Argentine Navy Celebrates 59 Years of the Grumman Tracker

May 31, 2021 (Google Translation) – The sun peeks over the hangars of the Comandante Espora Air Base (BACE) where the Naval Air Anti-Submarine Squadron (EA2S) is located. The silhouette of a Tracker is drawn between the earth and the still orange sky, and the noise of its turbines deafens the scene. With lights and signals, the EA2S staff enables the passage of the aircraft ready to inspect. Its structure and capabilities are optimal for antisubmarin activity. When the aircraft stops, it begins to unfold its large wings in a flapping motion.

It is the daily routine of the Squadron: maintaining the pre-flight, flight, and post-flight procedures of the aircraft, inspecting sensors, acoustic equipment, and processors on board. Its members – pilots, operators and mechanics – are continuously trained with qualified instructors with courses taught by the Naval Air Force Training Center No. 2, the Tactical Trainer (ATLAS 2), the Naval Aviation School, other bases and establishments. naval airships. Then, the personnel participate in exercises with units of the Sea Fleet, with other foreign Armed Forces and Armed Forces; which allows you to be ready to operate in case of real situations.

Training and enlistment

The Antisubmarine Naval Air Squadron is a combat unit that belongs to Naval Air Force N ° 2 (FAE2), dependent on the Naval Aviation Command (COAN), based in the BACE. Its Commander, since the end of 2019, is the Captain of the Naval Aviator Frigate Fernando Sebastián Gigena.

“The mission that the Squadron has is to ensure the maximum degree of training of its personnel, in order to keep the aircraft and the assigned means ready, to carry out air, offensive and defensive operations -mainly anti-submarine-, in support of the operations they carry out. the surface units of the Sea Fleet ”, Frigate Captain Gigena introduced.

“Other important missions of the unit, which arise from the fulfillment of the responsibilities of the Navy, are Search and Rescue in the safeguarding of life at sea (SAR Operations), and those of Space Control and Maritime Traffic in the Argentine Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEEA) ”, added the Commander of EA2S.

Regarding these control tasks, he mentioned that around 450 vessels transit the area near the cities of Trelew and Comodoro Rivadavia, in Chubut, to fish for illex squid, among other molluscs and fish. They are jigger vessels, thus referenced by the Argentine squid fishing, trawling vessels, factories, and suppliers. The number corresponds to the average circulation of them in the summer months, with the greatest fishing activity. In this context, it is that we speak of missions of Surveillance and Control of Maritime Spaces and Traffic in the ZEEA; exploration flights within mile 200 performed by the Squadron’s Turbotracker S2-T.

Flights at mile 200

The flights are ordered by the Navy Training and Enlistment Command (COAA) and executed through the Atlantic Naval Area Command (ANAT).

The EA2S Commander said that the Squadron carries out these flights, both during the day and at night, from December to the end of June. Currently, we are working in integrated, joint and combined action with ships of the Navy and the Naval Prefecture, and in Comodoro Rivadavia, with the 9th Air Brigade of the Argentine Air Force (FAA).

“The air presence for the control of maritime spaces begins with the assignment of an exploration area, and continues with the deployment of an aircraft that always operates with a ship and with the support from the ground of the Radioelectric Stations, which are monitoring and reporting in real time the activity, and the entire exploration process ”, explains Captain Gigena.

Once the point of interest of the area has been determined, an aircraft is designated, taking into account airports and stations, to fully exploit the autonomy of the ship, the logistics and communication facilities. The means available to the Navy to carry out this task are the Beechcraft B-200 and the Turbotracker S2-T, and the P3 Orion will soon be added.

When a Tracker is deployed from Espora to the Almirante Zar Naval Air Base in Trelew or to the FAA Base in Comodoro Rivadavia, it goes with a complete crew of 4 members: an aviator pilot, who is the mission commander; a tactical co-pilot, in qualification; a non-aquatic operator who takes care of the radar; and a flight mechanic.

“The Tracker meets the requirements requested for the task due to the facilities it has as it is an antisubmarine platform that has the sensors and controls for command and control, although it does not have the greatest autonomy -permanence in the operations area- as the P3 Orion, ”Captain Gigena said.

Rector in the antisubmarine activity that takes place in a complex environment of height (air) and depth (sea), Commander Gigena emphasized: “EA2S is a pioneer in acquiring knowledge of a demanding and hostile environment, developing it, perfecting it, and doing it. efficient in practice ”. They are years of knowledge, transmitted in exercises, training and real situations to the new generations.

EA2S: 59 years of experience, its environment and staff

“Of the 105 years recently completed that make up the history of Naval Aviation, EA2S celebrates 59 years as part of this story,” the Squadron Commander places. It was created on May 31, 1962 to counteract the threat of successive submarine appearances in the Argentine Sea.

Throughout these years, the Squadron operated with the same medium, the Tracker, in all its versions, arriving at the Turbotracker S2-T, which in 1993 made a change in its Power Plant with the TATA Project (Turbinization to Argentine Tracker).

The Tracker is a 4-seater twin-engine turboprop aircraft with tricycle landing gear that has a collapsible high-wing fuselage to facilitate maneuvering on aircraft carriers. “It unifies weapons and sensors, and can operate from deck,” Captain Gigena ponders.

The Squadron was decorated with the Medal of Honor for Valor in Combat for its participation during the war for the Falklands, accumulating more than a thousand flight hours in its missions. Its most recent operations include the rescue during the fire of the ARA “Almirante Irízar” icebreaker and the search for the ARA “San Juan” submarine and its 44 crew members; in addition to SAR and Maritime Control missions.

Today, the Squadron continues to operate with the Turbotracker, with the ultimate mission of training its personnel to maintain both the aircraft and its resources, and to carry out assigned operations. “The Squad is its environment and staff, which with professionalism and commitment works and trains daily,” emphasized the Commander.

The Tracker is the last to fly as a military aircraft; Taiwan stopped using it 5 years ago and Canada operates it in the civil sphere. The Argentine Navy is the only one in the world that keeps the aircraft, the squadron, and trains the appropriate personnel.

The eloquent past and the responsibility of keeping the inherited legacy in force, motivates the aeronautical personnel of this 50-year-old Squadron, who have the privilege of continuing to operate the Tracker militarily, waiting for a new medium that marks its future, with the firm conviction of continuing to serve. to the homeland from the sea.

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