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Africa and South America , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft

MiG-29s Over Buenos Aires; Could Argentina be a New Client for Russian Fighter Jets?

February 05th - 2018

Since the retirement of its second generation French built mirage fighters, the Argentine Air Force has lacked any fighter platforms whatsoever. The country's fixed wing combat aircraft today include only very light domestically produced attack platforms, the IA-58 Pucara and IA-63 Pampa with dated capabilities and a small fleet of 22 heavier U.S. built A-4 attack platforms. The A-4 is a second generation platform long ago retired by the U.S. Navy which today dates back to the 1950s. With essentially no modern capabilities and no fighter capabilities whatsoever, Argentina has sought modern light multirole platforms as a cost effective way of enhancing its military and restoring the prestige of its Air Force. The country was offered the Chengdu J-10 by China shortly after the fighter became available for export, though the South American state's small military budget have made it hesitant in committing to any acquisitions.

Argentina is set to hold a tender for fighters jets, and Russia has sent the country the materials required to enter its own MiG-29 multirole fighter into the contest. Though it is a twin engine as opposed to a single engine platform, the role of the Russian fighter is roughy analogous to that of the U.S. F-16 and Chinese J-10. According to Russia's Director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Anatoly Punchuk, the country seeks to export its MiG-29 platforms to Argentina - which could well pave the way for further Russian arms sales in future. Punchuk noted that the fighters were a perfect match for the Argentine requirements including geographical conditions, and further stated "Speaking about Argentina’s possible acquisition of Russian MiG-29s, I want to note that the hardware is being selected in compliance with the required parameters and on a tender basis while a final decision on the aircraft purchase is within the competence of the leadership of the Argentine Republic. As of today, the Russian side has said it is ready to take part in the tender and submitted all the required materials. We hope to win in the tender."

Argentina notably suffered for its lack of modern fighters during the Falklands War, when the country had to rely on second generation French fighters to combat modern fourth generation British platforms. Combined with the superior training of British pilots, the Argentine platforms suffered heavy losses and failed to down a single British Harrier jet. Britain could thus exercise near undisputed air superiority which proved pivot both in protecting its Naval fleet and in facilitating a landing and capture of the Falkland islands. Another critical lesson Argentina learned was the danger of relying on politically motivated Western arms suppliers, namely the United States and France. U.S. built A-4 fighters notably were not functioning at their full capabilities due to an arms embargo later imposed on the country when it stepped out of line with U.S. policy designs - something which happened to several U.S. weapons clients such as Indonesia, Pakistan and Iran. The country's French platforms meanwhile were left compromised when facing the British Harrier jets as a result of France advising its close military ally Britain on the weaknesses and capabilities of its Mirage fighters and how best to combat them. Purchasing MiG-29 fighters from Russia will bear none of these risks, and will for the first time in decades give the Argentine Air Force modern and reliable fighter platforms - something it has not fielded since first acquiring the French second generation Mirage fighters in the early Cold War years.

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