F-16, LCA Tejas or J-17, Argentine fighter jet procurement rests on US-China rivalry and upcoming elections

The current government takes an 'interested' stance toward Beijing, which has granted substantial loans to Buenos Aires.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

Argentina’s military situation is known to be delicate, to say the least. Many articles have already been written on various occasions and for decades about the Nation’s defenselessness and the apparent decline of its war capability. Military delegations from China, Pakistan and India (with HAL LCA Tejas) have offered their planes. And now, as expected, Uncle Sam has made its offer based on some ancient F-16 fighters that would come from a European country. The Royal Danish Air Force F-16s are old with a short operational life but well maintained. Denmark is a NATO country, and its equipment is up to date and with more than adequate technical support.

Adopting this American aircraft would also necessitate the procurement of an in-flight refuelling aircraft, obviously a KC-135, but the critical point is that the supply of modern weapons, electronic warfare elements, and anti-ship weapons, which are all fundamental systems and necessary to generate operational doctrine, is uncertain.

It is not guaranteed that after the purchase, these aircraft from the 1980s will be allowed to be updated with Israeli industry – a solution desired by the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina, FAA) – and the supply time of the same is unknown, especially given that Copenhagen has reported that these planes will remain in service for longer due to the evolution of the Ukraine conflict.

Chronic lack of combat Force

It is not a coincidence that the country’s primary means of combat were eliminated or reduced as if everything were an ongoing dream and that the decrease in the country’s tactical and strategic capacities has been persistent under administrations with an obvious lack of interest in defence. Unsurprisingly, the country’s primary means of battle were eliminated or reduced as if everything were a never-ending dream. The steady fall in tactical and strategic capacities had been a constant through administrations manifestly uninterested in defence. As if one had to agree with those who say it is the price the country pays for daring to challenge perfidious Albion. Year after year, it ruthlessly curtailed and destroyed all the components that covered themselves in glory in the Atlantic contest.

Slowly and with millimetre precision, the Air Force, Naval Aviation, Submarine Force, and all those who posed a genuine threat have seen their powers diminish to the point of virtual extinction. 

For years, the Argentine Air Force has lacked an effective method to acquire air superiority, possessing only a handful of light attack planes. Despite this, their aviators and technicians have managed to keep their fists raised, proving their skill and resolve. In the meantime, a novel that is listed in the portfolio budget has been maintained for a very long time, but it has never been completed up to this point.

The upcoming elections

Purchasing a weapons system necessitates political and strategic considerations, ideological alignments, and millions of dollars. The current government takes an ‘interested’ stance toward Beijing, which has granted substantial loans to Buenos Aires to bolster monetary reserves or as guarantees for significant construction projects that China is undertaking. This alliance is virtually intolerable to Washington: the Buenos Aires administration flirts with Venezuela and Cuba while playing with the Chinese development of a logistics pole in Ushuaia.

The offer of a few Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder fighters to the FAA on attractive financial terms is of no concern to the United States; instead, it is Beijing’s rising meddling in vital industries that bothers Uncle Sam.

Power plants, ports, waterways, food firms, and many more are areas where the Chinese are increasingly present and spending millions of dollars. A few fighters of unknown performance do not move the ammeter of the defence in the southern cone, even though, according to specialists, they could be supplied with a complete arsenal of modern weapons, a state-of-the-art electronic suite, auxiliary equipment, and even a minimum level of national industry participation.

Multiple interests conspire to ensure that the Argentine skies are not flown by reasonably new aircraft, despite the region’s powerful and modern media. Even though one political faction wants to purchase the JF-17 Thunder without evaluating the strategic ramifications of this operation, other political factions wish to look good with the country that supplies fresh and essential funds to Argentina, namely the United States.

Time passes, the delegations continue to travel the globe, and the country’s precarious economic situation threatens the implementation of this highly needed initiative. Furthermore, because the next year is an election year and the politicians in Casa Rosada need every penny to keep their government running, purchasing a system that will be given to another governorship with a different political and even ideological sign is not a common act of kindness in this region.

The Argentine Air Force has previously stated that it is nearing the finish of its assessment of the candidates’ capabilities, systems, and opportunities to give the best viable option to the political power next season. This authority will decide what is best for the country; political decisions have many unknown edges and chapters.


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