Argentina puts Thunder fighter jets on the back burner; Negotiate an exclusive military deal with Russia?


Argentina’s search for an economical fighter jet initially led it to limit itself to five vendors: China, Israel, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Despite the prevailing view that the Sino-Pakistani JF-17 was the favorite, there are indications Argentina could strike a military deal with Russia.

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Since the withdrawal of its fleet of Dassault Mirage III interceptors in 2015, the Argentine Air Force, Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA), has been looking for a new supersonic aircraft.

However, the UK has proven to be a significant obstacle in this endeavor. Since the Falklands War in 1982, Britain has maintained an arms embargo against Argentina. Several attempts by the South American nation to acquire planes failed due to British pressure.

The JF-17 controversy

In the midst of this, the JF-17 Thunder, a multirole combat aircraft jointly developed by the Chinese company Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) appeared to have come to the rescue.

The plane grabbed the headlines when the Pakistan Strategic Forum (PSF), an Islamabad-based think tank, said, “The government of the Argentine Republic has officially included funding for the purchase of 12 PAC JF fighters. -17 A Block III in a draft budget for 2022 presented to the Argentine Parliament.

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The funding requests $ 664 million for the purchase of 12 JF-17s in Pakistan. The Argentine Air Force chose the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder, rejecting offers from Russia, the United States and India ”.

A Pakistani Air Force JF-17 Thunder. (Wikipedia)

Pakistan’s Consulate General in Jeddah then tweeted: “Argentina has officially earmarked $ 664 million in its budget for next year to purchase 12 JF-17 Block-III fighter jets in Pakistan.”

However, Argentina’s Defense Ministry issued a statement on September 21 denying the allegations regarding the purchase of the aircraft.

He said: “The Ministry of Defense informs that, by means of an authorization note for public credit operations, it has requested the inclusion of the authorization to manage a credit of up to 664 million. dollars for the acquisition of multi-purpose combat aircraft for airspace surveillance and control. in the 2022 budget ”.

Obstacles to supply

Britain has blocked aircraft exports to Argentina by imposing embargoes on components of aircraft belonging to the United Kingdom. He has pressured Spain to drop a deal to supply surplus Mirage F1M fighter jets to its neighbor.

A deal for Israeli Kfir jets also appears to have collapsed due to British pressure as well as American control of the plane’s J79 engines. In addition, the UK essentially vetoed the export of the Swedish JAS Gripen built under Brazilian license and the South Korean KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle.

Super Etendard Modernize
Dassault Super Etendard Modernize. (Wikipedia)

Even Argentina’s attempt to procure five French Dassault Super Etendard Modernize jets was pushed back due to an arms embargo imposed by Britain on the MK6 ejection seat manufactured by Martin Baker and used in the aircraft. . This resulted in the cancellation of the potential deal.

The multitude of canceled agreements has left Argentina, whose neighbors Chile and Brazil are much better equipped with fighter jets, at a standstill. The Brazilian Air Force is even expected to receive 36 Saab Gripen E fighters, which will be assembled in part in the country itself.

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What do the United States and Russia offer?

Andrei Serbin Pont, former adviser to the country’s Strategic Affairs Secretariat and director of Argentina’s think-tank CRIES told Defense News that “the United States is making a push offer of the used F-16s, and another alternative is being made. on the table is modernized F / A-18s These two planes are fairly balanced multi-role fighters.

Sukhoi Su-30SM in flight 2014.jpg
Sukhoi Su-30SM – Wikipedia

On the other hand, Russia, rival of the United States, had already started discussions on the plane during the presidency of Mauricio Macri. He also approached the Argentine government to donate military planes to the Air Force in January this year.

A meeting between Dmitry V. Feoktistov, the Russian Ambassador to Argentina, and Major-Brigadier Xavier Isaac, Commander of the Argentine Air Force (FAA), was cited in this context.

US Navy F / A 18 Super Hornet
A US Navy F / A 18 Super Hornet.

According to the press release from the Russian Embassy, ​​the meeting discussed “the prospects for bilateral technical-military cooperation between the two nations”.

Military agreements between Argentina and Russia

In previous negotiations, the FAA reportedly requested two lots – one comprising 15 MiG-29 fighters and the other comprising Su-30 fighters with 12 units. It is believed that the Russians are still trying to launch the Yak-130 trainer jet as well as the Mil Mi-17 helicopters.

Recently, Argentina and Russia discussed the potential purchase by Buenos Aires of a new batch of Mi-171E transport helicopters, Argentine Ambassador Eduardo Zuain said in an interview with Sputnik. Argentina currently uses two Mi-171E helicopters in its Antarctic exploration program.

File: Mil Mi-171E at MAKS-2011 (01) .jpg - Wikipedia
File image: Mil Mi-171E at MAKS-2011 – Wikipedia

“Argentina recently appointed a new Minister of Defense. We will send him reports on our agenda with Russia, which certainly includes the helicopter issue. As I said before, our defense ministries are discussing it. I have no information at the moment but I know that the topic of helicopters is on the agenda, ”Zuain said.

These reports have not yet been verified by the official authorities concerned.

Meanwhile, Argentina is also studying the possibility of applying for a Russian loan for the implementation of joint defense projects (which experts say could include fighter jets), Ambassador Zuain said.

“This is also being analyzed. These are only negotiations necessary for the implementation of the projects. Discussions on defense or scientific and technical cooperation always involve the topic of funding. These are not two separate issues, because all projects are linked to funding, ”Zuain said, when asked if Buenos Aires was planning to ask Russia to provide a loan for the implementation of projects.

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Argentina appreciates Russia’s defense capabilities and considers the country a “leader”, but the financial aspect of cooperation is important, the diplomat stressed. Defense ministries of the two countries maintain regular consultations on defense cooperation, Zuain added, noting that he was not aware of the details.

Russian Ambassador to Argentina Dmitry Feoktistov told reporters in early winter that Buenos Aires was interested in joint projects that would allow partial localization of production.

Brazil-based defense analyst Alex Galante was quoted by Defense News as saying that he believes that although “the Argentine government has a preference for the JF-17”, it could “wait for a better offer from the United States or Russia “.

Both of these countries are exempt from UK taxes and have been much more established players in aircraft exports compared to China.

  • Nitin holds a double master’s degree in journalism and business management (MBA) from the University of Glasgow, UK. He has over 15 years of global marketing and communications, journalism and digital marketing experience and has worked and traveled extensively across Europe, the Americas and Asia. CONTACT: [email protected]
  • Co-written by Shreya Mundhra / EurAsian Times Desk
  • Follow EurAsian Times on Google News

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