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ARGENTINA | 26-07-2023 18:08

United States steps up pressure on Argentina to choose Danish F-16s over Chinese or Indian fighter jets

Washington is close to authorising the sale of 24 F-16 fighter jets to Argentina and aims to become the country's main arms supplier for the first time since the Malvinas War.

The White House has once again pressured Congress to approve the sale of 24 F-16 fighter jets to Argentina, which has not yet decided whether to buy the Pakistan-made JF 17 Thunder or the Indian-made HAL Tejas from China.

The estimated cost of the aircraft is about US$700 million, but the dilemma is not because of price competition, but because whatever the decision is, it is at the heart of a global geopolitical dispute between the Western and Asian powers.

Two months ago, the Capitol had already dealt with a similar operation involving F-16s, but with Turkey. Now, the obstacle is the military embargo imposed by the UK due to the Malvinas War, which has been restricting Argentina's access to the international arms market, thus blocking the way for the delivery of the planes in question, now coming from Denmark.

Sources from the Department of State claim that the UK has already lifted that barrier, and now only the financial conditions need to be agreed upon.

The concrete realisation of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) currently represents the best guarantee of Washington's strategic interest for the aircraft to come from Denmark rather than China, despite the latter offering better financial terms with only a small upfront payment.

The presence in the Southern Hemisphere in April of this year of two US defence heavyweights, the number two in the State Department, Wendy Sherman, and the head of the Southern Command, Laura Richardson, gave evidence of America's strong commitment to supplying Argentina.

Recently, Mira K. Resnick, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Security at the Department of State, recently visited Buenos Aires. Following her meetings with Defense Minister Jorge Taiana and Air Force Commander-in-Chief Brigadier General Xavier Isaac, it became evident that the offer for the Danish fighters was solid, as the Congress would pass the law enabling the sale, and the aircraft could be delivered in August.

The urgency of the United States to seal the aircraft deal with Argentina is aimed at countering the proposal for the JF-17s produced by China and Pakistan, which comprises fewer units (15) but are new and offer the possibility of ordering a second and third batch. 

A significant difference between both offers is that the one from China includes a comprehensive and unrestricted package of weaponry and sensors. The purchase would be financed through the Fondef, a special fund created by law to re-equip the Armed Forces.

A team of experts from the Argentine Defense Forum (FAD), led by Santiago Lucero Torres, analysed the alternatives presented for the reequipping of the capabilities of the Armed Forces, as reported by La Nación newspaper.

"Currently, they are considering the second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon, operated by Denmark - originally from the US model, although they were manufactured between the Netherlands and Belgium in the '80s - and the Chengdu JF-17 Thunder Block, three new ones, offered by China,"  the military sources confided.

In the technical specifications, the F-16 qualifies as a more powerful aircraft with more weapons capacity than the JF-17, according to the FAD experts, although it has a very low engine intake port that tends to ingest a large number of foreign objects and would require investment in improving airport infrastructures.

The  Sino-Pakistani origin aircraft are equipped with Chinese engines, unlike the versions operated by Myanmar and Nigeria, which are powered by Russian engines.

According to the report, the MiG-35 proposed by Russia was initially ruled out, and and the armed forces see little chance for the Indian HAL Tejas.

The recent trip to India by Defence Minister Jorge Taiana, alongside Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero, seemed to revive the government's interest in the possible purchase of HAL Tejas fighter jets.

But the visit only resulted in agreements with the HAL helicopter factory to develop and commercialise 20 aeronautical products, including the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Progress was also made on a letter of intent with Brahmos (Indo-Russian), a manufacturer of cruise missiles.

The US military industry continues to apply a very aggressive policy of penetration. Recently, Australia announced the purchase of 20 US-made Hercules C-130J aircraft, just days before the visit of senior US representatives for a ministerial summit in the Oceanic country.

However, a backlog of production orders will delay delivery of the F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine by several months, as stated by Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an interview.
 

– TIMES/NA

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