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 GLOSTER METEOR IVS IN ARGENTINA
 
 


 
In 1944 the Gloster Meteor F3 became first operational jet fighter used by the Royal Air Force, and its successor - the Gloster Meteor F4 ( pictured above )  - was distinguished from it by a shorter wingspan and longer engine nacelles.


INTRODUCTION

In 1944 the Gloster Meteor F3 became first operational jet fighter used by the Royal Air Force, and its successor - the Gloster Meteor F4 ( pictured above )  - was distinguished from it by a shorter wingspan and longer engine nacelles. 

The shorter wingspan – 37’ 2" against the original 43’ – was stiffer and, being 6% smaller, offered a rate of roll of more than 80 degrees per second. However, the Meteor F4 required higher take off and landing speeds as a result. 

The more aerodynamic long chord nacelles meanwhile could accept the 3 000 lb thrust Derwent 5 engine, adapted by Rolls Royce from the even larger and more powerful Nene turbojet. Meteor F4s also featured a strengthened airframe and a pressurised cockpit and could reach over 600 mph at sea level and Mach 0.85 at 30,000 ft, an altitude that could be reached in just 6 minutes.

The F4 was also the last fighter version of the Gloster Meteor to be fitted with the original curved tailplane. Single seat Gloster Meteors from the F8 onward had a more rectangular and streamlined tail.

Meteor F4s equipped 31 RAF and Royal Auxilliary Air Force squadrons (often with flamboyant colours added to the standard roundels and other markings) and remained in service with training units long after they had been replaced by the Meteor F8 in front line service between 1950 and 1955.

Meteor F4s were also exported to Belgium, Denmark, Egypt and the Netherlands with 46 examples being produced by Armstrong Whitworth - a sister company to Gloster Aircraft within the Hawker Siddeley group.  

This article however, based on information and images acquired with the kind help of Luis de la Fuente, looks at the first Gloster Meteor F4 export order to Argentina.



PILOT TRAINING

Ten of the FAA pilots pose in front of ex-RAF Gloster Meteor IV, reserialled as 1-008

Ten of the FAA pilots pose in front of ex-RAF Gloster Meteor IV, reserialled as 1-008

The contract for 100 Meteor F4s from the Argentine Republic came in May 1947 and included the training of 12 pilots of the Fuerza Aerea Argentina ( FAA ) .  For this reason six Meteor F4s were retained at Gloster's Moreton Valence airfield, south of the City of Gloucester, along with Meteor F3s  EE367, EE460 and EE470.

12 May 1947 saw the gathering of the group of Argentine Air Force personnel that would travel to England to familiarise themselves with their newly ordered Gloster Meteor IVs. After their counterparts in Britain, Germany and the United States of America, these would be the first jet pilots in the World and would also be the first from a nation that had not taken part in World War II to train with pilots who had jet combat experience.  

Although many citizens of Argentina had travelled to Britain to fight in the Second World War - even forming their own RAF squadrons like the Czechs and the Poles - Argentina as a nation had served as a neutral "breadbasket" of the Allied cause: supplying grain and other foodstuffs by the shipload.  Once peace came, part of Britain's debt to Argentina was repaid in both Gloster Meteors and Avro Lincoln aircraft. 

 Indeed, Argentina was destined not only to become the first South American nation to fly jet fighters but also the first nation on its continent to design and build its own jet aircraft.

Under the command of Captain Soto the England-bound group comprised Lieutenants Vedannia Mannuwal, Jorge Martinez Zubiría, Oscar Romano, Alferéces Armando Bernasconi, Lorenzo Bravo, Gert Kleissen, Carlos Pastor, Jorge Rangugni and Luis Valoni as well as Second Lieutenant Deheza and ten technical specialists of Other Ranks.

Flight training at Moreton Valence, south of Gloucester, lasted from June 17 until 4 July and also involved twin-engined Airspeed AS 10 Oxfords, Avro Ansons and a De Havilland Dove while the "erks" received instruction in the operation, maintenance, assembly and repair of engines, armament and other systems.

The Argentine pilots logged an average of 10 hours of training in around 15 flights and their lack of English presented no real problems until Captain Soto, returning to Moreton Valence in poor visibility, got lost and landed at a nearby RAF base.  The arrival of a novel - if well known - jet aircraft and a foreign pilot who could only say "Moreton Valence, Gloucestershire." - and who some believed to be a Russian spy - caused quite a stir, not least as Captain Soto refused to leave the cockpit!

Luckily, the commanding officer of the guards surrounding the Meteor telephoned the Gloster Aircraft Company and was told that one of their jets was indeed missing - with an Argentine pilot!  Lieutenant Mannuwal, who spoke perfect English, was rapidly despatched to clear up the misunderstanding and the two Argentines stayed to tea with the Commanding Officer until the return of the Meteor could be arranged.


On another occasion an attempt by Second Lieutenant Deheza and Lieutenant Romero to fly under the 312 feet main spans of the Severn Railway Bridge was thwarted at the last moment when they realised that their approach was blocked by high tension power cables!  Luckily the two jet pilots managed to pull up and fly over the bridge rather than crash into it, although during World War II a detatchment of RAF police were billeted at the Severn Bridge Hotel at Sharpness specifically to take the numbers of any British aircraft attempting the same stunt. This was not before a Vickers Wellington - wingspan 86' 2" - had passed under the iron structure!

Although no Argentine pilots were killed or injured during training at Moreton Valence, the Gloster Aircraft Company recognised the need for a two seat training version of the Meteor which led to the development of the Meteor T7.

                       

METEORS IN SERVICE AND ON SHOW

 In order to to provide rapid delivery, the first 50 F4s were ex-RAF aircraft re-serialled as 1-001 to 1-050 but the remainder were brand new aircraft serialled 1-051 to 1-100.  The first few aircraft were uncrated at the dockside in Buenos Aires, partly assembled in a nearby park and towed on their own landing wheels some 12 miles to El Palomar airbase.  The great majority were taken direct to El Palomar, where Gloster personnel assisted FAA ground crews in assembling the new jets and preparing them for flight testing by Bill Waterton, Gloster's Chief Test Pilot.  He was later relieved by Digby Cotes-Preedy, another Gloster Pilot.   

Once the Meteor F4s were operational however the FAA were keen to display their new assets, as witnessed by the pages from the guide to the 1947 Exposicion Argentina De Aeronautica reproduced below.  
                                           

Meteors fly in Argentine skies!


A trio of Gloster Meteor IVs fly over excited airshow crowds.


The Gloster "Meteor" IV that the public admires in the Aeronautical  Argentina Exhibition of 1947 are the final expression of a series of models proven and improved during the last war, in competition with the fastest planes and rockets bombs. These planes, winners of so arduous an experience thanks to the skill of their builders and pilots, are generally considered to be at present the most perfect of their class.

GLOSTER "METEOR" MARK IV JET AEROPLANE

The Gloster "Meteor" IV that the public admires in the Aeronautical  Argentina Exhibition of 1947 are the final expression of a series of models proven and improved during the last war, in competition with the fastest planes and rockets bombs. These planes, winners of so arduous an experience thanks to the skill of their builders and pilots, are generally considered to be at present the most perfect of their class.

Their high speed (The test pilots of Gloster Aircraft Co. Ltd. exceeded1000 km/h with them ) and surprising manoeverability surpass all the interceptor type war planes that are in active service today .

They have two "Derwent V" jet engines of the famous Rolls-Royce marque which allow them to reach a maximum speed of 940 km/h at an altitude of 3050 meters in combat conditions and completely loaded. The cruise and landing speeds are 870 and 200 km/h respectively.
If for any circumstance one of the engines failed in flight, the Gloster can keep on flying with the remainder, which is enough for the achievement of all  manoeuvres at a speed of 30% of that obtained with two engines.

As we can see, with only one engine, the Gloster "Meteor" is faster than the majority of other planes. The possibility of reaching high altitude in minimal time is a very important requisite in the military planes and the Gloster "Meteor" satisfies this by reaching 6100 meters in 3 minutes 18 seconds.

"Glosters en la Costanera - Gloucesters on the coast - meanwhile was a public information leaflet showing the Meteor F4s doing some tests on the River Plate.


"Glosters en la Costanera - Gloucesters on the coast - meanwhile was a public information leaflet showing the Meteor F4s doing some tests on the River Plate.


"Glosters en la Costanera - Gloucesters on the coast - meanwhile was a public information leaflet showing the Meteor F4s doing some tests on the River Plate.



On 3 December 1947, the first FAA Gloster Meteor unit – Regimento 4 de Caza Interceptora – was formed at Tandil AB, which previously been improved and widened in order to accommodate jets. The second unit, Regimento 6 de Caza Interceptora, was established in 1949. Some airframes were assembled at the Instituto Aerotécnico (Aerotechnical Institute), in Cordoba, Argentina’s third largest city. This institution had been founded in 1927 and in the 1940s it was renamed into Fábrica Militar de Aviones (FMA) and put under FAA control. The FMA also established an assembly line for Rolls Royce W.2B/37 Derwent engines, which powered the Meteor.

Initially, the FAA experienced a great number of accidents with their Meteors. The aircraft was actually still in development, and many of its design features could actually not cope with its Derwent engines. One of the planes exploded after coming out of barrel roll during preparations to establish a new close circuit speed record, while several others crashed.

A number of conversion and upgrade projects was undertaken on Meteors. One was fruitless attempt at development of a two-seat conversion trainer variant with a second seat in the cockpit instead of communications equipment. A small number of Meteors was modified with strengthened cockpit and larger wings from Meteor F.Mk.III for various record-breaking attempts, while there was also a project for the PT-1 air-to-ground missile under testing in 1953.

In March 1949, the FAA’s structure changed so that the Regiments became Brigades  (re-named Brigada Aérea – “Air Brigades” – in 1951) resembling the Wings in the RAF. The Regimento 4 de Caza Interceptora became the VI Brigade and remained based at Tandil, while the Regimento 6 became the VII Brigada Aérea, and was based at Morón AB, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Even before Gloster Meteor F8s had provided Israel with its first air-to-air jet victory in the same year, the insurrection of 16 June 1955 saw FAA Officer J. Adras in Meteor I-063 ( Loyal to President Peron ) shoot down North American Texan “3-A-9” (0340), flown by rebel Officer Arnaldo Román, who parachuted to safety.  Later in the same year both Peronist and rebel forces used elements of the Gloster Meteor IV fleet to attack ground targets although there were no air-to-air duels between the opposing factions.  Despite this, Peronists added the initials "PV" (Peron Victory ) to the noses and engine nacelles of their Meteors while the rebel markings in the same locations were a cross over a letter V with the legend "Christ Wins".

METEORS IN CONTEXT

  In the background is a Douglas C-47 Dakota ( a type also strongly associated with Gloucestershire in the preparations for the 1944 D-Day Landings ) and just in front of the line-up of Gloster Meteor IVs is a Bristol Type 170 Freighter being refuelled from an articulated lorry.   
 


In fact the Meteor was not the first Gloster aircraft in which the government of Argentina had shown an interest.

In January 1931 the Gloster Goral biplane - which by then had already been rejected by the Royal Air Force in favour of the Westland Wapiti - had been the subject of extensive enquiries by an Argentine purchasing commission in Brussels.  However, the mission was unsure of the safety of the Goral compared to the possible alternative Bregut 19 and a letter was sent to Brussels from the British Air Ministry explaining that the Goral was a stronger design much better suited to service use.  

Despite this, nothing more was heard from the Argentine purchasing commission, although the tale of the Goral does illustrate the less intrinsically nationalistic approach of the FAA to acquiring aircraft - as the photograph above demonstrates.

In the background is a Douglas C-47 Dakota ( a type also strongly associated with Gloucestershire in the preparations for the 1944 D-Day Landings ) and just in front of the line-up of Gloster Meteor IVs is a Bristol Type 170 Freighter being refuelled from an articulated lorry.

Immediately in front of the Bristol Freighter however is the nose of an aeroplane unique to Argentina.


The twin engined multi-role IA-35 Huanquero ( pictured above ) was developed by the Instituto Aerotécnico and was also the only Kurt Tank team design mass produced in Argentina. Although slightly antiquated by 1950s standards, it was one of the most robust aircraft ever constructed in Córdoba and gave service for fifteen years until supplanted gradually from 1966 by the IA-50 Guarani II, another excellent plane equipped with turboprop engines.  A-316, the final example, touched down for the last ime at the National Museum of Aeronautics in March 1974.


The twin engined multi-role IA-35 Huanquero ( pictured above ) was developed by the Instituto Aerotécnico and was also the only Kurt Tank team design mass produced in Argentina. Although slightly antiquated by 1950s standards, it was one of the most robust aircraft ever constructed in Córdoba and gave service for fifteen years until supplanted gradually from 1966 by the IA-50 Guarani II, another excellent plane equipped with turboprop engines.  A-316, the final example, touched down for the last ime at the National Museum of Aeronautics in March 1974.

Design studies for the IA-35 Huanquero ( or, in English, bumblebee ) were started by engineer Paul Klages and Professor Kurt Tank in 1950 with First Lieutenant Jorge Conan Doyle taking the controls for the first flight on 7 September 1953.  

A second prototype appeared from the Military Aeroplane Factory (FMA) in 1954 and despite the anti-Peronist revolt of 1955 causing many German technicians to emigrate the IA-35 was needed by the FAA and was also seen as vital to the technical and economic future of its constructors.  As such, the first of four production Huanqueros - numbered EA-001 to EA-004 - were outshopped in 1957 to be followed by another four later in the same year.

Despite an initial FAA order for 100 units, only 47 aircraft were in fact completed.  11 Huanquero were built in 1958, 10 in 1959, 8 in 1960, 5 in 1961 and the final 3 in  1962.

The 47 Huanquero were first sent to II Brigada Aérea in the Base de Reconquista (Santa Fe), where they served with II Group of Exploración y Ataque until replacement by the IA58 Pucará in 1974.  Military registration the divided the fleet into three blocks: A-300 onward (Combat trainer ), F-300 series ( Photo reconnaissance ) and T-500 series for transports.

The IA-35 Huanquero was all-metal with a low cantilever wing containing flaps and ailerons outboard of the engine nacelles which also housed the main wheels of the retractable nosewheel undercarriage.  The twin vertical fins had cable worked interchangeable rudder sections.

Power came from  two IA R-l9A El Indio air cooled 9 cylinder radial engines of 650 hp turning 3-bladed variable pitch constant speed propellers built in Gloucestershire by Rotol.
The last 28 examples were equipped with more powerful IA R-l9C of 840 hp.

Versions of the IA-35 Huanquero included IA ( advanced trainer for pilots and navigators, with an instructor and four students ) and  IB, a combat trainer armed with two 12.7 mm Browning machine guns in the nose and another two in an hydraulically operated turret.  The 1B could also carry 4 x 50 Kg or 2 x 100 Kg bombs or 2 x 12.7 mm or eight 5.56 mm rockets.

The IA-35 Huanquero II meanwhile was a transport for 7 passengers and 3 crew, the Mark III an ambulance with 4 stretchers and a male nurse and the IV the photographic reconnaissance complete with Fairchild 225 camera.

Dimensions were wingspan 19.60 m, length 13.98 m, height 4.30 m, horizontal fin surface 6 square metres and vertical fin surface 4.40 square metres.




Completing the monochrome image above - and looking rather like a De Havilland Venom with a T tail - is one of the FAA's Moraine-Saulnier MS-760 Paris.

Completing the monochrome image above - and looking rather like a De Havilland Venom with a T tail - is one of the FAA's Moraine-Saulnier MS-760 Paris.

Based on the earlier two-seat trainer, the MS-755 Fleuret - which had lost out to the Fouga Magister as the ab-initio jet trainer of the French Air Force - the four seat Paris was designed by Rene Gauthierand was used by the French military between 1959 and 1997. However, in 1955, a short-lived venture with Beech Aircraft to market the Paris as a business jet in the US market was soon eclipsed bythe 23 Model Learjet. 

First flown by Jean Cliquet on 29 July 1954, the prototype MS-760 offered an inherently stable platform with tricycle nosewheel undercarriage, two seats in the front, two seats in the back and two side by side Turbomeca Mabore 400 kg thrust turbojets.

The MS-760 Paris I had a maximum speed of 405 mph and a range of 930 miles.  For weapons training, the Paris could carry 7.5 mm machine guns and bombs or rockets.

The French military ordered 50 aircraft for liaison duties with both the French Air Force (31) and Navy (14). The first production aircraft flew on the 27 February 1958.

In 1961, production plants started rolling out the MS-760B Paris II, fitted with two Marboré IV 480 kg engines, wingtip fuel tanks, air conditioning, and a bigger luggage compartment. On 24 February 1964, a six-passenger version, designated MS-760C Paris III, made its first flight, but it was never ordered. Production of the Paris II ceased, and production of the Paris III never started. Some 165 aircraft (Paris I and Paris II) were produced for the French Air Force (36 planes) and Navy (14 planes), and the air forces of Argentina (48 planes) and Brazil.

The first prototype Paris I -  with the civilian registration F-BGVO - arrived in Buenos Aires in September 1957 as part of a sales tour of South America and the first FAA example was flown on 27 October 1958 but did not officially begin service with Mendoza based Air Brigade IV until mid 1959.

 The monochrome airfield picture would thus be dated to the late 1950s or early 1960s, by which time the Gloster Meteor F4 was a very old jet fighter type.  In contrast, the improved Meteor F8 had been replaced in RAF service in 1955 by the Hawker Hunter, which by 1960 was starting to yield in turn to the Mach 2 English Electric Lightning. 

Of Argentina's 48 Moraine-Saulnier MS-760 Paris,12 were built in France but supplied as kits for assembly in South America.  The first kit arrived at the start of October 1958 and flown later the same month, being numbered A-01 to reflect its proposed attack capabilities.  However, under order 095 59-2J dated 17 June 1959 the fifth  example was numbered E-201 ( E standing for Entrenamiento, or training ) and all other FAA MS-760s followed this series.

The last of the kit planes from France was delivered to the FAA in October 1960 while a month later work began on the first of 36 completely Argentine MS-760, built under licence by DINFIA (Dirección Nacional de Fabricaciones e Investigaciones Aeronáuticas - National Direction of Manufactures and Aeronautical Investigations). After almost 20 years of building only home-designed models DINFIA would now assemble the first mass produced jet aircraft in South America .   E-213 was outshopped from Cordoba in March 1961 with E-248 rolling off the line in the middle of 1963.

Although E-210 ( one of the French kit aircraft ) was destroyed in an accident in 1959 12 other FAA MS-760s were in mid 1962 dedicated to
the EAM (Escuela de Aviacíon Militar),  advanced instruction. Until then, fighter pilots had to move straight from nosewheel propeller trainers  such as the North American T-28A Trojan and Beech B-45 (T-34A) Mentor to North American F-86F Sabre and Gloster Meteor IV front line jets  In this way, the MS-760 occupied the same role that the swept wing Folland Gnat did in the Royal Air Force.

In mid 1978, some MS-760s of the FAA were re-engined with Marbore VIJ turbines and had 7.62 mm machine guns permanently fitted in the nose rather than as an underwing store option.  To accomodate these new weapons and their ammunition, the right hand rear seat was deleted and the seat next to the pilot was fitted with a  Sadir Carpentier GCS Mk IV EC gunsight , making the MS-760 an excellent gunnery training platform.  

Some re-engined members of the FAA Paris fleet also had communication equipment upgrades - including Ground Positioning System (GPS) - while others were adapted to tow target sleeves.  The target tugs had a sleeve hardpoint on the rear starboard fuselage - shielded from the exhaust gases by a baffle - and a reel of tow rope inside the cabin.

Although the last MS-760 Paris left FAA service in 2007, many of the civilian examples are still flying and although seen as noisy and thirsty compared to comparable modern business jets they are claimed to be low maintenance and relatively easy to fly.



Despite the fact that in the post Peron years many Gloster Meteor IVs rarely received the servicing they required, about 20 examples were still airworthy in July 1970 with a further 22 FAA machines being repaired and overhauled before their operational lives ended at Moron on 29 December 1970.  Indeed, Gloster Meteor C-071 - preserved at a technical college - still has operational engines even if it is not actually flying any more and further examples of Meteor IV are preserved in museums or as airport gate guardians.