This week there has been news about plans for the acquisition of F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters by the Argentine Air Force.
The US approves the transfer of Danish F-16s to Argentina
On Wednesday, October 11, the United States Department of State announced which has approved "the transfer of F-16 aircraft from Denmark to Argentina. The transfer reaffirms our close defense ties and steadfast support for Argentina’s air force modernization efforts", the note stated.
The current combat aircraft of the Argentine Air Force
Currently, and due to the economic problems that the country has been experiencing in recent decades, the only combat aircraft in the Argentine Air Force are the Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawk, a version of the old Douglas A-4 Skyhawk that was modernized in the 1990s, from 32 single-seat A-4M and 4 two-seat OA-4M purchased from the US Marines, of which there would be 24 active aircraft. To that we must add a few FMA IA-63 Pampa, basically a jet training aircraft inspired by the Alpha Jet. Over the years, Argentina retired its old Mirage from service III, Mirage 5 and IAI Nesher, leaving its air force with very limited capabilities in terms of combat aircraft.
Offers from Spain, Israel, Russia, China, India and the USA
In 2013, Argentina considered buying old Spanish Mirage F1s or Israeli IAI Kfirs to renew its fighter fleet, but the purchase plans ultimately did not come to fruition. In 2015 Argentina showed its interest in acquiring the F-16. After years of negotiations, and in parallel with the economic problems of the South American country, the purchase was not confirmed. China and Russia then offered JF-17 Thunder and MiG-35 fighters (respectively) to Argentina, taking advantage of the approach of that country's leftist government to the geopolitical orbit of Moscow and Beijing. India also offered the HAL Tejas.
Due to its political orientation, the Argentine government was interested in the Chinese offer of the JF-17 Thunder, a fighter produced jointly by communist China and Pakistan. Since June 2023, the possible purchase of the JF-17 has been among the options of the Argentine government. Finally, in August it became known that the US offered Argentina the possibility of acquiring 38 F-16 from the Royal Danish Air Force, in addition to four P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft (three Lockheed P-3C and one P-3N).
The Argentine Air Force prefers the F-16
According to the Argentine website Pucará Defensa in September, "the Argentine Air Force prefers to go for the American option, due to which brings several advantages in terms of the equipment offered (the details of it are secret), the quality of the material, the commonality with the equipment in use in the force and the other countries in the region and the importance of maintaining the link with the West."
That same website pointed out a few days ago that "in the Argentine Air Force they do not believe that the current government is going to advance in the signing of the contract and they hope to raise the issue with the political power after the October 22 elections, hoping to obtain a commitment from whoever wins to move forward with the purchase." Let us remember that one of the candidates with the most possibilities is Javier Milei, who is close to the West, unlike the current leftist Argentine government.
The risk that this supply of Danish F-16s disappears
Pucará Defensa also warns of the risks of delaying too much confirmation of this acquisition: "Argentina has little room for maneuver since there are several nations interested in both the aircraft and the batch of spare parts, so the offer will be maintained for a short time." Among those nations is Ukraine, which hopes to receive a part of the Danish F-16 that were withdrawn from service .
The F-16 is a great opportunity for Argentina, because even if they are second-hand aircraft, they are much better than the combat aircraft that that country currently has in active service. Let's hope that political issues do not miss that opportunity and Argentina does not end up falling into Beijing's orbit.
Main photo: U.S. Air National Guard.
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