Ceibo 2005

Mendoza, Argentina

14 - 25 November 2005


In a world dominated by the War on Terror chiefly fought in the Middle East, one would almost forget that there is a continent like South America. Far away from the Arab world with its eternal problems, far away from Africa with its eternal problems as well. Now democratic after years of histories dominated by incapable governments from both civil as well as military origins, some Latin American countries are now forging ties among them.  In 1991 Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay  formed  the MERCOSUR trading zone. Obviously, the countries involved would like to put in their weight militarily as well when time comes. In order to prepare for any future conflict which might require their combined muscle, exercises like CRUZEX in Brazil, but also Ceibo in Argentina are now being run.

This year's Ceibo, named for a tree common in Argentina, was held at Mendoza-El Plumerillo Air base in Mendoza Province, western Argentina. Despite being so close to the Andes that one can see snow capped mountains from base, El Plumerillo is situated in a warm and dry area of Argentina. 

Ceibo 2005's scenario involved an imaginery country, Canopus, invading a resource rich and equally imaginary neighbour known as Orion. A third imaginary nation, Alpha Centauri, suffered from the effects of the conflict and called in assistance. The MERCOSUR nations Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, aided by Chile, came to the rescue. 

Ceibo 2005 involved most if not all of the Fuerza Aéra Argentina's (FAA) surving Mirage force from Grupo Aeréo 6 de Caza from BAM Tandil, with not only Mirage 3EA's and Mirage 5PA Maras, but also ex Israeli Fingers (Daggers following a Mid Life Update).


As typical Argentinian as tango are the FMA IA.58 Pucaras. Flown by Grupo Aéreo 3 de Ataque from Reconquista, Santa Fe, five of these turboprops took part in Ceibo 2005. A-504 seen here has been decorated with a badge commemorating the type's 30th year of service with the Fuerza Aérea Argentina.

A modernisation programme for the Pucara, named for a native Argentinian fortress, is now underway. 

The latest addition to Argentina's front line strength also took part in the exercise. Grupo Aéreo 5 de Caza from Villa Reynolds, San Luis, detached some of its A-4AR Fighting Hawks, along with one of the four two seater OA-4AR's seen here. Fitted with a downgraded F-16 radar, the Fighting Hawk was the best the FAA could hope for as a replacement for their ageing A-4P Skyhawks of Falklands/Malvinas fame.

Even the elderly Morane Saulnier MS.760 Paris had a role to play during Ceibo 2005. The four seater trainer still hangs on to FAA service after some 40 years or more.Note the backseater who is leasurely dressed in a shirt, while wearing a helmet and oxygen mask!


It had been intended to replace the Paris with this type, the IA.63 Pampa. Economic realities forced Argentina to retain the Paris as only 12 Pampas could be built. No doubt, the small and nimble Pampas presented a challenging target to locate for the interceptors.

In European exercises, the Italo/Brazilian AMX is just the AMX. Not a very modern fighter bomber, but it will do. In Latin America however, Brazil's AMX or A-1as the type is known in the Brazilian Air Force constitutes a by comparison very modern ground attack platform. The Brazilian Air Force despatched five AMX's, one of which was an AMX-T (A-1B) twin seater from its 1°/10° Grupo de Aviaçao from Santa Maria to Mendoza. The other four were of the single seat A-1A variety as seen here. Note the new green/grey camouflage scheme.


Surprisingly, the Chilean Air Force made an appearance as well, Argentina and Chile having not been the best of friends in the past. In this view, a former Belgian Mirage 5BA, now known as a Mirage 5MA Elkan from Grupo 8 at Cerro Moreno, Antofagasta can be seen on finals to Mendoza. In all, the Chilean Air Force took delivery of 20 Belgian Mirage 5 MirSIPs, five of which including a two seater made the trip to Argentina across the Andes.


The Fuerza Aerea Uruguaya sent two of its Durazno based A-37B's from Brigada Aerea II over. These little COIN jets constitute the jet fighter part of the FAU. With as many as six fueltanks fitted, there will not be much room for external weapons under the wings of 285.


Air-to-air refuelling is an integral part of Argentine Air Force operations. The FAA operate a pair of these KC-130H Hercules tankers and used one of these during the 1982 Falklands War to enable a badly damaged A-4 to return home. The A-4 lost fuel at almost the same rate as the KC-130H was able to supply it, but made it nonetheless. Nowadays, the A-4AR will be the Hercs prime customer as the Mirage fleet continues to be incapable of receiving fuel in flight.

Ceibo 2005's flightline at Mendoza was filled exclusively with Brazilian, Uruguayan and Chilean aircraft, in addition  to their Argentinian hosts. Paraguay and Bolivia had sent observers. Possibly a follow on to Ceibo 2005 will include other nations, forging more ties between these Latin American air forces.



All pictures (c) Hans Rolink