The Argentine Air Force (FAA) seems closer to completing the acquisition of JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, despite government denials. Last week, a delegation from the country visited the CAC (Chengdu Aircraft Corporation) facilities in China, where it carried out test flights in addition to learning about simulators and other technical aspects of the aircraft.
The visit was organized by CATIC (China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corporation), a Chinese company dedicated to aerospace export programs.
The FAA is in the process of selecting a new supersonic fighter for Argentina that has not counted aircraft of this type since 2015, after the retirement of the Dassault Mirage III.
Although it has received proposals from several manufacturers such as RAC MiG, Lockheed Martin and HAL, the Argentine government had already signaled its preference for the JF-17, a joint project between the CAC and the Pakistani PAC.
A document sent to the Argentine Congress in 2021 set aside $664 million in federal budget funds for the purchase of 12 JF-17 fighter jets, but when the document became public it was denied by the Air Force, which assured that it was considering other proposals.
The JF-17 is a light single-engine fighter, capable of reaching Mach 1.6 and operating in a combat radius of up to 1,352 km. The first prototype first flew in 2003 and entered service with the Pakistan Air Force in 2007, by far its largest operator. The jet also flies in Myanmar and was recently delivered to Nigeria.
The favoritism of the Chinese aircraft could also involve the Argentine government’s rapprochement with Beijing, which has been one of the South American nation’s main trading partners.