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Argentina drops fighter replacement plans
September 21, 2019

Argentina drops fighter replacement plans

Argentine Minister of Defence Julio Martinez announced that the Argentine government has suspended plans for new fighter aircraft to replace the Argentine Air Force’s legacy Lockheed Martin A-4ARs, IHS Jane’s reports. Argentina’s strenuous economic problems were cited as the cause.

In its pursuit for new fighter aircraft, Argentina cast a wide net, examining a range of Western and Eastern solutions. Among them was the JF-17, which is co-produced by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) and the Saab JAS-39 Gripen.

Those avenues did not come to fruition, but Argentina and Israel opened negotiations for the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Kfir Block-60. Talks froze and resumed intermittently. In January, reports had emerged that Buenos Aires resumed talks with Tel Aviv for 12-14 IAI Kfir Block-60.

At the end of last month, the Latin American defence publication Defensa reported that Buenos Aires was interested in the Mikoyan MiG-29 and sought 15 fighters from Moscow. During the launch of the MiG-35, the deputy director of Russia’s State Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Anatoly Pinchuk said Moscow will respond with an offer.

Notes & Comments:

At the minimum, the Argentine government’s decision puts a dampener on short-term fighter acquisition, effectively ruling out second-hand or surplus options (unless they are markedly affordable). However, it would be interesting if Buenos Aires could undertake long-term recapitalization, perhaps through a program that is staged several years into the future.

For example, it could tentatively commit to a squadron of new-built MiG-29M/M2 or even MiG-35s from Russia, but with a later production date that is activated once cash is provided (or when Moscow can provide a loan). It is a precarious situation for the Argentine Air Force, one that seems to be worse than previously assumed considering the difficulty it is having procuring surplus fighters.