of the Fuerza Aerea Argentina.[23]

The Argentinian Air Force reacted by sending IAI Dagger and A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft, and Mirage III interceptors. The Mirage III went into combat with the Harriers on Bourbon Island, with one Mirage lost to a Harrier. On May 21, the Battle of San Carlos (1982) ("Bomb Alley") began when the Air Force attacked a detachment of British ships making a landing in the San Carlos Water. The Dagger and Skyhawk aircraft sank 3 British ships (HMS Coventry, a Type 42 destroyer; 2 frigates, the HMS Antelope and the HMS Ardent; and damage to another 8 ships).

During the march of June 8, the Air Force carried out an operation in Bluff Cove. The British needed to position Infantry Brigade 5 to complete their lock on Port Stanley. For this they used the landing ships RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram. Seven A-4 Skyhawks were used in the attack. Six Daggers attacked the frigate, HMS Plymouth. The Skyhawks destroyed Sir Galahad and the landing craft Foxtrot 4. They also severely damaged Sir Tristram. Three A-4s were lost through interception by the Harriers. All the bombs dropped by the Daggers failed to explode.

On June 13, the A-4 Skyhawks of the Argentinian Air Force renewed their attacks. They were in two formations of four planes each. They launched an attack against enemy troops and helicopters on Two Sister Mount. On June 14, 1982, the Argentine command gave the surrender. The United Kingdom regained control of the Falklands, Georgia, and the South Sandwich Islands. The Argentine Air Force suffered 55 dead and 47 wounded. With 505 combat departures, the 62 aircraft losses:[24]

  • 19 A-4 Skyhawk
  • 2 Mirage III
  • 11 Dagger
  • 2 Canberra
  • 24 IA-58 Pucará
  • 1 C-130H Hercules
  • 1 Learjet 35
  • 2 Bell 212

Postwar (1983-2003)

After the war, Britain imposed an arms embargo on Argentina, which was discontinued in the 1990s. After attempts to acquire surplus IAI Kfirs or F-16As failed for economic and political reasons, the United States military sold Argentina 36 A-4AR Fightinghawks, a refurbished and upgraded version of the A-4 Skyhawks used in the war. Other equipment was bought: 23 US Army surplus OV-1 Mohawks, 22 Ex-Israeli IAI Dagger, 2 C-130B, and 1 Lockheed L-100-30.[citation needed]

After the war, to avoid becoming dependent to other countries for their aeronautic technology, Argentina started planning the development of new aircraft including the FMA IA-63 Pampa, the combat fighter FMA SAIA 90, and the transformation of the Condor rocket into a medium-range ballistic missile.[25] Of these, only the Pampa was successfully developed. The SAIA 90 was canceled by President Raúl Alfonsin to focus on the Condor, while the Condor was canceled in the 1980s by President Carlos Menem.

In 1994, Menem discontinued mandatory military service in Argentina and established voluntary military service for 10 years. He also allowed the presence of women into military service.[26]

Support to UN peacekeeping missions

The FAA has been involved in United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world. They sent a Boeing 707 to the 1991 Gulf War. Since 1994 the UN Air contingent (UNFLIGHT) in Cyprus under UNFICYP mandate is provided by the FAA,[27] having achieved 10,000 flight hours by 2003 without any accidents.[28] The FAA has also since 2005 deployed Bell 212 helicopters to Haiti under MINUSTAH mandate. The FAA has also been involved with UN peacekeeping in Chipre as the Argentine Task Force (Fuerza de Tarea Argentina).[citation needed]

Early 21st century

In early 2005, seventeen FA brigadiers, including the Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Carlos Rohde, were sacked by President Néstor Kirchner following a scandal involving drug trafficking through Ezeiza International Airport. Kirchner cited failures in the security systems of the Argentine airports (which were overseen by the National Aeronautic Police, then a branch of the Air Force) and cover-ups of the scandal.[29] It later became known that many government agencies, among them the Interior Ministry, the Customs Administration and the Secretariat of State Intelligence knew about the drug trafficking.[citation needed]

In 2007, the FAA began participation in Operation Fortin to monitor the Argentine airspace for drug trafficking. They also began using aerial measures to monitor wildfires as part of the National Plan for Fire Management.[citation needed]

The primary concerns of the Air Force as of 2010 are the establishment of a radar network for control of the country's airspace, the replacement of its older combat aircraft (Mirage III, Mirage V) and the incorporation of new technologies.[citation needed]

Since the 1990s the FAA has established good relations with its neighbors, the Brazilian and Chilean Air Forces. They annually meet, on a rotation basis, in the joint exercises Cruzex in Brazil, Ceibo in Argentina and Salitre in Chile.[citation needed]

C-130s at 2010 Air Fest show
C-130s at 2010 Air Fest show

In 2007 an FAA FMA IA 58 Pucará was converted to use a modified engine operating on soy-derived bio-jet fuel. The project, financed and directed by the Argentine Government (Secretaría de Ciencia Tecnología e Innovación Productiva de la Nación), made Argentina the second nation in the world to propel an aircraft with bio-jet fuel. The purpose of the project is to make the FAA less reliant on fossil fuels.[citation needed]


As of 2010 budgetary constraints continued, leading to the disbanding of the Boeing 707 transport squadron and maintenance problems for half of the C-130 Hercules fleet. This was particularly evident when, in a matter of days in March, the same C-130 aircraft could be seen, in addition to their routine missions, traveling 3 times to Haiti, 9 times to Chile (in both cases delivering humanitarian aid) and also doing a resupply airdrop to the Argentine southernmost Antarctic base Belgrano II.[citation needed]

In August 2010 a contract was signed for two Mi-17E helicopters, plus an option on a further three, to support Antarctic bases[30][31] although no official destination for them have been released yet and is possible that they will be assigned to the Argentine Army Aviation.[citation needed]

The FAA is seeking to replace its ageing force with a more capable and more serviceable modern aircraft. The acquisition of Spanish Mirage F1Ms, IAI Kfir Block 60s[32] and Saab Gripen E/Fs was considered, but as of February 2015, all of those deals appear to have stalled; The Mirage F1 deal was scrapped by the Spanish government in March 2014 after pressure of the UK to not assist in FAA modernization over tensions between the countries over the Falkland Islands.[33] The UK has also managed to veto the sale of Gripen E/Fs, as 30% of the Gripen's parts are manufactured there. The deal with Israel has reportedly stalled for technical and political reasons. China has reportedly offered JF-17/FC-1 or Chengdu J-10 to Argentina. The two countries have formed a working group to look into the transfer of 14 aircraft.[34][35] Russia had also offered to lease 12 Su-24 strike aircraft to the FAA, but Jane's reported that the Su-24 would not be very useful to the FAA and that "it would appear that any proposed transfer of such aircraft is likely the result of Russia playing political games with the UK over the continuing crisis in Ukraine.".[36] All Mirages were officially decommissioned on 30 November 2015.[37] The A-4s were grounded as of January 2016 for lack of spares;[38] in any case only 4–5 were airworthy with the rest in storage at Villa Reynolds.[39] When Barack Obama visited in March 2016, Air Force One was accompanied by US Air Force F-16s because Argentina could only offer Pucarás and Pampas for air defense.[40]

As of July 2019, the Argentine Air Force and government have selected the KAI FA-50 as its interim fighter. It is the first step in modernizing the fighter force and replacing the Mirage 3, Dagger, and Mirage 5 fighters that have been retired. It is also anticipated to help in the retirement of the A-4AR Fightinghawk fleet, as they are now aging and becoming difficult to maintain. In 2020, it was reported that as few as six of the Fightinghawk aircraft remained operational.[41] While no specific numbers of aircraft to purchase were given, the media reported that up to 10 FA-50s were in the deal. Despite elections coming in October 2019, the deal had been expected to go through. An Argentine delegation first visited the Republic of Korea Air Force in September 2016. At that time an FAA pilot was able to test fly the TA-50 Golden Eagle operational trainer variant of the FA-50.[42] However, in the context of the budget pressures arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the deal appeared to have been canceled in early 2020 leaving the Air Force without a fighter replacement.[43]


The FAA is one of the three branches of the Argentine military, having equal status with the Army and the Navy. The President of Argentina is Commander-in-Chief of all three services.[44]

The FAA is headed by the Chief of the General Staff (Jefe del Estado Mayor General), directly appointed by the President.[44] The Chief of Staff usually holds the rank of Brigadier General, the highest rank of the Air Force. The Chief of Staff is seconded by a Deputy Chief of the General Staff and three senior officers in charge of the FAA's three Commands: the Air Operations Command, the Personnel Command and the Materiel Command.

The Air Operations Command (Comando de Operaciones Aéreas) is the branch of the Air Force responsible for aerospace defense, air operations, planning, training, technical and logistical support of the air units. Subordinate to the Air Operations Command are the Air Brigades (Brigadas Aéreas), the Air Force's major operative units, as well as the airspace surveillance and control group (Grupo VYCEA, Argentine Air Force). A total of eight air brigades are currently[when?] operational. Brigades are headquartered at Military Air Bases (Base Aérea Militar (BAMs).

Each Air Brigade is made up of three Groups, each bearing the same number as their mother Brigade. These groups include:

  • One Air Group (Grupo Aéreo), which operates the aircraft assigned to the Brigade. The Air Group is divided into a variable number of Air Squadrons. Air Groups may be named according to their primary mission, for example, an air group specialized in fighter operations receives the designation of Fighter Group (Grupo de Caza). Currently, the Air Force includes three Fighter Groups (4th, 5th, and 6th), one Attack Group (3rd), one Transport Group (1st), and three plain Air Groups (2nd, 7th, and 9th). The 7th Air Group operates all the helicopters of the Air Force, while the 2nd includes a small reconnaissance unit as well as light transport aircraft. 9th Air Group is a light transport unit.
  • One Technical Group (Grupo Técnico), in charge of the maintenance and repair of the Brigade's aircraft.
  • One Base Group (Grupo Base), responsible for the airbase itself, weather forecasting, flight control, runway maintenance, etc. Base Groups also include Base Flights (Escuadrillas de Base), generally made up of two or three liaison aircraft.

The Personnel Command (Comando de Personal) is responsible for the training, education, assignment, and welfare of Air Force personnel. Under the control of the Personnel Command are the Military Aviation School (which educates the future officers of the Air Force), the Air Force Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) School, and other educational and training units.

The Materiel Command (Comando de Material) deals with planning and executing the Air Force's logistics regarding flying and ground materiel. Materiel Command includes "Quilmes" and "Río Cuarto" Material Areas (repairing and maintenance units) and "El Palomar" Logistical Area.

Order of battle

KC-130H aerial refueling aircraft.
KC-130H aerial refueling aircraft.
IA-58A Pucará counter-insurgency aircraft.
IA-58A Pucará counter-insurgency aircraft.
FMA Pampa trainer aircraft.
FMA Pampa trainer aircraft.



Officers wear their rank insignia in their sleeves, in the pattern depicted below. There are also shoulderboards with the same insignia (albeit in gray) for the ranks between Ensign and Commodore. General officers wear different shoulder boards.

Insignia Equivalent NATO Rank Code Rank in Spanish Rank in English Commonwealth equivalent US Air Force equivalent
OF-9 Brigadier General Brigadier General Air Chief Marshal General
OF-8 Brigadier Mayor Brigadier-Major Air Marshal Lieutenant General
OF-7 Brigadier Brigadier Air Vice-Marshal Major General
OF-6 (honorary rank) Comodoro Mayor Commodore Major
(honorary rank given to Commodores)
Air Commodore Brigadier General
OF-5 Comodoro Commodore Group Captain Colonel
OF-4 Vicecomodoro Vice-Commodore Wing Commander Lieutenant Colonel
OF-3 Mayor Major Squadron Leader Major
OF-2 Capitán Captain Flight Lieutenant Captain
OF-1 Primer Teniente First Lieutenant Flying Officer First Lieutenant
OF-1 Teniente Lieutenant Pilot Officer Second Lieutenant
OF-D Alférez Ensign Acting Pilot Officer

Non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel

Insignia Rank in Spanish Rank in English US Air Force equivalent RAF equivalent
Suboficial Mayor Senior Sub-Officer Chief Master Sergeant,
Command Chief Master Sergeant
Warrant Officer
Suboficial Principal Chief Sub-Officer Senior Master Sergeant Chief Technician
Suboficial Ayudante Adjutant Sub-Officer Master Sergeant Flight Sergeant
Suboficial Auxiliar Auxiliary Sub-Officer Technical Sergeant Sergeant
Cabo Principal Principal Corporal Staff Sergeant Corporal
Cabo Primero Corporal First Class Senior Airman Junior Technician
Senior Aircraftman Technician/Senior Aircraftwoman Technician
Lance Corporal
Cabo Corporal Airman First Class Senior Aircraftman/Senior Aircraftwoman
Voluntario Primero Volunteer First Class Airman Leading Aircraftman/Leading Aircraftwoman
Voluntario Segundo Volunteer Second Class Airman Basic Aircraftman/Aircraftwoman


Current inventory

A-4AR (Fightinghawk) ground-attack aircraft.
A-4AR (Fightinghawk) ground-attack aircraft.
A Pampa II from the Argentine’s aerobatic display team Cruz del Sur
A Pampa II from the Argentine’s aerobatic display team Cruz del Sur
An Aerospatiale SA-315 lifting off from Gabrielli International Airport
An Aerospatiale SA-315 lifting off from Gabrielli International Airport
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat aircraft
A-4AR Fightinghawk United States Fighter / Attack A-4AR 24[48] 6 aircraft reported operational in 2020.[49]
FMA IA 63 Pampa Argentina Attack Pampa III 6[50]
FMA IA-58 Pucará Argentina Counter-insurgency aircraft 25[51]
Electronic-warfare aircraft
Learjet 35 United States Electronic warfare EC-21A 1[48]
Lockheed Martin KC-130 United States Refueling KC-130H 2[48] Upgrade by FAdeA
Boeing 737 United States VIP transport 1[52]
Lockheed C-130 Hercules United States Transport C-130H 3[48] Upgrade by FAdeA
Lockheed L-100 Hercules United States Transport L-100 1[48]
Piper PA-31 Navajo United States Utility 2[48]
Aero Commander 500 United States VIP transport 3[48]
Bell 412 United States Utility 412EP 6[53][48]
Bell 212 United States Utility 12[54][48]
Mil Mi-17 Russia Utility  Mi-171 2[48]
Sikorsky S-70 United States VIP transport 1[55]
Sikorsky S-76 United States VIP transport 2[56]
 SA 315B Lama France Utility 6[48]
MD 500 Defender United States Light multi-role MD 500D 12[48]
Trainer aircraft
FMA IA 63 Pampa Argentina Advanced trainer Pampa II 18 18 on order[48]
Grob G 120TP Germany Basic trainer 7[48]
EMB-312 Tucano Brazil Basic trainer / Attack 14[48] single-turboprop basic trainer
 Lockheed Martin A-4 United States Conversion trainer OA-4AR 3[48]
Beechcraft T-6 Texan II United States Basic trainer T-6C+ 10 2 on order[48]

Chiefs of the Argentine Air Force

See also

Argentine military – other air services

Operational use

Units and related organisations



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Further reading

External links

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