Cash-low Argentina is so desperately seeking new fighter jets, that it is looking to put budget priced French fighter jets from the 1970s back in the air.
The defence minister of the Latin-American nation recently paid a visit to France, trying to have Paris agree to an affordable price tag for 12 Dassault-made fighter jets retired by the French Air Force (Armée de l’Air). Buenos Aires is looking for six Mirage F1s plus six Mirage 2000s, or a dozen of either one of the types. A 2013 deal with Spain seems to have hit the sand barrier somewhere.
FAM IA 58 Pucará
To Argentina’s main conservative daily newspaper, La Nacion, Mr. Julio Martinez also said he is hoping that France would like to provide new engines so that the Argentine Air Force (Fuerza Aérea Argentina) is able to bring 20 IA 58 Pucará ground attack and counter-insurgency aircraft back into the sky. Fábrica Militar de Aviones (FAM) produced 110 of these two-engine propeller aircraft between 1976 and 1986, with the type still operational in both Argentine and Uruguay.
Despite its known good operational status and relatively low cost for flight hours and maintenance, Buenos Aires is said not to seek purchase of the US-made Lockheed Martin F-16 that is flown – among others – by neighbouring Chile. An official reason for not buying the F-16 other that “not in the interest of the nation” has not been given. For some time even a wild story circulated that frustrated policy makers in the Argentinian capital were looking for a Russian bomber solution.
The Fuerza Aérea Argentina has currently no fighter jets on strenght, after the 22 remaining McDonnell Douglas A-4AR Fightinghawks and three (O)A-4ARs were grounded at Villa Reynolds Airbase in January 2016 because of the lack of spare parts and other airworthiness issues. Earlier the service decommissioned its Dassault Mirage III and IAI Fingers / AMD M5 Dagger units at Tandil Airbase. That leaves the nation with only 32 IA 58 Pucarás on frontline duty, of which many are down for maintenance.
The about two dozen FMA IA 63 Pampas (35 ordered) are not suited for combat, and the 14 remaining Embraer EMB-312 Tucanos can only be used for limited ground support and counter-insurgency operations.
The Fuerza Aerea Argentina has waved good bye to its small fleet of classic Dassault Mirage 3 and 5 fighter jets on Sunday 29 November during an airshow and ceremony at Tandil airbase, south Buenos Aires . The Mirage served the country for 43 years. It’s retirement leaves only the A-4 Skyhawk as a credible airborne capability.
Argentina, along with Pakistan, was the last country in the world operating the Mirage 3, a type that amazingly saw its first flight on 17 November 1956 and was once operated in large number by air forces around the world. Pakistan is still flying the type. In Swizterland, a civilian operated Mirage 3 still graces the skoes.
Argentina poised its Mirage into combat during the 1982 Falklands War, when one of them feel victim to a British Harrier firing a Sidewinder air-to-air missile. Over the last years, the fleet was reduced to just six aircraft. They flew their last operational sorties last September during an exercise.
Argentina has been seeking a true replacement for the Mirage, eyeing the Saab Gripen, Chinese J-10 and most recently the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Kfir block 60. No signature has been inked though, as the UK opposed a Saab-deal and financial difficulties in Novermber prevented the Kfir-deal from being signed.
The Argentinian government is purchasing four Bell 412EP helicopters for air mobility duties, the US State Department announced on 17 November 2015.
Buenos Aires pays 80 million US dollars for the choppers, which will also be fielded for humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping duties if needed.
Produced in Forth Worth, Texas, the Bell 412EPs are successors to the legendary “Huey”. That chopper was the primary ride of US forces during the War in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. The Argentine Air Force already operates a pair of Bell 412EPs, while the army has 47 older UH-1 Hueys on strength.
On Wednesday 16 September, Airbus Helicopters officially handed over the first H225 helicopter for the Argentine Coast Guard. According to Argentinian authorities, the new chopper offers increased effectiveness when it comes to saving lives at sea.
The delivery of the Argentine H225, which will be based in the city of Mar del Plata and used for search and rescue missions in the Argentinian sea, marks the start of the renewal process for the Coast Guard’s fleet of SA330 Puma helicopters. The H225 is capable of transporting up to 21 passenger – 2 more than competitors of a similar size – while flying as far as 650 nautical miles on a tank of fuel, a range that’s 223 miles farther than other similarly sized rotorcraft.
Saab is basically ruling out a sale of its JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets to Argentina, according to statements from Sweden on Monday 27 April. Argentina is said to have taken an interest in the Gripen, now that Brazil has ordered the type and is starting a production line.
In a response, Saab has said no talks are being held or considered. An Argentinian Gripen deal seemed unlikely in the first place, since the aircraft uses a lot of US and UK parts, with the latter country having no intention of supplying military equipment to Buenos Aires following the 1982 Falklands war.
Saab – which today also said it is bringing a major hardware upgrade for the Gripen’s PS-05/A radar – and Brazilian manufacturer Embraer are looking into export opportunities for Brazilian-made Gripens though. The first export aircraft could be produced in 2022.
Argentina seems to have accepted it will never fly Gripens and now is said to have opted for Chinese made FC-1 fighter planes.