HistoryThe Air Force's history began with the establishment of the Argentine Army Aviation#History, 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 and the retired Argentine Navy officer Jorge Newbery. The school began to turn out military pilots who participated in milestone events in Argentine aviation, such as the crossing of the Andes.
Interwar periodIn the years following World War I, the Argentine Air Force received various aircraft from France and Italy. In 1922, the ''Escuela Militar de Aviación'' was temporarily disbanded, resulting in the formation of ''Grupo 1 de Aviación'' ('Aviation Group One') as an operational unit. Three years later, in 1925, the ''Escuela Militar de Aviación'' was reopened, and the ''Grupo 3 de Observación'' ('Observation Group Three') unit was created. Shortly after, ''Grupo 1 de Aviación'' became known as ''Grupo 1 de Observación''. In 1927, the ' ('General Aeronautics Authority') was created to coordinate the country's military aviation. In that same year, the Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina, Fábrica Militar de Aviones (lit. 'Military Aircraft Factory', FMA), which would play a crucial role in the country's aviation industry, was founded in Córdoba, Argentina, Córdoba. Despite that, throughout the 1930s, Argentina acquired various aircraft from the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. By 1938–39, Argentina's air power comprised roughly 3,200 personnel (including about 200 officers) and maintained about 230 aircraft. 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. 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.
World War II and immediate post-warThe first step towards the establishment of the Air Force as a separate branch of the Armed Forces was taken on February 11, 1944 with the establishment of the Aeronautical Command-in-Chief (''Comando en Jefe de Aeronáutica'') directly under the mandate of the Department of War. This later became the Argentine Air Force by decree on January 4, 1945, which also created the (''Secretaría de Aeronáutica''). At the end of World War II, the Air Force began a process of modernization. This 'golden age' (roughly 1945–1955) was ushered in by the availability of foreign currency in Argentina; the abundance of now unemployed airspace engineers from Germany, Italy, and France; and the British provision of latest-generation engines and other aircraft parts. In his first term, President Juan Perón brought teams of European engineers to the FMA, nowadays the ''Instituto Aerotécnico'' ('Aerotechnical Institute'), or I.Ae., to push forward the aircraft technological development, totaling roughly 750 workers. This included two teams of German designers (led by Kurt Tank), and the French engineer Émile Dewoitine. In 1947, the Air Force acquired 100 Gloster Meteor jet fighters. These aircraft were paid for by the United States of America as a way to partially pay back its debt to Argentina, who provided them with raw materials during World War II. This acquisition made the Argentine the first air force in Latin America equipped with jet-propelled combat fighters. In addition, a number of Avro Lincoln and Avro Lancaster bombers were acquired. The Air Force, with former Luftwaffe officers as consultants and with the European teams that Perón had brought, also began to develop its own aircraft e.g. the FMA IAe 27 Pulqui I, I.Ae. 27 Pulqui I and FMA IAe 33 Pulqui II, I.Ae. 33 Pulqui II. These manufactures made Argentina the first country in Latin America and the sixth in the world to develop jet fighter technology on its own. Other Argentina-developed, twin-engine aircraft include the DINFIA IA 35, I.Ae. 35 Huanquero, the I.Ae. 22 DL, I.Ae 22 DL advanced trainer, the I.Ae. 24 Calquin, I.Ae 24 Calquín bomber, the 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 I.Ae.20 El Boyero, FMA 20 El Boyero).
Cold War period
In the ''Revolución Libertadora'' (1955)The Argentine Air Force opened fire for the first time on June 16, 1955 during the Bombing of Plaza de Mayo, bombing of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, in which government-loyal Gloster Meteors fought rebel planes attempting to assassinate the President in a coup d'état (this plan failed, and instead the rebels bombed the city and the Casa Rosada, House of Government). In Revolucion Libertadora#September rebellion, the following September coup, the Air Force supported Perón's government by fighting the coup; initiating combat operations and transporting troops and arms. Only five aircraft defected to the other side. After the ''Revolución Libertadora'' succeeded and the coup took place, previously mentioned operations ceased and most Air Force workers left the country, including engineer Kurt Tank who left to work in India.
Antarctic supportIn 1952, the Air Force started flying to supply the Antartida Argentina, Antarctic scientific bases using ski-equipped Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Douglas C-47s and establishing Marambio Base on 25 September 1969. Previously, President Juan Perón had created the Antarctic Task Forces (FATA, ''Fuerzas de Tareas Antárticas'') for this purpose. On April 11, 1970, they began operating C-130 Hercules aircraft into the Antarctica. The first flight to land in Marambio Base was on board the one registered TC-61, commanded by Commodore Arturo Athos Gandolfi. The Fokker F-28 Fellowship presidential aircraft Tango 01, T-01 ''Patagonia'' is reported to be the first jet to have landed there, on July 28, 1973. Since the 1970s, de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, DHC-6 Twin Otters have also been deployed. In October 1973, the Air Force launched the Operation Transantar, achieving the first trans-Antarctic three-continent flight in history when a Hercules C-130 flew between Río Gallegos; Base Marambio, Marambio Base; Christchurch, New Zealand and Canberra, Australia.
Modernization (1960s–1970s)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 J. Fernandez, a Spanish-speaking Sabre ace who shot down 14 enemy aircraft in the Korean War on board that aircraft, was dispatched to the Mendoza airbase from 1960–1962 to personally train Argentine pilots flying the model. During the 1970s, the Air Force re-equipped itself with modern aircraft, including Mirage III interceptors, IAI Dagger multi-role fighters (Ex-Israeli, comparable to the Mirage V), and C-130 Hercules cargo planes. A counter-insurgency airplane, the FMA IA 58 Pucará, Pucará, was also manufactured and used in substantial numbers. The Air Force also had an important role in 1976 Argentina coup d'état, the 1976 coup which lead to a National Reorganization Process, military dictatorship that lasted until 1983.
Falklands War (''Guerra de las Malvinas'') (1982)The Falklands War was the first war fought by the Argentine Air Force against an external enemy. It was unprepared for this war: in comparison to Britain's most modern weapons, some of the Argentine aircraft were obsolete. During the war, the Air Force division of the Military Junta was called the ''Fuerza Aérea Sur'' (FAS, 'Southern Air Force'), led by Ernesto Crespo. Air action began on May 1, 1982. The UK's Royal Air Force initiated Operation Black Buck, in which an Avro Vulcan, Avro Vulcan XM607 bomber attacked the military air base on the islands. The Task Force then proceeded to send British Aerospace Sea Harrier, Sea Harriers to attack positions at Stanley and Goose Green, where the first Argentine casualties occurred. The Argentine 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), Battle of San Carlos ("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 three British ships (HMS ''Coventry'', a Type 42 destroyer; two frigates, HMS ''Antelope'' and HMS ''Ardent'') and damaged another eight ships. During the march of June 8, the Air Force carried out an operation in Bluff Cove air attacks, 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, . 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 June 14, 1982, the Argentine command surrendered. 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 and 62 aircraft losses, as listed below: * 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, the UK imposed an arms embargo on Argentina, which was discontinued in the 1990s. After attempts to acquire surplus IAI Kfirs or F-16s failed for economic and political reasons, the Military of the United States, 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. 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 (Argentine missile), Condor missile into a medium-range ballistic missile. 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 (commonly known as ''La Colimba'') in Argentina and established voluntary military service for 10 years. He also allowed the presence of women into military service.
Support to UN peacekeeping missionsThe Air Force has been involved in United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world. They sent a Boeing 707 to the 1991 . Since 1994 the UN Air contingent (UNFLIGHT) in Cyprus under UNFICYP mandate is provided by the Air Force, having achieved 10,000 flight hours by 2003 without any accidents. It has also deployed, since 2005, Bell 212 helicopters to Haiti under MINUSTAH mandate, and has been involved with UN peacekeeping in Cyprus as the Argentine Task Force (''Fuerza de Tarea Argentina'').
Early 21st centuryIn early 2005, seventeen 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 (predecessor of the today independent Airport Security Police (Argentina), Airport Security Police), and cover-ups of the scandal. It later became known that many government agencies, among them the Ministry of the Interior, the Customs Administration and the Secretaría de Inteligencia, Secretariat of State Intelligence knew about the drug trafficking. In 2007, the Air Force began participation in Operation ''Fortín'' 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. The primary concerns of the Air Force are the establishment of a radar network for the use of the air traffic controllers, the replacement of its older combat aircraft (Mirage III, Mirage V) and the incorporation of new technologies. Since the 1990s the Air Force has established good relations with its neighbors, the Brazilian Air Force, Brazilian and Chilean Air Force, Chilean Air Forces. They annually meet, on a rotation basis, in the joint exercises ''Cruzex'' in Military of Brazil, Brazil, ''Ceibo'' in Argentina and ''Salitre'' in Military of Chile, Chile. In 2007 an FAA FMA IA 58 Pucará was converted to use a modified engine operating on soy-derived Biofuel, bio-jet fuel. The project, financed and directed by the Argentine Government ('), 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.
2010sbudgetary 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 Humanitarian response by national governments to the 2010 Haiti earthquake#South America, Haiti, 9 times to Humanitarian response to the 2010 Chile earthquake#National governments, Chile (in both cases delivering humanitarian aid) and also doing a resupply airdrop to the Argentine southernmost Antarctic base Belgrano II. In August 2010 a contract was signed for two Mil Mi-17, Mi-17E helicopters, plus an option on a further three, to support Argentine Antarctica, Antarctic bases although no official destination for them have been released yet and is possible that they will be assigned to the Argentine Army Aviation. The FAA is seeking to replace its ageing force with a more capable and more serviceable modern aircraft. The acquisition of Spanish Mirage Dassault Mirage F1, F1Ms, IAI Kfir Block 60s Kfir, 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. 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. 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.". All Mirages were officially decommissioned on 30 November 2015. The A-4s were grounded for lack of spares; in any case only 4–5 were airworthy with the rest in storage at Villa Reynolds Airport, Villa Reynolds. 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. As of July 2019, the Argentine Air Force and government selected the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle, KAI FA-50 as its interim fighter. It was to be the first step in modernizing the fighter force and replacing the Mirage 3, Dagger, and Mirage 5 fighters that have been retired. It was 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.https://www.aerotime.aero/clement.charpentreau/25597-argentinian-a-4ar-fighter-jet-crashes-near-cordoba-pilot-dead 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. However, the deal appeared to have been canceled in early 2020 leaving the Air Force without a fighter replacement. Some sources suggested that the cancellation was due to the financial pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, while others reported that British intervention played a part by preventing the export of an aircraft incorporating various British components. In October 2020, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) confirmed that since major components of the aircraft were supplied by the U.K., the aircraft could not be exported to Argentina. Britain similarly blocked the potential sale of Brazilian license-built JAS 39 Gripen, Saab Gripen aircraft to Argentina given avionics that were of British origin. Argentina was now said to be exploring the potential acquisition of aircraft from Russia or China, or alternatively CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder, JF-17 aircraft from Pakistan.
2020sEarly in 2021, Russia made several proposals related to the acqusition of aircraft by Argentina including the apparent offer of MiG-35 fighters. These built on earlier offers of the MiG-29 as well as on measures being undertaken to extend the life of Mi-171E helicopters acquired by Argentina in 2010 to support operations in Argentine Antarctica, Antarctica.
OrganizationThe FAA is one of the three branches of the Argentine military, having equal status with the Argentine Army, Army and the Argentine Navy, Navy. The President of Argentina is Commander-in-Chief of all three services. The FAA is headed by the Chief of the General Staff ('), directly appointed by the President. 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 (Argentina), Air Operations Command (') 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 ('), 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 operational. Brigades are headquartered at Military Air Bases (' (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 ('), which operates the aircraft assigned to the Brigade. The Air Group is divided into a variable number of Squadron (aviation), 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 ('), in charge of the maintenance and repair of the Brigade's aircraft. *One Base Group ('), responsible for the airbase itself, weather forecasting, flight control, runway maintenance, etc. Base Groups also include Base Flights ('), generally made up of two or three liaison aircraft. The Personnel Command (') 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 (') 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 battleImage:Pampa II 3-4ths view from front.jpg, FMA Pampa trainer aircraft. *1st Air Brigade (El Palomar Military Air Base, Buenos Aires province, Buenos Aires Province) in El Palomar Airport ** 1st Air Transport Squadron (Lockheed C-130 Hercules, C-130H Hercules; Lockheed KC-130 Hercules, KC-130H Hercules; Lockheed L-100 Hercules, L-100-30 Hercules) ** 2nd Air Transport Squadron (Fokker F-28; partially used for state-run internal commercial flights as of 2021https://economia.ig.com.br/colunas/contato-radar/2021-01-27/lade-retoma-operacoes-comerciais-com-o-fokker-28.html) ** 5th Squadron (Boeing 707 retired) *2nd Air Brigade (Paraná Military Air Base, Entre Ríos Province) in General Justo José de Urquiza Airport ** 2nd Reconnaissance Squadron (Learjet 35A) ** 4th Squadron (Fokker F27 Friendship, Fokker F27-400M retired) ** Services Squadron (Cessna 182) *3rd Air Brigade (Reconquista Military Air Base, Santa Fe Province) in Daniel Jukic Airport ** Services Squadron (Cessna 182) ** 14th Antiaircraft Artillery Battery (Oerlikon GAI-D01; Elta EL/M-2106) *4th Air Brigade (El Plumerillo Military Air Base, Mendoza Province) in Governor Francisco Gabrielli International Airport ** 1st Training Squadron (FMA IA-63 Pampa serie 2) ** 3rd Search and Rescue Squadron (SA-315B Lama) ** 4th ''Cruz del Sur'' Aerobatics Squadron (Sukhoi Su-29, Su-29 retired) ** Fighter School ** 4th Antiaircraft Artillery Battery (Oerlikon GAI-D01; Elta EL/M-2106) ** West Tactical Intelligence Squadron *5th Air Brigade (Villa Reynolds Military Air Base, San Luis Province) in Villa Reynolds Airport ** 1st Fighter-Bomber Squadron (A-4AR Fightinghawk) ** 2nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron (A-4AR Fightinghawk) ** Services Squadron (Cessna 182; Hughes 500D) ** 5th Antiaircraft Artillery Battery (Rheinmetall RH 202; Elta EL/M-2106) * 6th Air Brigade (Tandil Military Air Base, Buenos Aires province, Buenos Aires Province) in Tandil Airport ** 1st Fighter-Bomber Squadron (Mirage V, AMD Mirage 5P Mara retired) ** 2nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron (IAI Finger retired) ** 3rd Air Interceptor Squadron (Dassault Mirage III, AMD Mirage IIIEA/DA retired) ** Unknown Squadron (IA-63 Pampa II) ** Services Squadron (Cessna 182; Aerocommander 500) ** 13th Antiaircraft Artillery Battery (Oerlikon GAI-B01) *7th Air Brigade (Moreno Military Air Base, Buenos Aires province, Buenos Aires Province) in Mariano Moreno Airport ** 1st Search and Rescue Squadron (Bell 212; Bell 412, Bell 412EP) ** 2nd Tactical Squadron (Hughes 500D) ** 3rd Squadron (Mil Mi-17, Mil Mi-171E) ** Special Operations Group (Argentina), Special Operations Group ( es, Grupo de Operaciones Especiales, GOE) *9th Air Brigade (Comodoro Rivadavia Military Air Base, Chubut Province) in General Enrique Mosconi International Airport ** 6th Air Transport Squadron (Saab-340, SAAB 340B) ** 7th Air Transport Squadron (DHC-6, DHC-6 Twin Otter) ** 7th Antiaircraft Artillery Battery (Rheinmetall RH 202) ** South Tactical Intelligence Squadron *Morón Military Air Base (Buenos Aires Province) in Morón Airport and Air Base, Morón Airport ** Unknown Squadron (Piper PA-34-220T Seneca; Piper/Chincul PA-28RT-201 Arrow; Piper PA-28-236 Dakota; Cessna 182) *Mar del Plata Military Air Base (Buenos Aires Province) in Astor Piazzolla International Airport ** Unknown Squadron (Roland II; Rheinmetall RH 202; Oerlikon GAI-D01; Oerlikon GDF-002; Skyguard) ** Antiaircraft Weapons Maintenance Squadron (UAV Pegasus; UAV Tehuelche; UAV Murciélago) *Río Gallegos Military Air Base (Santa Cruz province, Santa Cruz Province) in Piloto Civil Norberto Fernández International Airport ** Unknown Squadron (AN/TPS-43) ** 6th Antiaircraft Artillery Battery *Military Aviation School (Cordoba, Córdoba Province, Argentina, Córdoba Province) ** Glider Flight ** Services Squadron ** School Air Squadron (Grob G 120TP; Embraer EMB-312 Tucano)
OfficersOfficers 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 (rank), Ensign and Commodore (rank), Commodore. General officers wear different shoulder boards.
Non-commissioned officers and enlisted personnel
Chiefs of the Argentine Air Force
Argentine military – other air services*Argentine Army **Argentine Army Aviation *Argentine Navy **Argentine Naval Aviation *Military of Argentina
Operational use*Argentine air forces in the Falklands War ** Battle of San Carlos (1982), Battle of San Carlos
Units and related organisations*Agrupación Aérea Presidencial – Presidential VIP fleet *Argentine Air Force Mobile Field Hospital *LADE – State government airline
Sources* * *