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Argentina renews talks with Tel Aviv for IAI Kfir Block-60
September 21, 2019

Argentina renews talks with Tel Aviv for IAI Kfir Block-60

Flight Global reports that Argentina has resumed negotiations with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for 12-14 Kfir Block-60 multi-role fighter aircraft. Price is still the main obstacle ahead of an inked contract.

The IAI Kfir Block-60 is a refurbished and heavily upgraded variant of the Kfir, an Israeli-built variant of the Dassault Mirage 5. The Kfir Block-60 is equipped with the Elta Systems EL/M-2052 active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar. It will also be compatible with Rafael’s range of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons, as well as the LITENING advanced targeting pod.

Notes & Comments:

While an aged platform, the Kfir Block-60’s inclusion of new and contemporary sub-systems, such as the EL/M-2052 AESA radar, position it as a modern air warfare factor. Besides the AESA radar, it will be worth observing if other Israeli sub-systems, such as the Elta DASH helmet-mounted display and sight system and Rafael Python 5 high off-boresight air-to-air missile, are also on the Argentine Air Force’s procurement plans. Collectively, Israel’s catalogue of subsystems would offer a concentrated qualitative package.

Argentina had pursued several options for new fighter aircraft to replace its aging Northrop F-5E Tiger IIs, including Saab and The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). However, costs and supplier side issues, such as the Saab Gripen’s dependence on British components, heavily limited the set of options available to Argentina for its fighter modernization requirements. China was among those competitors, and Pakistan hoped to secure a sale for the JF-17 Thunder in Argentina.

Evidently, that sale did not come to fruition, but the advantage of lower costs will continually remain in AVIC and Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC)’s hands. It is possible that Argentina’s experience with Western electronic sub-systems and munitions had tilted Argentina to the Kfir. PAC has yet to showcase a ‘Westernized’ JF-17, but the Pakistan Air Force (PAF)’s JF-17 Block-II is beginning to emerge as more of a bespoke solution, especially with the inclusion of the Aselsan ASELPOD advanced targeting pod.

Renewal in seriousness on Argentina’s part, which could be possible if disagreements prevail in the Kfir Block-60 purchase, could serve as incentive for PAC to engage with Leonardo, Elettronica, MBDA, Denel, and/or Aselsan to produce a bespoke ‘Westernized’ variant. However, China’s breadth of munitions and subsystem options cannot be understated, especially in terms of stand-off range air-to-surface munitions, which Argentina cannot readily procure from traditional Western suppliers. China can also, theoretically, offer credit to help finance the sale of Chinese aircraft.