Saturday, January 28, 2023

No LCA Tejas, No JF-17 Thunder: Argentina Puts A Full Stop On Immediate Purchase Of Fighter Jets From India Or China

Alberto Fernandez, the President of Argentina, recently announced that his nation would not make any immediate military aircraft purchases.

The announcement appears to have put a full stop to a fighter aircraft tender that pitted the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder against the India-built HAL Tejas.

The Argentine President announced during an interview with Financial Times. Later, Fernandez’s Twitter account retweeted the excerpt that contained the quote.

“Argentina has to allocate its resources to more important things than the purchase of military aircraft. We are in an unequal continent, but there are no war problems, and unity among countries is sought,” Fernandez said.

Besides HAL Tejas and JF-17, the US-made F-16 fighter jet was also being considered by the Argentine Air Force. 

Surprisingly, the President made his remarks as the Ministry of Defense was starting the process of pooling offers following the various evaluations conducted by the Argentine Air Force.

Tejas-Singapore
The Indian Air Force Tejas performs at the opening ceremony of the Singapore Air Show on February 15, 2022.

Recently, it was reported that a top Argentine Air Force delegation allegedly traveled to Denmark to inspect second-hand F-16 fighter jets. The delegation undertook technical assessments of Danish F-16 A/B MLU fighters. 

At the time, Brigadier Diego Garcia, Director of Plans, Programs, and Budget for the Argentine Air Force, revealed that the delegation consisted of professionals and technicians who traveled to Europe to evaluate the proposed aircraft.

Argentina’s Quest To Procure Modern Fighter Aircraft

Argentina has been looking to modernize its Air Force for decades. The country was subject to a comprehensive export ban on defense equipment by the United Kingdom after the Falklands War.

The country could not purchase many aircraft owing to their British-built Martin-Baker Ejection seats, leaving the South American nation with limited options.

Even though both the Chinese-made JF-17 and the Indian Tejas use Martin-Baker seats, both aircraft have been judged to be the best options for Argentina. Both nations, China and India, plan to offer an alternative to the British ejection seat, if the deal materializes. 

The Argentine Air Force currently has a handful of domestically made FMA IA-63 Pampa jet trainers and a small fleet of substantially modernized Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawk ground attack aircraft, which are experiencing severe component shortages.

The Argentine government set aside $684 million in 2021 to procure supersonic combat aircraft to upgrade the nation’s deteriorating air force fleet. 

According to early sources, the MiG-35, built by Russia’s UAC, the Chinese-Pakistani CAC/PAC JF-17 Thunder, the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the HAL Tejas were all being taken into consideration.

Later, it was reported that the Argentine military was examining the F-16, JF-17, and Tejas and had eliminated the MiG-35. The JF-17 aircraft was widely mentioned as the strongest competitor for the tender. 

In November 2022, the Argentine ambassador to China, Sabino Vaca Narvaja, met with a China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC) delegation. The ambassador reportedly discussed the possible purchase of the F-17 fighter jet. 

JF-17C Pakistan
File Image: JF-17C Pakistan

During the discussions, the aircraft was frequently mentioned by its Chinese designation, AVIC FC-1 Xiaolong. Additionally, the fact that no Pakistani representatives attended the conference supports earlier claims that Argentina intended to replace Pakistan in the co-production process by working directly with China and establishing the aircraft’s domestic assembly.

Meanwhile, domestic issues have also been a significant hurdle in modernizing the country’s Air Force. The situation for the South American nation seems exceptionally dire given the present trend of the global recession. 

The Argentine economy is under a lot of stress due to inflation. Investors are selling off peso-denominated assets due to the peso’s volatility and interest rates that can reach 52%. 

The nation’s tangled military history and international pressure from the UK are to blame for its unwillingness to spend on defense.

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