by José Teixidó
By the mid 1960s, circumstances demanded that the FAA (Fuerza Aérea Argentina) acquire new aircraft. Among the most immediate requirements were the replacement of obsolete Lincolns and Gloster Meteors which were at the end of their airframe life.
Another important factor was that in the mid sixties Argentina was embroiled in its worst ever armed conflict with its nearest neighbour, Chile. At the time, the Hawker Hunter was entering service in the Chilean Air Force. The Hunter was a much more powerful plane than the Meteor and even the 25 F-86F Sabres in service in the FAA.
Finally in 1966, 50 A-4B Skyhawk's were bought from US Navy inventory. The package included updated airframes, a few modifications, pilot and ground personnel training and supply of spares.
Modifications included wing spoilers or vortex generators on top of the flaps (from the A-4F), Wright J-65-16A engines rebuilt to 0 hours, 0-90 ejecting seats (later in the 1980s they were updated with 0-0 Escapac units), Bendix CNA-4 navigation system instead of the AN/ASQ-17, VOR antenna on the tail, Bendix RTA-41B/RNA-26C with its antenna located in a fin behind the capony, DFA-73 in a dorsal radome instead of the UHF/ADF AN/ARA-25. The UHF AN/ARC-27 and the IFF AN/APX-6B were also added and the TACAN AN/ARN-21 and the AN/APN-141altimeter were eliminated.
The Skyhawks in this configuration were then renamed A-4P but Argentinean pilots continued to refer to them as A-4B.
On 31 October, 1966, the first batch of 12 A-4P Skyhawks finally landed on Argentinean soil after an 11 hour ferry flight.
The first units were delivered in a aluminium finish but they were soon repainted in a green/brown topsides with light blue undersides. The last 25 planes were camouflaged at the factory (but these planes were painted in a reverse pattern in error) and were fitted with the Ferranti D126R Isis sight system, a major improvement over the original equipment.
With the arrival of the second batch on 18 March 1967, the last 3 Lincolns were retired. Delivery of 49 Skyhawks (C-203 was crashed in the US by an Argentinean pilot) was completed during April of 1970.
The air war over the South Atlantic was undoubtedly one of the more controversial conflicts of modern warfare.
Brave Argentinian pilots in the low tech A-4B/C proved to be a real threat to modern generation ships, even when they were only loaded with the ol' faithful "Iron Bomb" - and plenty of guts, not unlike their WWII predecessors.
Both the A-4B & C provided outstanding performance and availability even in the harsh operating conditions of the South Atlantic. Many of these aircraft returned from missions with major battle damage but were literally patched and pushed back into service within matter of hours.
The A-4P C-240 started life as Bu. 142855 and arrived in the last batch entering service in April 1970. After a excellent service log, recording no less than 10 sorties, resulting - as the markings on the plane show- in the attack to the HMS Ardent (25-05-82), the HMS Argonaut (21-05-82) and the HMS Antelope (23-05-82). Although there is some confusion about who really sunk the Ardent and whether the C-240 actually took part in it or not, since a few of my references also show C-204 as the author of the attack in the hands of Cptn. Carballo. The attack to the HMS Argonaut came from the hands of Tte. Aurtiero. In the same mission Tte. Filippini collided with the superstructure of the Ardent with his wing tanks, as he relates on the DIOS Y LOS HALCONES book.
"...We got to the acceleration point, in that moment. 3 minutes before the releasing point we accelerated, usually flying at 50 feet or less over the sea in an attempt to evade the Sea Harriers that could stop our attack."
"When we already had the San Carlos bay at sight one of my wingmen, the "Stallion" , screamed on the radio -¡¡¡At the right!!!" "...I saw a frigate, and apparently they had detected us because they were heading very fast to a high cliff in an desperate attempt to protect itself, since we had to pull earlier in order to evade the rock wall and thus providing a better target for it´s AAA."
"Soon after, we started getting artillery fire. We saw her through the tracing bursts that were forming a screen of little beams, turning the quiet island scenary in a inferno. During the final run we also noticed a few bursts ahead, others in top of us making Us go lower."
"...the ship protected by that 200 meters high rock wall was in my sights and I released the bomb ..." "I pulled the stick, initiating an ascending turn to the right, trying to evade the cliff. At that moment I perceived a strong impact below my plane. I had crashed against the superstructure with one of my wing tanks. It was dented and the tail cone was missing, the ship antenna was totally bend."
The attack to the HMS Antelope took place on May the 23rd and C-240 was flown by the Alf. Gómez.
There seems to be at least three different schemes or "stages" in the life of this particular plane and most of the survival A-4Ps for that matter. The first one clearly shown in pictures with a heavy weathered and faded green/brown camo, as these units usually were during the 82 conflict.
After the conflict a few of the markings (particularly the plane number below the cockpit) were deleted, in its place the "kill markings" appeared and a better quality and slightly different shade was used on the camo
Finally the third one with this same scheme but with the nose painted in white, meaning that at some point after the retirement a more powerful J-65-W-20 engine from a A-4C was fitted to it as it is clearly shown in the last picture took the 8/91 at the 5th Brigade before the plane was finally retired.
In 1993 the plane was transferred to the Museo Nacional de Aeronautica, in the Aeroparque Airport, Buenos Aires were it seats proudly showing the green/brown camo, as it was painted after the conflict (with the black nose cone).
We can all look forward to the upcoming Hobbycraft release of the A-4B in 1/48 scale with the Argentinean markings. Now you won't have any excuse not to build one.
The only choice in 1/72 is the old but excellent Fujimi A-4B & C.
Aerocalcas Argetinas produces decals not only for these, but for others fine Falklands related subjects in both popular scales. They are very difficult to get and their first attempts were on the lousy side, but their late releases are outstanding.
FCM from Brazil also produces a Falklands sheet both popular scales and they are of very fine quality and highly recommended, besides they can be found easily than the Aerocalcas one.
A-4P (Bs) during the conflict used a FS 30099 Brownish green and FS 30118 Brown camouflage for the top sides and FS 35550 light blue for the lower sides, although conditions and probably the quality of the pigments itself made the scheme fade to a very brownish solid scheme so that the two top colours were barely differentiable from each other.
Battle damage and conditions also weathered these units a lot, some of them showing heavy chipping particularly on the leading edge of the wings and almost every other place where the ground equipment contacted the plane. Some had a few patches visible or parts coming from another planes witch caused an "offset" on the pattern lines. After the war these units were painted using better quality pigments, and to ensure the proper contrasts between the two colours a slightly different shade of green was selected.
These pictures were taken in the afternoon - not the best time for taking pictures. But since my visit to the Buenos Aires city was rather short and business related I did not have much choice.
The plane sits right in the middle of the main park at the Museum, proudly displaying its markings.
One wonders why do they call it "Scooter", it is much bigger that I though it would be. In those days I just had finished the "Dios y los Halcones" (God and the Hawks) book and was starting the "Halcones sobre Malvinas" (Hawks over the Malvinas), both excellent books written by an A-4P and Falklands veteran pilot Cptn. Pablo Carballo. It is a shame those books were only edited in Spanish and they are HIGHLY recommended not only to Falklands but all military aviation enthusiasts.
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Dedicated to the memories of those brave pilots who fell in the line of duty, regardless of which side they were fighting.
Text, Profile & Images (except where otherwise noted)
2000 by José Teixidó