Let's take a look at Argentina's options for new fighter

CAC/PAK JF-17 Thunder multi-role combat aircraft.

The Argentine Air Force has long been trying to restore the air power it has lost over time. It currently flies 6 A-4AR Fightinghawk fighters compared to the 36 initially acquired. PPrior to the A-4AR, Argentina had Dassault Mirage IIIs and Mirage 5s, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Neshers, and Douglas A-4 Skyhawks. By the 1970s and 1980s, Argentina had one of the largest air warfare capabilities in Latin America.

Buenos Aires has been trying to procure a new fighter to replace its old A-4ARs since 2013. The Argentine government has allocated $664 million US in funding for the purchase of 12 modern fighters in its draft budget for fiscal year (FY) 2022. Over the years, it has weighed a number of options. They ranged from the purchase of former Dassault Mirage F-1 from the Spanish Air Force, IAI Kfir Block-60, Leonardo M-346 and KAI FA-50.

However, Argentina has not yet managed to close a deal for any of these aircraft. In the case of the FA-50, KAI was unable to close the sale as the aircraft includes parts of British origin.

The Leonardo M-346 is one of the most appreciated aircraft by Argentine officers. Representatives of the Argentine Air Force visited the Galatina Air Base, southern Italy, at the end of 2021, where the M-346 fleet of the Italian Air Force is currently based. The chief of the armed force also had a chance to fly in the back seat of the advanced trainer jet, reporting great feedback.

The nation has also looked to platforms offered by neighboring nations, especially China. However, it initially rejected JF-17 because it was not equipped with Western radar and avionics. The type was later reconsidered following the launch of the Block-III variant which features an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with both modern long-range air-to-air missiles (LRAAM) and stand-off range air-to-surface weapons.

The JF-17 Block-III is also very affordable. Due to high costs or Britain's participation in various defense consortia, alternatives such as Gripen, Typhoon and Rafale cannot be considered by the nation. Therefore, the only other option to Chinese manufacturers are US ones.

On this note, Denmark is offering its surplus F-16A/B Mid-Life-Update (MLU) fighters. While this option doesn't have the same technological advantages as modern platforms, it can give Argentina a good step up from the A-4AR while ensuring Washington's friendship.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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