The Argentinian government has approved a plan to spend $684 million to procure new fighter jets to bolster the country’s aging air force.
Last week, in response to inquiries from the Defense Committee in the Deputies Chamber, Juan Manzur, the head of the Cabinet of Ministers, and Defence minister Jorge Taiana’s office said approximately $684 million would be spent on the entire process.
Argentina has allocated $664 million to purchase combat aircraft and an additional $20 million to build the necessary infrastructure to support its operation.
The South American country has also made known its requirements for its upcoming fighter aircraft. According to reports, the country’s air force plans to purchase a multirole fighter jet equipped with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an in-flight refueling system, a tactical data link, and an electronic warfare defensive suite.
The aircraft should not contain any British components, and the in-flight refueling system should be interoperable with tanker aircraft currently in the inventory of the Argentine Air Force.
Argentina’s defense ministry mentioned that the aircraft with an open architecture would be required to incorporate armaments and equipment from any source. But, the fighter jet must not have any systems, subsystems, or components that are British-made or -designed.
This is because the United Kingdom placed an arms embargo on Argentina following the Falkland Islands war in 1982, preventing the country from acquiring weapons with British-made components.
Argentina’s attempts to purchase aircraft over the years, including the Swedish Saab Gripen and later the South Korean FA-50 trainer/light fighter, were also thwarted under the British embargo. Both aircraft have British parts, including ejection seats made by UK-based Martin Baker.
The responses provided to lawmakers also list the warplanes that have already been evaluated and are being considered as potential options.
These include the JF-17, jointly manufactured by China and Pakistan, the F-16, built by the American company Lockheed Martin, the LCA Tejas, developed by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., and the Russian Mikoyan MiG-35.
However, it is essential to note that the American F-16 planes that are thought to have been offered to Argentina would not be equipped with an AESA radar. Additionally, they cannot be used with the tankers that the Argentine Air Force (Spanish: Fuerza Aérea Argentina, or simply FAA) currently uses for in-flight refueling operations.
Regarding Russian aircraft, Argentina would likely be reluctant to purchase the Mig-35 due to political and logistical considerations. Any military collaboration with Russia could also lead to US sanctions against the nation.
As a result, it is believed that the LCA Tejas and JF-17 might be leading the competition. JF-17 has already undergone a detailed evaluation by government and FAA officials, unlike India’s LCA Tejas.
Brigadier Xavier Isaac, Chief of FAA General Staff, confirmed in a recent interview that the Argentine Air Force is yet to conduct a thorough study of India’s Tejas aircraft.
Tejas Mk1A and JF-17, he indicated, are the front-runners in the race because they fully adhere to the technical standards established by the military and are suitable with logistics and other support components, one of which is their capacity to execute probe-and-drogue AAR.
LCA Tejas contain British-made components and thus fall under sanctions. However, according to Isaac, India assured that the components can be replaced with non-British alternatives.
General Juan Martin Paleo, the Chief of the Joint Staff of Argentine armed forces, recently visited Pakistan. Paleo also toured the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) at Kamra and learned more about the JF-17 fighter aircraft.
Since the JF-17 contains no British components, it holds an advantage over India’s LCA Tejas.