Argentina has allocated funding to procure the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC)/ Pakistan Aeronautical Complex FC-1/JF-17 in the country’s latest effort to recapitalize its fighter aircraft capabilities. The drafts budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022 includes USD664 million towards the purchase of 12 JF-17 Thunder Block III jets (including USD20 million for infrastructure).
The budget has been presented in the country’s parliament, said the news report. However, this does not mean that the deal has been finalized as Argentina has not signed on the sale accord yet but it shows the country’s intention to buy the fighter aircraft from Pakistan.
This development marks the latest step in Argentina’s attempts to buy a new combat type that goes back several years. Having retired its Dassault Mirage IIIEA and Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) Dagger fleets, and with the Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawks suffering availability issues, the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina – FAA) has scoured the globe for a replacement aircraft type.
Potential solutions that have been reported included surplus Spanish Mirage F1s and Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoons, IAI Kfirs, Saab Gripens, Leonardo M-346FA/FTs, Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50s, CAC J-10s, and Aero L-159s. Even the Sukhoi Su-24 ‘Fencer’ was touted (although this is widely believed to have been a hoax).
The JF-17 has previously been reported as an option, with Argentina and China going so far as to form a working group in 2013 to work through the details of introducing both the JF-17 and J-10 into the FAA.
The JF-17 Thunder is a single-engine multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China. The builders say that the JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance.
Fifty-eight per cent of the JF-17 airframe, including its front fuselage, wings and vertical stabiliser is produced in Pakistan, whereas 42% is produced in China, with the final assembly taking place in Pakistan.