Argentine Air Woes

By Scott Morgan exclusively for Vanguard Global & Defense Unlimited

Is Argentina planning on upgrading its Air Force? On the surface its a simple question but as with many other policy or strategic decisions being made there is no easy answer.

There is one crucial piece of information that indicates that the Argentines are planning a modernization effort. According to the 2022 draft budget, there is a request for funding totalling $664 Million. Specifically the airframe that is being considered is the CF-17 which will be acquired from Pakistan. Clearly the Argentine Congress has noticed that improvements need to be made. One of the mainstays of the Fuerza Aerea Argentina is the A4AR Fightinghawk which is supported by a number of IA-63 Pampa jet trainers.

However there appears to be a disconnect somewhere in this process. When asked by reporters inquiring about the status of the deal the Argentine Embassy in Pakistan stated that “no final decision has been made,as there are five alternatives currently being assessed”. The embassy did not provide any additional details describing what the other alternatives that are being considered were, or where they could be purchased from. Reports have indicated that both Mirages and MiGs are also under consideration by the Air Force but neither air frame are under consideration at this time.

One could ask whether or not these statements are being uttered to keep a third party from getting involved and potentially sabotaging any potential deal. Before one dismisses this idea out of hand it should be remembered that at least four possible deals regarding Argentina purchasing airframes to upgrade their Air Force have come under interference.

Over the last decade two planned deals, one to have Spain supply surplus Mirage F1M fighters to Argentina and a deal to purchase Kfir Jets from Israel failed. The reason for the failure of these deals were a combination of pressure from Great Britain and the control of the J79 engines by the United States.

Other deals effectively vetoed by the British were the sale of Brazilian licensed Saab Gripens and Korean Aerospace Industries FA-50 Aircraft that could have benefited the Argentine Air Force.

One may ask why would the British undertake such an effort? The short and easy answer has to be the Malvinas or as they are known in the English speaking world the Falkland Islands. The two countries fought a short conflict over these islands back in 1982 that resulted in a victory for the British and left the Argentines bristling and actually led to a change in government in Buenos Aires.

In the view of analysts in London any improvement in the Argentine Air Force is a threat to the British territories in the South Atlantic. Tensions have ebbed and flowed between the two countries since the end of the conflict in 1982.

While efforts by the UK to prevent Argentina from acquiring other air frames and limiting their efforts to purchasing the CF-17 some analysts project that the main interest of the UK would be the weapons platforms that will be part of the sales package. That would determine how the reaction to a potential attack on the Falkland Islands would be responded to. That would be a major point of interest within the British Defense Establishment.


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