Lockheed Martin Argentina SA took over FMA (Military Aircraft Factory) in July 1995. On June 19, 2001, Lockheed Martin presented this new aircraft during the Paris Air Show and offered it to customers worldwide. With a fully upgraded cockpit and modern avionics suite, the new AT-63 set a new standard for low-cost basic through advanced trainer and light attack aircraft.
Two prototype AT-63s were modified from existing IA 63s between 2001 and 2002. The first upgraded prototype flew at the end of this 2001, and serial production was scheduled to begin in late 2002.
The Argentine Air Force signed an agreement with Military Planes Manufacturer of Cordoba for the purchase of 12 Pampa AT-63 pilot trainers- The production was scheduled to begin in 2003. The first jet prototype conducted the inaugural flight in early 2002.
Argentine Naval Aviation signed a contract in February 2001 with Lockheed Martin for 8 Pampa pilot trainers. It was expected that the first aircraft will be delivered in March 2003. The idea was to start up the manufacturing of the place with the intention to export it to other countries.
While the Argentine Air Force was to be the first customer for the new AT-63, other countries expressed an interest, and the Argentine government was supportive of international sales of the aircraft. In addition to Latin America, export potential for the AT-63 existed in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The aircraft worth 6 million dollars was offered to Colombia, Greece, Israel Uruguay and Venezuela. In 2001 some negotiations were also initiated in France.
The program was slowed by lack of funding. In June 2000 it was announced that production would resume on another 12 Pampas for the Argentine Air Force, but to the new AT-63 configuration. However, no orders were received from Argentina due to the financial crisis, and orders from other potential customer also failed to materialize.
The new generation AT-63 maintained the ease of maintenance and airframe stability of the original version, produced in the late 1980s as the IA-63, while adding advanced upgrades and additional combat capabilities.
The new AT-63 featured:
- A Honeywell TFE-731-2C turbofan engine with 3,500 pounds of thrust.
- A state-of-the-art avionics suite with a Digital 1553B MIL STD data bus, full systems redundancy, a glass cockpit, laser ring INS/GPS NAV, a mission computer and an integrated weapons system.
- Fully pressurized dual control cabin with a one-piece canopy that can be electrically fragilized in the event of ground emergency. The ejection sequence for the two zero-zero seats can be pre-selected.
- Four underwing plus one under fuselage weapons stations enabling air-to-air and air-to-ground light attack capability.
Over half of the AT-63s components were to be manufactured in the United States, and the aircraft was to be fully supported by Lockheed Martin Aircraft & Logistics Centers.
Down-time for the in-service AT-63 fleet has consistently remained below design expectations. The AT-63 requires only 2.27 DMMH/FH while the total workload between major scheduled inspections is 3.80 DMMH/FH.
The new generation AT-63 maintained the ease of maintenance and stable flight characteristics of the original IA-63 version, produced in the late 1980s, while adding advanced avionics and an improved power plant.
The new AT-63 uses a Honeywell TFE-731-2C turbofan engine with 3,500 pounds of thrust. The new engine features a new digital DEC computer and improved mean time between failures. This family of engines had more than 8,000 in service with more than three million flight hours as of 2000.
The aircraft also had a digital cockpit with a heads-up display in the forward cockpit. The state-of-the-art avionics suite included a 1553B data bus, full systems redundancy, glass crew stations, laser ring INS/GPS NAV, a new mission computer and an integrated weapons system. This system was being designed and furnished by Elbit Systems, Ltd., Israel.
Fully pressurized dual control cockpits with a one-piece canopy can be electrically fragilized in the event of ground emergency. The ejection sequence for the two zero-zero seats can be pre-selected.
The light attack features of the aircraft included five weapons stations, enabling air-to-air and air-to-ground capability with a maximum payload of 1900 kilograms.
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