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Goodbye JF-17 and LCA Tejas: Argentina to Buy Used Danish F-16’s for Jaw-Dropping $650M

Argentina’s President, Javier Milei, announced on March 20, 2024, that the country will purchase American F-16 fighters from Denmark. The Argentine leader confirmed the purchase by reposting two user posts on his X account. The country’s Ministry of Defence informed La Nación that they are “working” on the purchase. It also indicated that more information about the operation would be released by the end of April. The number of planes to be acquired is currently unknown. The expected number is twenty-four.

At the end of October 2023, it was reported that the United States had authorised the sale of 24 F-16 fighter planes equipped with air-to-air missiles from Denmark to the country and was working on a financing package worth $40 million to facilitate the purchase of the Argentine government, an operation with enormous geopolitical implications in which Washington competes directly with China, which has offered to sell JF-17 aircraft from Pakistan.

RDAF F-16B. Steve Lynes/Wikimedia

On that occasion, Alberto Fernández’s government had to decide between several choices.

With the purchase of fighter jets built in the United States and managed by Denmark, Javier Milei’s government will likely reject China’s offer to buy JF-17 fighters. On December 20, the Asian country suspended the $6.5 billion credit supplied to Argentina through the Chinese currency swap until Milei demonstrated tangible evidence of reconciliation with Beijing. The currency exchange arrangement with China is significant for Argentina since it allows the South American country to repay its obligations. One of China’s conditions is that the Argentine government purchase Chinese planes.

Denmark maintains 43 F-16 aircraft, 13 of which are not active. With 24 F-16s sold to Argentina, only six F-16s will remain for Ukraine.

Denmark has performed its aircraft’s Mid-Life Upgrade or MLU and brought it to Block 20 level. The F-16 Block 20 can launch the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship subsonic missile, which has a range of up to 280 kilometres. The AGM-88 HARM is a high-speed anti-radar missile capable of targeting high-frequency radars, with a 25 to 150-kilometre launch range. The AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon is a tactical glide bomb with stealth technology that can also be used as a cruise missile. AGM-154 is designed to engage stationary and moving targets beyond air defence zones. The engine-powered version has a maximum launch range of 560 km. The glide bomb version ranges from 24 to 130 kilometres, depending on the drop height. They can launch AIM-120 AMRAAMs. For short range, they can fire AIM-9X Sidewinder or IRIS-T. These aircraft are now outfitted with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar or SABR, an Active Electronically Scanned Array or the AESA radar.

According to sources in Argentina, the transaction is valued at a stunning $650 million. This cost includes the purchase of 24 previously used F-16A/B MLUs and two types of missiles: AIM-9 Sidewinders and AIM-120 AMRAAMs.

India, too, had offered its LCA Tejas jet to Argentina but was never in serious contention.



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