1/48 Kinetic Pucará IA 58A – Guerra de las Malvinas (group build)
The IA-58 Pucará is an Argentine ground attack/counter-insurgency aircraft manufactured by Fábrica Militar de Aaviones (FMA) and capable of operating from less than ideal airstrips that were too short or rough for jet fighters. Pucarás could carry an impressive number of mixed weapons fitted to the wing pylons and had specifically designed low pressure tires to handle rough ground. Pucarás were produced in three different models from 1974-1993 with 110 total built. The IA-58A saw action during the ‘82 Falklands War and the 1983 Sri Lankan Civil War.
A Little History First:
By the time the Falklands/Malvinas War was gearing up, about 60 Pucará A models had been delivered to the FAA (Fuerza Aérea Argentina) ready for action. It was one of the few aircraft in the Argentine inventory capable of flying operationally from dirt airfields like those on the Falkland islands where runways were not long enough and often littered with rocks and pot holes making them unsuitable for use by FAA Skyhawks and Mirages. It was decided to send a small number of Pucarás to the Falklands a few at a time, with the first four arriving at Port Stanley in April 1982 with the final total capping off at 24.
Once they arrived at Port Stanley, the Falkland Pucarás were painted on the field by ground crews using thinned FIAT car paint sourced from the FIAT Argentine factory. No two paint jobs were the same and were beat up by the harsh weather in no time. These Pucarás were used primarly to attack British ground troops and flew a total of 103 sorties, May 21st thru June 10th.
For my contribution to the iModeler Falklands/Malvinas group build, I chose to model Pucará A-532 piloted by an FAA Lt. Russo on May 28. Russo took off on a follow up mission from the strip at Puerto Argentino as wingman for leader Capt Grünert (A-533) and the two Pucarás attacked the British base at Goose Green coming in from the sea position. Grünert fired his load of rockets first, just as a blast occurred under his plane. Thinking his leader was in serious trouble and might eject, Russo didn't not fire his and instead doubled back to make sure Grünert was ok. Then Russo was ordered by the FAA to turn around and attack the British a second time, which he did successfully. With some armament still left, Russo was again ordered to attack yet a third time. Capt. Grünert told Russo to disregard those orders because he doubted Russo would be lucky to get away unharmed again. Russo escorted Grünert back to Puerto Argentino through extremely bad weather with low visibility. As they returned, the two Pucarás unintentionally flew by an unseen British Harrier according to later radar reports. Grünert's A-533 was indeed shot up but both Pucarás delivered their pilots home safely, a testimony to their sturdiness.
However, all 24 Pucarás that served in the Falklands were eventually destroyed on the ground or captured by the British. In that regard, the Pucará's tenure in the Malvinas was a total failure.
Kinetic's FMA IA-58A Pucará is one terrific model right out of the box. It's thoughtfully designed with precise fitting of the parts just snapping in place. However the instructions are a bit poor and there are no paint call outs once you get past the front office stage. However there are painting instructions at the end offering two exterior color schemes that appear to be very accurate, one for the Falklands AAF (A-511 flown by Maj. Carlos Tomba) and the other an upgraded D model Pucará used by the Uruguayan Air Force. Kit decals are very good but I opted to use the excellent and extensive Pucará sheet by Two Bobs that allows one to model all 24 Falkland Pucarás as well as other quite interesting schemes.
Kinetic's Pucará kit provides two under wing and one centerline gas tanks but no weapons, so you have to source those yourself. I used Hasegawa's Aircraft Weapons A & B sets to model the 4 LAU canister rockets that most Pucarás carried in addition to a center rack holding 6 Mk 82 bombs.
The only aftermarket goodies I used were the more accurate resin wheels by ResKit and Uschi .03 fine rigging for the antenna wires. Paints used were Vallejo and Tamiya acrylics and Alclad Klear Kote Flat.
I chose to take my time (in addition to 4 months of no modeling at all due to family health emergency in Costa Rica that required my presence) and my nit picks are minimal. The clear wing tip lights needed a little contour sanding to achieve a flush fit, no biggie. The two part canopy pieces are somewhat fidgety to position and hold into place while waiting for white glue to set up. The positioning of the main wheel door parts is incorrectly depicted in the instructions. Just reverse the locations for parts C4 and C5 and that takes care of it. The main gear is extremely detailed and well done, but needs reinforcing at its base as it's a tad on the fragile side. It would be very easy to accidentally snap one of these along with the nose gear, so be extra careful when working in the area. Too bad Kinetic didn't provide any under wing weapons designed to fit this kit. One last thing: install the Pucará props absolutely last or you'll knock those off as well for sure.
Kinetic's FMA IA-58A/D Pucará is one terrific model that goes together smoothly. No wonder TC and other styrene critics put this one at the top of their “2021 Kit of the Year” lists. A total delight. You can check out my complete Pucará build thread right here.
Many thanks to Tom Cleaver and Pablo Calcaterra for their technical and historical support.
Comments always welcome.