Argentina May Supply Dassault Jets To Ukraine That “Wreaked Havoc” On British Navy During Falklands War

The Ukrainian Air Force could soon receive the French-origin Super Etendard strike aircraft from Argentina, boosting its air power.

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President Javier Milei of Argentina has reportedly approved a plan to transfer five Dassault Super-Étendard combat aircraft to Ukraine. The President is currently in talks with France, the United States, and NATO to bypass the British embargo, which has left the aircraft inoperable.

“France’s involvement is crucial to overcoming this geopolitical obstacle, and Chancellor Diana Mondino and Defense Minister Luis Petri have been working for weeks to advance this secretive move, which also involves the participation of the United States and NATO,” read a report in Infobae.

A tentative plan being worked out by Argentina to arm Ukraine with the aircraft includes a potential swap plan in which Argentina would exchange the Super Etendard for drones or helicopters.

The reports have noted that France would like to take back the aircraft, which would be repaired and upgraded before being sent to Ukraine.

The Super Enterdard aircraft are as good as scrap metal in Argentina since they arrived in the country in 2019 owing to the British embargo imposed in the aftermath of the Falklands War. 

They were bought by the former president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri. The contract, worth 14 million euros, reportedly included the supply of a flight simulator and spare parts. The purchase was touted as promising for the Argentine navy, which had additional capabilities on top of their own Super Étendard fleet.

The agreement might have been a fantastic deal at the time. However, the aircraft could not fly without the Martin Baker Mk 4A ejection seats, which were banned by the British government.

In May last year, the Argentine Minister of Defense Jorge Taiana announced that the last Dassault Super Étendard single-engine attack jets, including the original planes bought in 1979 and those acquired second-hand from France in 2018, have officially been retired. The jets are currently stored at Espora Air Force Base in Puerto Belgrano, Argentina.

Argentina’s decision to transfer the jet also follows its decision to purchase the F-16 Fighting Falcon from Denmark and its blossoming ties with the US and the NATO alliance. In fact, the South American country has also asked to be admitted into NATO, which could likely explain its inclination to transfer the inoperable jets from its inventory.

As soon as the potential transfer of the jets to Ukraine was reported, military analysts said the archaic aircraft would not be game-changing for Ukraine but could be used in air defense and patrol roles along the frontline. Moreover, experts argue that Ukraine needs as many jets as it is able to acquire amid an intensified threat from regular Russian air strikes. 

Super Etendard Fighters 

The Super-Étendard was France’s first combat aircraft featuring modern weapon outfits. The aircraft was designed a strike fighter was developed for operations aboard aircraft carriers with only 85 units manufactured.

It was shipped to Argentina, and the Iraqi Air Force briefly used a handful of them. During the Falklands War, the aircraft experienced a notable surge in popularity. France used these aircraft for combat in the wars in Kosovo and Afghanistan, as well as NATO involvement in Libya. It was retired and replaced by the Dassault Rafale between 2015 and 16.

Even though the British won the Falklands War, some heroic tales—such as those credited to the Super Étendards—came to light. The aircraft gained notoriety during the Falklands War, allegedly when they used AM39 Exocet missiles to successfully target British ships.

The Super Etendard motorboat is powered by a Snecma Atar 8K-50 turbojet engine, which has a maximum speed of about 1,200 kilometers per hour. The aircraft was equipped with a Thomson-CSF Agave radar, a modernized Cyrano IV radar used on the Dassault Mirage F1. This radar was crucial for the launch of the Exocet missile, among other things.

The aircraft can carry a range of weaponry, such as bombs, air-to-ground missiles, and Exocet anti-ship missiles, in addition to its built-in 30mm DEFA 553 gun. Its two main roles are to support troops and attack targets on land and in the sea.

Argentia Etendard
File Image: Etendard in 1982

The Super Etendard, for one, is best known for its stellar role in the Falklands War against the United Kingdom. According to reports, the aircraft rose to fame when they successfully attacked British ships with AM39 Exocet missiles.

As the story goes, two Super Étendards guided by a Lockheed P-2H Neptune fired Exocet missiles against the British battleship HMS Sheffield on May 4, 1982, during the war. One of these missiles disabled the ship.

Two Super Étendards carried out a follow-up attack on May 25. Two missiles also hit the Atlantic Conveyor, a commercial ship that was delivering supplies and multiple helicopters to the front lines. The Exocets struck the Atlantic Conveyor after being inadvertently redirected by dummy chaff—a defensive maneuver employed by other ships.

Following these Exocet strikes, the Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor both sank while being towed a few days later. While the UK eventually won the war and made the Argentines surrender, the aircraft rose to prominence due to their combat efficacy.

In the aftermath of the war, by 1984, Argentina had received all the 14 Super Étendards ordered. Until the ship’s eventual retirement, Super Étendards conducted qualifications on the aircraft carrier ARA 25 de Mayo.