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.
Contrary to reports from Helsinki in April, the US Departement of Defense will not offer the Boeing F-15 Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon to Finland as possible replacements for the country’s fleet of ‘legacy’ F-18 Hornets. Washington told Helsinki it will not respond to Finland’s Request for Information (RfI) for those jets, Finnish MoD confirmed on Monday 2 May. Washington however will send information on the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.
Both the F-15 and F-16 were named on a list of candidates released by Helsinki in April. Both were designed in the 70s and are nearing the end of production in the US. Their inclusion in Finland’s list – and the inclusion of the F-15 in particular – came as a surprise to many, although officials earlier said that Finland was open to all offers that met the conditions of the HX-fighter project. That is the name assigned to the F-18 Hornet replacement program.
The candidates now left in that program, are the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Saab’s next generation JAS-39 Gripen. The latter will see its rollout of the factory in Sweden on 18 May.
All manufacturers will have to send Helsinki all required information by the end of this year. Comparison of the performances of all jets is scheduled for 2018 and a final decision is expected not before 2021.
If international headlines are anything to go by, nobody knows what is actually going on in talks between Indian and Dassault for 36 Rafale fighter jets. This week’s headlines ranged from ‘India’s Rafale deal in trouble over offsets and cost’ and ‘Talks for 36 Rafale jets far from over’ to ‘Rafale deal in final stage’ and ‘Rafale deal finalised’. Take your pick!
Each day, the vagenuess surrounding this ‘deal’ gets more vague. In fact, it got more vague on each of the 365 days since a ‘deal’ for 36 aircraft was first reported, also here on Airheadsfly.com. Since then, talks have dragged on over offsets, technology transfer and of course, costs. The deal is worth roughly 8 billion USD.
Flirting in the US
Most importantly, both Dassault and New Delhi mostly kept silent this week. However, India has been known to flirt with both Boeing and Lockheed Martin over the F-18 Super Hornet and F-16 respectively. The promise of local production for these type seems to tempt New Delhi.
Meanwhile, news outlets base their stories on sources ‘close to the negotiations’. It very much looks like something is to be expected soon from an official source. That source will either have his pen ready to finally ink the deal, or a firm headache after difficult talks that eventually led India in the arms of Boeing or Lockheed Martin, or maybe even their Russian equivalents.
The combat aircraft and attack helicopters of the Arab coalition fighting Houthi forces in Yemen are facing a new threat. Shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.
Although uncertain how many of these MANPADS the Houthi soldiers have, the recent loss of a United Arab Emirates Air Force Mirage 2000-9 shows that close-air support is getting more tricky.
Downed the UAE jet
What exactly downed the French-made UAE jet with the loss of both crew is now a big question. The official statement of the Ministry of Defence in Abu Dhabi is that the aircraft had a technical malfunction and crashed into a mountain. Other sources claim that it was shot down. The latter is now supported by a recent news story in the normally well-informed British newspaper The Independent.
“SA-7 took down the jet”
According to claims made public by The Independent a Soviet-made 9K32 Strela-2 – popular known in NATO countries as SA-7 Grail – heat-seeking missile took down the jet, while the plane was flying low-level fly-by, possibly using its on-board gun against enemy positions.
Until recently Houthi rebels and their allies (sometimes described as Al-Quada on the Arab Peninsula or AQAP) are known to have deployed anti-aircraft guns against Arab coalition combat aircraft, but if true the deployment of the MANPADS is a new chapter in the air-to-ground operations in the war struck Southwest Asian country. So far at least four fast jets and at least one Saudi Arabian AH-64 Apache helicopter have been lost on the Arab coalition side in the recent Yemen war.
The combat backbone for decades of French Naval Aviation, the Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard, made its final carrier launch of its service carreer last week when aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle returned home in the port of Toulon on Thursday 17 March 2016.
Being replaced by the sleeker and modern Dassault Rafale M, the Super Étendard has been protecting French interests overseas ever since it entered service in June 1978. Keeping the value of the naval air asset somewhat up-to-date, 48 of this Marine strike aircraft underwent extensive modifications in the 1990s and early 2000s. The adjustments included a new on board computer and a new radar, heads-on-throttle-and-stick controls (HOTAS), a new electronic counter measures suite, night vision goggles, a laser designator pod, a reconnaissance pod and air-frame life-extension.
Nuclear weapons and Exocet
France kept the aircraft at hand for any thinkable action, including the release of free-fall nuclear bombs and nuclear missiles. Despite being in numerous conflicts on behalf of La France, the Super Étendard’s most impressive action was done by only four of them flying for the Argentine Navy. Armed with the Exocet missiles they crippled the British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Sheffield and sank the chartered British merchant vessel Atlantic Conveyor during the 1982 Falklands / Malvinas War.
A total of 71 of 85 built Super Étendards were delivered to the French navy since the first flight of the type in 1974. Only one was lost in battle, downed by an Iranian F-4 Phantom II in 1984 on loan to the Iraqi Air Force. After its full shore-based retirement later this year in France, only 10 Super Étendards will soldier on, flying missions every now and then for the Comando de Aviación Naval Argentina.