The Ministry of Defence in Argentina recently released a statement listing different options to meet their longstanding need for new fighter aircraft.
The options include, upgraded Israeli Kfirs, Mirage F1s, armed versions of the Italian M-346 Master trainer and the Korean FA-50.
The M-346 Master is allegedly too expensive for Argentina, according to defence sources in the country.
The favourite contender is a proposal from France to supply a squadron of Mirage F-1, at a unit cost of $23 million, fully equipped with five years of logistic support.
Argentina recently confirmed that all Air Force Lockheed Martin A-4AR Skyhawk fighters (one pictured above) have been grounded.
This comes after a significant period of decline, the Argentine armed forces have ceased to be a capable military force. In August 2015, the Argentine air force retired its Mirage fighters, with only a handful of them even flyable.
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 2014 only spent 19 hours submerged. A similar situation is faced by their four destroyers, they don’t have any weaponry.
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. They’re now even getting rid of their only semi-capable fighter aircraft.
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.
These orders, issued on 11 August, take effect 18 August. A next step will cut Monday and Tuesday as working days. Moreover, air force officials said any aircraft taken out of service will not undergo maintenance for now.”
This leaves the Argentine military with just two types of jet aircraft A-4’s and IA-63’s and both are 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.
All Mirages were officially decommissioned in November 2015. Only 4 of the A-4’s were airworthy with the rest in storage at Villa Reynolds.
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.
Photo Credit: Chris Lofting [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.