After a significant period of decline, Argentina has ceased to be a capable military force.

The Argentine air force recently retired its Mirage fighters with only a handful of them even flyable. The country also confirmed that all their Lockheed Martin A-4AR Skyhawk fighters have been grounded.

Argentine ground forces rarely have the resources for training and are vastly under equipped, their kit dates back to the 70’s and is in very short supply. In addition to this, the Argentine Air Force largely consists of a collection of obsolete aircraft mostly dating back to the 1970’s, which are frequently grounded due to poor serviceability.

The problems don’t stop there, their submarine crews despite benefiting from a recent upgrade need at least 190 days of immersion practice and in 2016 only spent 19 hours submerged. A similar situation is faced by their four destroyers, they don’t have any serviceable weaponry. According to IHS Janes

“The Argentine Air Force is drastically cutting staff working hours and decommissioning its last fighter aircraft amid continuing budget issues. A recently published daily agenda indicates that the service’s working hours have been significantly reduced, from 0800 to 1300; rationing of food, energy consumption, and office supplies has been directed headquarters staff and property residents; and only the minimum personnel required to staff headquarters, directorates, and commands are working.

This leaves the Argentine military with just one type of jet, the IA-63 which is subsonic, decades old and barely serviceable. Argentina had looked into buying new Gripen’s from Sweden via Brazil but this was vetoed by the United Kingdom which makes a large number of internal components for the aircraft. They had also looked at JF-17’s from China, but the JF-17s proved too expensive to modify.

When Barack Obama visited in March 2016, Air Force One was accompanied by US Air Force F-16’s because Argentina could only offer Pucarás and Pampas for air defence.

Former Argentine defence minister Julio Martinez recently criticised government policies towards the Armed Forces saying a lack of funds has caused more losses than the Falklands War.

“We have been able to begin the recovery of the Argentine Armed Forces, and the respect they deserve, since they are an institution of the democratic system”, said Martinez.

According to local media, when asked more specifically on his comments Martinez said that when he took office he was informed that during the South Atlantic conflict Argentina lost 72 aircraft, but “under Kirchnerism we lost over a hundred planes.”

Military aircraft ceased to operate because of “lack of maintenance, spares, refurbishing and simply because there no funds invested.”

He added that the Cordoba aircraft factory had a staff of 1.500, “and not a single aircraft was built in ten years”.

The last major purchase of aircraft to revamp the Argentine Air Force capacity was back in 1995 when 32 A4AR Sky-hawks were acquired from the United States, for 400 million.

According to Forecast International, recent reports indicating Argentina plans to purchase $2 billion worth of military equipment are unrealistic. The group say that for the time being, Argentina will have to rely on donations from other countries to fill the gaps in its military capabilities.

In a letter leaked to El Destape, Argentine ambassador to the U.S. Martin Lousteau listed equipment needed by the Argentine Army and Air Force to conduct peacekeeping missions, combat terrorism, and counter illegal trafficking. The list, which would be the envy of even the best-equipped militaries, included F-16 fighter jets, Stryker armored vehicles, air surveillance radar systems, AH-1 Cobra Helicopters, UH-60 and CH-47 transport helicopters, and anti-tank weaponry.

The list has become a scandal in Argentina, as political opponents of President Mauricio Macri have attacked him over its contents.

Since his election in 2015, President Macri has drastically cut government spending and subsidies. And, while these measures will improve the government’s finances and help the economy become more sustainable in the long-term, they are causing short-term hardships for many Argentine citizens who have been accustomed to receiving government subsidies.

Rumors that the Argentine military is purchasing advanced, and expensive, weaponry during a time of government austerity has angered those who are now suffering. It would be callous, to say the least, if the Argentine government were to spend $2 billion on advanced weaponry while cutting back on popular social services.

Argentina is not, however, planning to purchase this equipment. In February, former Minister of Defense Julio Martinez ruled out a purchase of fighter jets. So, that takes at least one item off the list. Furthermore, Forecast International conducted an analysis of the letter between Ambassador Lousteau and US Representative Pete Visclosky. Based on that analysis, Forecast International does not believe that Argentina’s government has any intention of purchasing the listed equipment.

The group say that Argentina just doesn’t have the means to purchase the equipment it listed. In 2016, Argentina’s defence budget was about $4.6 billion. And, with 73.9 percent of that funding going towards personnel expenses, there is little left over to acquire expensive equipment. Instead, Argentina will have to make due with purchasing less expensive equipment, such as T-6 Texan II trainer aircraft, and upgrading current equipment such as its IA-63 Pampa III.

49 COMMENTS

  1. How strange to see the Type42 in such a state! I would not be surprised if other nations military assets suffer the same decline, as defence cost continue to eat into national budgets?

        • Indeed. In the UK total government revenue for 2014-2015 was forecast to be £648 billion (37.7% of GDP) so on that figure a 2%-of-GDP defence budget would be 5.4% of national annual revenue. There are presumably more up to date actual figures available, those 2014-15 ones were just the ones that came up easily on a Google search and seem close enough for illustrative purposes.

    • The Argentine armed forces now compared to 82 is quite staggering. Then they had 400 aircraft including modern fighters. The navy had a carrier, a cruiser, newly built subs and state of the art destroyers and frigates.
      Now they have nothing or as near damn to it.

  2. It is sad to see how bad government and rampant corruption can bring such a rich country to its knees. Falklands or no Falklands, this is not a rejoicing matter. It can only lead to instability, demagoguery and collapse of the rule of law in the region.

  3. Never mind at least we don’t have to worry about Argentina for some time. The Falklands are safe for the foreseeable future.

  4. The Falklands aside, and the UK is no threat, I have often wondered why Argentina needs a combative force at all. Geographically at the bottom of the world I would have thought a maritime patrol, rescue and scientifically orientated coastguard and air force together with transport and helicopter units would be very welcome.
    Brazil and Chile are no threat and if they renounce their claim on the Falklands I dare say that even the UK would assist with equipment. Perhaps the world could confine one potential conflict to history.

    • Could cut and paste any number of countries into that post chap – like Russia in the 90s/early 2000s.

      The world could just be kewl. Unfortunately however there are people within it that don’t have such liberal ambition as to make love not war.
      In cases such as Argentinas though i would wager a military force is just as much to keep stability *within* the state as it is to deter those outside. Because what happens to a nation with no money to keep people happy, no military to keep people in line, on a continent flooded by guns?

    • Brazil is no treat, its actually a close Argentinian allied. But Argentina has pending territorry issues with Chile and Bolivia that could easily get nasty.

      Chile is now a stable and growing country and Argentina cant stand to be that behind them. Chile has f16, Cobras, Scorpenes and type23, that difference tilts the region balance drastically.

      Of course I dont think nothing will happen because Brazil would put a stop to it. But Argentinians are very proud (egocentric lol), so u never say never.

  5. This is how defense spending would work under the opposition, continue with 2% every penny spent on perks and administration with nothing to show for it.

    • In the UK it’s ‘defence’, and the tory government has a record on defence cuts that is shameful. Had they been made by a Labour government the right wing press would have howled loud and long, quite rightly. They are strangely silent.

  6. I agree with above comments-this is not a cause for rejoicing on our part. The loss of lives in the recent disappearance of one of their subs was a sad event and most likely related to the current collapse of the Argentinian Forces. My only thought is that no matter how bad things had become surely the Arg. Navy could have afforded the minimal measures required to at least keep that Type 42 afloat! If they could not afford to go to sea then at least the(free) labour available from enlisted personnel with nothing else to do could have been assigned to basic maintenance on the vessel. I like to think that such a sad end would never happen to a SERVING vessel in the RN.
    Plain neglect!?

    • Maintenance was the reason it sank.
      Apparently during maintenance a sea valve let go and flooded the machinery space. The crew couldn’t contain the flood and she capsized alongside.
      The metacentric height of the vessel was probably very high due to lack of fuel, stores, munitions etc onboard so it did not take a lot of water to make her unstable and tip over.

      Sea valves are an issue on all ships. A valve letting go is how the RN lost Endurance (No2) when a sea strainer became open to the sea and flooded the engine room. Luckily the water was shallow…

  7. Makes me wonder whether the flaklands do need a new £100 million air defence system? Land ceptor and new radar sets?
    Perhaps we could use those systems for UK air defence. Do any of the UK mainland air, army or naval bases have early warning and interceptor radars and defensive missile systems?

    • Understand your sentiments but best to keep Fortress Falklands in top condition. Things can change quite quickly and if the Argentinians do acquire new modern jets then the new AD system needs to be in place in advance.

    • You might well be right Mr Bell. We obviously need to be wary though. History shows that things have a nasty habit if popping out of biting you in the a… when your not looking.
      Having said that a decent air defence system and patrol vessel along with the threat that an Astute boat might be there could and maybe should result in personnel savings.
      It wasn’t that long ago that we were all concerned about the Royal Marines being cut to save £50 million.

      • The USN scrapped 24 VLS equipped and modernized Spruance Class DDG to save just 28 million dollars..

        Cheers

      • Of course the beauty of subs is that you can never be sure but, given the small size of our SSN fleet and the number of deployable boats that generates, together with the low threat environment down in the Falklands at the moment and all the other tasks we need our SSNs for, I would be extremely surprised if an Astute or Trafalgar has shown its face down there for a long time given how stretched they must be.

        • having personal experience of that part of the world, i can say, it is the most hostile water any ship can operate in. kelp the food of the whale is so dense that it will clog up any system exposed onto the sea. i had to carry out 3 cleanings of filters every watch, those smelly, dense beasties, no wonder the argies are in such a mess.

    • Nope, the UK hasn’t had anything other than point defence sams since ditching Bloodhound in the early 90’s. The RAF Regiment were forced to give up their Rapier sams under New Labour, only the Army have a ground based surface to air capability now.

    • As Mark says. The RAF maintain the RAP through the ASCS force which gets input from Civil radar stations too. Also Airfields have their own primary and Secondary surveillance radar.

      Our UK based radar systems are or have been modernised. I agree with other posters that the Falklands defence posture, minimal as it is, should be left as is.

  8. Buenas tardes, soy argentino. He leido sus comentarios y me asombra ver lo respetuoso que son con nosotros.
    Lamentablemente, el gasto militar no es algo bien visto por las ultimas dirigencias politicas.
    Mucha gente en el ultimo tiempo a comenzado a apoyar a los militares. Sin embargo, aun muchos los resisten por lo que pasó en la decada del 70.
    Supimos fabricar tanques, submarinos, aviones y destructores, ya nada de eso queda.
    Van a pasar decadas para que volver a recuperar muchas de las capacidades que perdimos.
    Un cordial saludo

    • Alejandro, I know Argentina well. It’s a beautiful country full of many riches. I don’t understand why your governments keep screwing things up to the extent that the country is nearly bankrupt again! I wish you the best of luck!

  9. Good afternoon, I’m Argentine. I have read your comments and I am amazed to see how respectful they are with us.
    Regrettably, military spending is not something well seen by the last political leaders.
    Many people in the last time have begun to support the military. However, many still resist for what happened in the 70’s.
    We knew how to make tanks, submarines, airplanes and destroyers, and nothing of that remains.
    It will be decades before we recover many of the capabilities we lost.
    a cordial greeting

  10. We are never going to have a powerful influence in South America until we resolve the issues from the Falklands war.

    We should offer them a deal, could look like this..

    – 50% of all mineral rights around the Falklands
    – Visa free travel between the islands and Argentina
    – Development loans from the foreign aid budget, billions of pounds, to extract said mineral wealth
    – Security, maybe with OPV’s, while they rebuild their navy and air force
    – With Type 31e and Typhoon tranche 1
    – Free Trade Deal

    This gets us free trade deals with all of south america and the good will of a continent as a fair, forward looking nation.

    • Right direction but probably too agressive a plan I would say. We don’t want to upset Chile who are a good ally in the region and a good customer for our used Type 23s.
      I would suggest Hawk trainers maybe with AA missiles and OPVs. Affordable and no threat to anyone.

    • I agree with the attitude but I disagree with how extreme your proposition is. I do not believe that feeling bad or sorry about the Argentine situation is justifiable cause for effectively gifting billions of pounds worth of assets and resources to a fairly recent military aggressor against us. I’ve visited the many graves and memorials across the Falklands and cannot so easily forget my peers who fell there, nor what they achieved in victory. One thing that we and Argentina have in common is our strong sense of pride.

      Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t view Argentina as an enemy. I want a positive and mutually beneficial relationship; but it needs to be reasonable and fair, as with any other nation we would call our friends.

      I’ve spoken with top brass in the Falklands about this very topic and I can tell you without any doubt that positive relations with Argentina are at the forefront of their minds.

  11. The Argentine defence budget is .96% of GDP, whilst that is not exactly stunning it is large enough to support a carefully planned equipment program. The problem is the annual wage and pension bill takes up 70% of that budget!

    They have serious structural problems within their armed forces:

    1) There are too many officers in desk jobs who should have been retired years ago drawing a wage
    2) When those officers eventually retire their pension is proportionally larger due to their long (unneeded) service
    3) An inability to make tough decisions preferring to avoid laying off unneeded personnel or retiring prestige capabilities like their Submarines or carrier qualified aircraft which they don’t even use due to lack of funding
    4) Failing to place any orders for equipment meaning old equipment has to run on until eventually it is unsafe to use like the Mirage III leading to sudden loss of whole capabilities all at the same time
    5) Rabbit in light syndrome, EVERYTHING NEEDS REPLACING…WE CAN’T AFFORD TO REPLACE EVERYTHING…WE NEED TO REPLACE EVERYTHING…WE HAVE NO MONEY TO DO THAT…WE WILL HAVE TO RUN ON WHAT WE HAVE…IT DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE…WE NEED TO REPLACE EVERYTHING…
    6) The Argentine Defence ministry is packed full of Kirchner supporters who don’t have a clue what they are doing given jobs for life also drawing wages and eventually a pension
    7) The Argentine Defence Industry is packed with full of Kirchner supporters who don’t have a clue what they are doing given jobs for life also drawing wages and eventually a pension
    8) Announcements of major defence programs that go nowhere, IA-63 upgrade, Submarine upgrade, new fighter jets etc
    9) An Airforce, Navy and Army that is reluctant to make compromises about equipment choices meaning they end up getting nothing… case in point the Argentine Airforce has turned down multiple opportunities to get the Mirage F1 which is a solid option that could maintain their capabilities

    To sort this out will take years of root and branch reform, Maduro is starting that hard task but he has an uphill struggle. They need to get their wage and pension bill down and they need to chip away at the equipment program, cut out all that is a waste of resource. There have been some positives recently like the T6 Texan II purchase and a deal to buy the ARX160 with a factory for local assembly.

  12. And we`re not proud of this situation, moreover, I`m personally ashamed. A country without respectful military forces cannot stand proud.

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