Argentine Naval Aviation


The Argentine Naval Aviation (Spanish: Comando de la Aviación Naval Argentina, COAN) is the naval aviation branch of the Argentine Navy and one of its four operational commands. Argentina, along with Brazil is one of two South American countries to have operated two aircraft carriers

Argentine Naval Aviation
Comando de la Aviación Naval Argentina
Argentine Naval Aviation patch.svg
Argentine Naval Aviation patch
Active1916 – present
Country Argentina
BranchArgentine Navy
TypeNaval aviation
Size35 aircraft
Part ofNavy
Ministry of Defense
EngagementsFalklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas) Gulf War
Chief of Staff of the NavyAdmiral
Chief of COANRear Admiral Eduardo Miguel Tourné[1]
RoundelRoundel of Argentina Navy black.svg
Former roundelRoundel of Argentina (Naval Aviation).svg

The acronym CANA is often used in English language bibliographies,[2][3] but is not correct Spanish usage.


Formation and World WarsEdit

COAN's origin can be traced to 22 October 1912 when a navy officer, Lt Melchor Escola, graduated as a pilot. On 11 February 1916 the naval air station school Fuerte Barragan was created near La Plata and the anniversary of this is marked as Naval Aviation Day. In September 1917 three naval lieutenants were sent to the US Naval Air Station Pensacola from which they were subsequently deployed to Europe to participate in World War I.[citation needed]

Argentine Navy Walrus MK-IV on board cruiser La Argentina, San Francisco, 1940

COAN was officially established on 17 October 1919 as the Naval Air Service. Over the following years, the COAN operated a variety of aircraft, mainly advanced trainer types imported from the USA including the North American AT-6, the Beechcraft AT-11 and the Consolidated PBY Catalina. Sikorsky S-51 helicopters joined the service shortly after the war in 1949.

Early combat operationsEdit

The COAN received a baptism by fire on 16 June 1955 when naval airplanes took part in the bombing of Plaza de Mayo. Three aircraft were shot down: one by an Argentine Air Force Gloster Meteor in air-to-air combat and two others by anti-aircraft guns. A Grumman J2F was shot down over the town of Saavedra on 18 September that year.

Navy pilots would see combat again during 1962–63 internal military fighting between factions known as Azules y colorados (blue and reds), culminating in the 1963 Argentine Navy Revolt in which Navy F9F Panthers and F4U Corsairs bombed Argentine Army tanks in defense of the Navy base of Punta Indio.

A carrier navyEdit

F9F Cougar and F4U Corsairs, BACE, 1960s.
Grumman F9F Cougar

A great change came into effect when the Navy received its first aircraft carrier, ARA Independencia, in 1959. At the time, her aircraft inventory included the F4U Corsair, SNJ-5Cs Texan and Grumman S2F-1 (S-2A) Trackers. The Navy also had F9F Panther and F9F Cougar jets but the carrier was not suitable for operating them, although they were embarked on the carrier during their delivery voyage from the United States to Argentina. The Cougar was the first jet to break the sound barrier in Argentina.[4] These jets would be involved in the general mobilization during the 1965 border dispute between Argentina and Chile but no combat occurred.

The naval training force received T-28 Trojans, T-34 Mentors and Aermacchi MB-326 jets which would be later reinforced with the most powerful variant MB-339.

Aermacchi MB326 at Rio Grande

In 1972 aircraft changed the word Naval to Armada painted on thempictorial

More aircraft entered service during the 1960s, including the C-47 Dakota[5] (which were extensively used in Antarctica including the first national landing on the South Pole made in 1962 by Captain Hermes Quijada who departed from Ellsworth Station[6]), Sikorsky S-55 helicopters and shore based aircraft P-2 Neptunes for maritime patrol duties.

In 1969 the Navy received her second carrier, ARA 25 de Mayo, from the Netherlands. On her voyage home, the British company Hawker Siddeley demonstrated its Harrier GR1 but the Argentines opted for the A-4Q Skyhawk instead. More helicopters were incorporated into the new carrier, the Alouette III and the SH-3 Sea King (the more advanced S-2E Tracker variant). Cargo planes Fokker F-28 and L-188 Electra modified for maritime patrol were also added.

The 1970s surface fleet modernization plan included the purchase of British destroyers with their complement of Westland Sea Lynx helicopters but their use would be affected by the upcoming events.

The military juntaEdit

In 1976, a Military Junta took power in Argentina and initiated a state-sponsored campaign of violence known as the Dirty War. Naval aviators were used to toss political prisoners (the "disappeared") into the River Plate, in the infamous Death flights.[7] In 1978, tension with Chile reached the highest point when the Argentine junta initiated Operation Soberanía. The war was avoided at the last minute by the intervention of pope John Paul II. By 1982, in order to maintain power by diverting public attention from the nation's poor economic performance and exploiting the long-standing feelings of the Argentines towards the Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) the Junta ordered an invasion and triggered the ten-week-long Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas).[citation needed]

Falklands WarEdit

The naval aviation, suffering an arms embargo since 1978 by US President Jimmy Carter for human rights abuses,[n 1] was in the middle of the process of replacing their A-4Q Skyhawks with French-built Dassault-Breguet Super Étendards. Although only five aircraft were delivered by the time of the conflict, the service became famous worldwide when they used their AM39 Exocet anti-shipping missiles, also purchased from France, to sink the Royal Navy's HMS Sheffield and the support ship Atlantic Conveyor. The older A-4Qs also had a role destroying HMS Ardent.[8]

On the eve of war the Argentine carrier ARA Veinticinco de Mayo attempted to launch a wave of A-4Q Skyhawk jets against the Royal Navy Task Force after her S-2 Trackers detected the British fleet. However, what would have been the first battle between aircraft carriers since World War II did not occur, as poor winds prevented the heavily loaded jets from being launched.[n 2] After the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror sank the cruiser ARA General Belgrano, the carrier returned to port for safety and her Skyhawks began their attacks from mainland Argentina instead.

The Argentine Navy SP-2H which tracked HMS Sheffield

Navy's T-34s and MB-339s, along with Air Force's Pucarás, were the only combat aircraft based on the islands and an MB-339 was the first aircraft to engage the British landing force during the Battle of San Carlos.

During the war the last two SP-2H Neptunes were retired due to airframe attrition and replaced with two leased Brazilian EMB 111 Bandeirantes.[9]

Four naval aviators died in the war.[n 3] Fourteen aircraft were lost, to various causes.

Post warEdit

P-3 in joint operations in Panama

In 1983, democracy was restored in Argentina and despite stricter military budgets, COAN was able to modernize with the lifting of arms embargoes. P-3 Orions and modified Beechcraft Super King Air were incorporated and Eurocopter Fennecs were bought as the new surface fleet embarked helicopter. New-built Agusta SH-3 Sea Kings for Antarctica arrived and UH-1H helicopters were assigned to the naval aviation to support the Argentine Marines. The navy also received Brazilian MB-326 Xavantes to replace their lost MB-339s.

The 1980s saw the last deployments of ARA 25 de Mayo: the Dassault-Breguet Super Étendards and the Israeli upgraded S-2T Turbo Trackers performed qualifications on her until the ship's final retirement.Video

Argentina was the only South American country to send warships, including embarked Alouette IIIs and cargo planes to the 1991 Gulf War under UN mandate. In 1998, Argentina was granted Major Non-NATO ally status by United States President Bill Clinton.[10]

Present dayEdit

Since 2001, due to the lack of an aircraft carrier, pilot qualification tests took place on the Brazilian Navy carrier São Paulo[11] and/or touch-and-go landings on US Navy carriers when they are in transit within Argentine coastal waters for Gringo-Gaucho manoeuvres.[12]

On 2008 the United States transferred four Sea King helicopters to replace the two lost in the fire of the icebreaker ARA Almirante Irizar.[13] As of 2012 a lack of funds for training and maintenance has left the Navy in poor condition. In particular their aircraft are dependent on a steady supply of foreign-made spares, which has been reduced by currency controls and import restrictions – for example the Fokker F-28 transports are grounded because of spares getting stuck in customs.[14]

Argentina hoped to upgrade ten of its eleven remaining Super Étendard to the latest Super Étendard Modernisé (SEM) standard using equipment from aircraft retired by France. This is now in doubt since their retirement from French service has been put back to late 2016 and relations with France have cooled since the UK intervened to block the sale of Spanish Mirage F1s to the Argentine Air Force.[15] Five refurbished Super Etendard aircraft were finally delivered to the Navy from France in 2019. However, these aircraft await the delivery of key spare parts and, as reported in June 2020, may not be in operational service for a further two years.[16] In 2021 it was reported that the return of these aircraft to an operational configuration was also encountering problems based on the fact that the ejector seats of the aircraft were the MK6, manufactured by Martin Baker in the UK.[17][18] In early 2022, it was reported that the spare parts problem remained unresolved and the aircraft remained in storage.[19]

Argentina was working on a procurement of four P-3C Orion aircraft from US Navy surplus stocks. Argentina's current fleet of P-3B's are non operational. The package deal was approved in September 2019. The US State Department has cleared the transaction of $78.03m to be carried out as part of a foreign military sale. It includes the delivery of related equipment and services. Argentina was to receive four turboprop engines for the aircraft and an additional four turboprop engines. It was also to receive communications and radar equipment, Infrared/Electro-optic equipment, and aviation life support systems. The US was to provide spares plus repairs, aircraft depot maintenance, and logistical support. Contractors for the deal include Logistic Services International, Lockheed Martin, Rockwell Collins and Eagle Systems. These newer Orions were to be up to the latest Orion standard, and provide Argentina with a much needed boost in anti-submarine and maritime surveillance missions.[20] However, in the aftermath of the inauguration of Alberto Fernández as president in December 2019, the deal was cancelled with the Navy instead being compelled to refurbish its older P-3B fleet.[21][22][23] In 2021, the final Grumman Tracker aircraft flew for the last time leaving Argentine fixed-wing naval aviation without an anti-submarine capability, unless and until another option is found.[24]

Air basesEdit

Gringo-Gaucho on USS Ronald Reagan
Sikorsky Sea King, preserved at MUAN

COAN has 5 main airbases ( Spanish: Base Aeronaval (BAN) ):


Fuerza Aeronaval 1 (Naval Aviation Force 1)Edit

The Fuerza Aeronaval 1 (FAE1) is based at Punta Indio Naval Air Base, near La Plata, Buenos Aires.

  • Escuela de Aviación Naval (ESAN) (Naval Aviation School) : Beechraft T-34C-1Turbo Mentor
  • 1ra Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Ataque (EA41) (1st Naval Attack Sqd) : In reserve, no aircraft assigned.
  • Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Vigilancia Marítima (EA1V) (Maritime Surveillance Naval Sqd) : Beechcraft B200 Cormorán, locally converted for the maritime patrol role. Based at naval air Station Punta Indio (BAPI)
  • 2da Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Sostén Logístico Móvil (EA52) (2nd naval Transport Sqd) : Based at naval air Station Ezeiza (ETAE) at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, they used Fokker F28 Mk.3000C Fellowship for supporting all navy units. However, reported retired from service without replacement as of 2021.[25]

Fuerza Aeronaval 2 (Naval Aviation Force 2)Edit

The Fuerza Aeronaval 2 (FAE2) is based at navy airbase Comandante Espora, near Bahía Blanca and consists of all embarked aircraft.

Fuerza Aeronaval 3 (Naval Aviation Force 3)Edit

The Fuerza Aeronaval Numero 3 (FAE3) is based at Naval Airbase Almirante Zar, near Trelew to perform sea control and Search and rescue duties along the Argentine coast from the Uruguayan border to the Antarctic Peninsula.

  • Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Exploración (EA6E) (Exploration naval Sqd) : P-3B reported non-operational at end 2019;[27] Being refurbished as of 2021.

Naval aircraft inventoryEdit

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Maritime Patrol
King Air United States maritime surveillance 200 4[28]
King Air United States utility 200 1[28]
Pilatus PC-6 Switzerland transport 1[28]
Eurocopter AS555 France utility 1[28]
SH-3 Sea King United States ASW S-61D-3 4[28]
Trainer Aircraft
Beechcraft T-34 United States trainer 10[28]

In addition to the Naval aviation, a small air fleet is maintained by the Argentine Coast Guard.

For aircraft previously operated by the Argentine Navy, see List of aircraft of Argentine Naval Aviation.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Backing the Humphrey-Kennedy amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1976, the Carter administration placed an embargo on the sale of arms and spare parts to Argentina and on the training of its military personnel.
  2. ^ "He hoped to be able to fly off six Skyhawks with a 240-mile combat radius and each armed with six 250kg bombs. He needed 40 knots of wind to be able to achieve this. At 22.00 the wind started to drop. He now calculated that it would take until 06.00 before he could be in a position to mount the attack. Two hours later at midnight the wind had dropped further....It was now estimated that an attack would not be possible.."- Freedman, Lawrence: Signals of war (1990) Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-14144-7
  3. ^ Lieutenants Zubizarreta, Márquez (both A-4Q pilots) Benítez & Miguel (MB339s)


Portions based on a translation from Spanish Wikipedia.


  1. ^ "Comandante de la Aviación Naval". (in Spanish). 3 April 2020. Retrieved 2021-12-31.
  2. ^ Christopher Chant (2001). Air War in the Falklands 1982. Bloomsbury USA. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-84176-293-7.
  3. ^ 5myGRpteiEQC. Archived from the original on 21 June 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  4. ^ "AvNaval". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  5. ^ ARA DC-2/DC-3 history[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Base Ellsworth". Archived from the original on 12 November 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Aviones de la muerte". Pagina 12. Archived from the original on 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2010-02-07.
  8. ^ "HMS Ardent Falklands War 1982". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  9. ^ "PDF book: Historia de la Aviación Naval Argentina". (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2010-01-21.
  10. ^ "Overview of U.S. Policy Toward South America and the President's Upcoming Trip to the Region". Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  11. ^ "ARAEX ops". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2016-03-25. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  12. ^ "Gringo-Gaucho Ops". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  13. ^ "NAVAIR delivers two more Sea King helicopters to Argentine Navy – News – Shephard". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  14. ^ "Argentine navy short on spares and resources for training and maintenance". MercoPress. 22 November 2012. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  15. ^ Gonzalez, Diego (10 March 2014). "Argentine Super Etendard modernisation hits major snags". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on 27 July 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  16. ^ "Los Super Étendard argentinos estarían operativos en dos años - Noticias Infodefensa América". 10 June 2020.
  17. ^ "Argentine Air Force faces another hurdle for its re equipment plans".
  18. ^ "Argentina busca repuestos para los asientos eyectables de los Super Étendard Modernisé - Noticias Infodefensa América". 5 July 2021.
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Argentina's P-3C Orion aircraft support package sale approved by US". 20 December 2019.
  21. ^ "El estado de la Aviación Naval Argentina". 12 February 2021.
  22. ^ "¿Una luz de esperanza para los P-3B Orión?". Zona Militar. 14 August 2020.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Aviación Naval pierde capacidad de control del mar".
  25. ^ "El estado de la Aviación Naval Argentina". 12 February 2021.
  26. ^ Air Forces Monthly April 2008 issue, pp.18.
  27. ^ "Argentina's P-3C Orion aircraft support package sale approved by US". 20 December 2019.
  28. ^ a b c d e f "World Air Forces 2022". Flightglobal Insight. 2022. Retrieved 15 April 2022.


  • Lezon, Ricardo Martin & Stitt, Robert M. (January–February 2004). "Eyes of the Fleet: Seaplanes in Argentine Navy Service, Part 2". Air Enthusiast (109): 46–59. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Lezon, Ricardo Martin & Stitt, Robert M. (July–August 2002). "Gifted Fighter: The Argentine Navy's Singular SE.5A". Air Enthusiast (100): 25. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Morgan, Eric B. & Burnet, Charles (December 1981 – March 1982). "Walrus... Amphibious Angel of Mercy". Air Enthusiast (17): 13–25. ISSN 0143-5450.

Further readingEdit

  • Aviación Naval Argentina. Sebastian Sequeira, Carlos Cal y Cecilia Calatayud. ISBN 950-9064-02-5, SS&CC ediciones, Buenos Aires, 1984. (Spanish text)
  • Arguindeguy, Pablo Eusebio (1980). Historia de la Aviación Naval Argentina, Tomo 1 (in Spanish). Vol. 1. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Departamento de Estudios Históricos Navales. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
  • Arguindeguy, Pablo Eusebio (1981). Historia de la Aviación Naval Argentina, Tomo2 (in Spanish). Vol. 2. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Departamento de Estudios Históricos Navales. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
  • Martini, Hector Albino (1992). Historia de la Aviación Naval Argentina, Tomo 3 (in Spanish). Vol. 3. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Departamento de Estudios Históricos Navales. Retrieved 2014-08-31.
  • Martini, Hector Albino (2012). Historia de la Aviación Naval Argentina, Tomo 4 (in Spanish). Vol. 4. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Departamento de Estudios Históricos Navales.

External linksEdit

  • Official website  
  • Argentine Naval Aviation Institute
  • MUAN Official Naval Aviation Museum
  • Argentine Naval Aviation in 1934[permanent dead link]
  • Naval Aviation Command, Argentine Navy website (accessed 2914-08-10)