The Argentine Air Force’s long competition to select a new fighter could change direction from December when President-elect Javier Milei takes office.
The ultraliberal, unlike the current government, has shown signs of aligning with the West instead of approaching the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
As soon as he won the elections, Milei broke a tradition in which the Argentine president makes his first international trip to Brazil and vice versa. Instead, he will pay a visit to Joe Biden, president of the United States.
The position to the right of the future administration suggests that the chances of Hindustan Aerospace, with the LCA Tejas fighter, and especially of partners PAC and Chengdu, with the JF-17 Thunder jet, have diminished.
Until then, the Sino-Pakistani fighter was considered a favorite to replace the already retired Dassault Mirage III supersonics in the Air Force.
With technology of Chinese and Russian origin, a good technical package and an affordable price, the JF-17 even appeared in documents as the chosen fighter, which ended up being denied by Alberto Fernández’s government.
Danish F-16s enter the competition
The Argentine Air Force even negotiated an agreement with South Korea (FA-50), but was prevented from acquiring them due to the content of British origin in their manufacture – the United Kingdom has maintained sanctions on Argentina for acquiring weapons since Falklands War in the 80s.
Fearing China’s rapprochement with South American countries, the United States paved the way for a proposal to sell second-hand F-16 fighters from Denmark to be approved.
The endorsement appeared in October and includes 24 fighters, as well as missiles and technical support. Although older than the Tejas and JF-17, the F-16 is a proven fighter jet operated by several air forces.
Milei, who during the campaign promised to distance Argentina from China and Brazil, which have left-wing leaders, moderated his comments regarding the Asian power, but it seems unlikely that this could favor the JF-17.
The country’s Air Force has been without a genuine fighter since 2015, when the last Mirage, already quite outdated, was removed from service. Since then, Argentina has improvised subsonic A-4R attack aircraft in the air defense mission.
The strategy most involves keeping its pilots active while waiting for a supersonic aircraft with more advanced systems and weapons.
Argentina is currently the only major nation in South America without fighter jets, a challenge that will be in the hands of the new president to resolve.