The Argentinian defense ministry allocated US$664 million in September 2021 to acquire 12 new fighter jets to replace its aging fleet. With the UK imposing an arms embargo on Argentina after the Falklands War, the country’s options were limited. Argentina explored acquiring Russian-built MiG-29s or MiG-35s, the joint China-Pakistan JF-17 fighter, or India’s indigenous LCA Tejas jet. Each option came with trade-offs in cost, capabilities, and geopolitical considerations but US Pushes F-16 Sale to Argentina to Counter JF-17 Deal.
US Push for F-16 Sale to Counter JF-17 Deal
According to the Buenos Aires Times, the Biden White House has strongly advocated for Congress to approve the sale of 24 F-16 fighter jets to Argentina. This urgency stems from Argentina’s ongoing consideration of the JF-17 Thunder co-developed by China and Pakistan. Though the JF-17 order would be smaller at just 12 units, the jets would be new and allow for follow-on orders. The U.S. views securing the F-16 sale as vital for countering China’s growing influence in the region.
Details of U.S. Proposed Arms Package
To incentivize Argentina to abandon the JF-17, the Biden administration formally notified Congress of a proposed $447.1 million arms package. This would include transfering up to 38 used F-16 fighter jets from Denmark and Norway, as well as 4 used P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft from Norway. The inclusion of the advanced F-16s, though older variants, represents a major capability upgrade for Argentina’s air force. The P-3s would similarly enhance naval patrol and anti-submarine abilities.
Benefits for Argentina’s Military Modernization Goals
The proposed aircraft transfer neatly aligns with Argentina’s long-term military modernization objectives. The F-16s would provide an immediate enhancement to air combat power despite being older models. The P-3 acquisition addresses a key shortfall in maritime security capacity. If approved, the package would equip Argentina with advanced new assets right as it begins retiring outdated planes.
Administration’s Balanced Arms Transfer Approach
While some may criticize arms sales, the administration weighed sensitivities around human rights, regional security, costs, and risks. The comprehensive review process demonstrates a commitment to upholding international norms while bolstering allied defense capacities. Ensuring Argentina’s military capabilities deters regional aggression supports broader U.S. strategic interests.
The proposed F-16 and P-3 transfer represents a major investment in Argentina’s defense capabilities and regional stability. It counters Chinese inroads while solidifying U.S.-Argentina defense ties. Approval would be a strategic win for Biden’s security objectives in South America.