By William Pearce
Following World War II, Argentina experienced an influx of former German and Italian engineers. One such engineer was Cesare Pallavicino, formally with the Italian aircraft firm Caproni. Pallavicino was brought into the Instituto Aerotécnico (IAe) to design a twin-engine escort fighter. This project would become the IAe 30 Ñancú.
Initially, Pallavicino submitted two jet-powered designs and one piston-powered design. The piston-powered design was chosen for development as the IAe 30. In addition to Argentine engineers, Pallavicino was also able to bring on a number of former Caproni engineers to work on the project. Three IAe 30s were ordered and construction of the first prototype began in July 1947.
Powered by two 1649 cu in (27.0 L) Rolls-Royce Merlin 134/135 engines that produced 2,035 hp (1,517 kW) each, the Ñancú resembled the de Havilland Hornet, but it was an original, all-metal design. The propellers were four-blade de Havilland units, 12 ft (3.66 m) in diameter. The aircraft had a wingspan of 49 ft 3 in (15 m) and a length of 37 ft 10 in (11.52 m). The aircraft’s empty weight was 12,313 lb (5,585 kg), and it had a gross weight of 19,301 lb (8,755 kg). The IAe 30’s top speed was 460 mph (740 km/h) and cruise speed was 311 mph (500 km/h). Range was 1,678 mi (2,700 km).
The proposed armament consisted of four 20 mm Hispano-Suiza cannons mounted in the aircraft’s lower fuselage, under the wings. In addition, a 550 lb (250 kg) bomb could be carried under the fuselage, and five 3.25 in (83 mm) rockets could be fitted under each wing. However, the prototype was never armed.
The IAe 30 team was under a lot of pressure to quickly complete the aircraft. A few corners were cut during design and testing but the aircraft, mostly complete, was ready for ground tests on 8 June 1948 (some say 9 June). Despite wind tunnel tests not being completed, the IAe 30 took to the air for the first time with Captain Edmundo Osvaldo Weiss at the controls on 18 July 1948 (some say 17 July). Initial flight tests revealed that the aircraft performed well and possessed good handling characteristics.
On a cross country flight from Córdoba to Buenos Aires on 8 August 1948, the Ñancú averaged 404 mph (650 km/h) at only 60% power. While flying level at 18,370 ft (5,600 m) during the flight, the aircraft reached 485 mph (780 km/h) with the aid of a strong tail wind. Based on the initial performance of the aircraft, an order for 210 IAe 30s was placed.
During continued testing the aircraft achieved 560 mph (900 km/h) in a dive. Only minor changes of the aircraft were required, but it took a long time for the changes to be implemented. Part of the delay was poor communication between the test pilots and the design staff. One pilot who flew the Ñancú and reported very favorable results was Professor Matthies, better known as Kurt Tank. Tank was a German aircraft designer who had worked for Focke-Wulf during World War II, designing the Fw 190 fighter, among others. After the war, he immigrated to Argentina and assumed the pseudonym Pedro Matthies.
In early 1949, the prototype was badly damaged when test pilot Carlos Fermín Bergaglio misjudged a landing. Although the aircraft could have been repaired, there was no interest in doing so. The prototype had achieved its design goals and showed great potential. However, the jet age had arrived, and the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Argentine Air Force) was focused on jet aircraft for their future fighters. Argentina had purchased 100 Gloster Meteor jet fighters, which were delivered by September 1948. Citing “financial reasons,” the order for the IAe was cancelled in late April 1949. The Fabrica Militar de Aviones (FMA), the state-run overseer of the IAe, made the decision to abandon the project. The damaged prototype and the two unfinished prototypes were scrapped, ending the story of one of the last piston-engine fighters to be developed.
“IAe Ñancú: Argentinian Eaglet,” Wing of Fame Volume 5 by Jim Winchester (1996)
The Complete Book of Fighters by Green and Swanborough (1994)
Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1949-1951 by Leonard Bridgham (1949)