China’s JF-17 ‘Favorite’ To Seal Argentina Fighter Jet Deal; US F-16, Indian LCA Tejas Unsuitable – Chinese Media

The Embassy of Argentina in China announced on March 14 that the South American country is interested in purchasing the JF-17 fighter jet, jointly designed and developed by China and Pakistan.

The  Chinese state media report, which cited a Weibo social media post of the embassy, said that Sabino Vaca Narvaja, Argentina’s Ambassador to China, recently met Argentine Defense Minister Jorge Taiana and his staff in Buenos Aires to strengthen bilateral collaboration in the sphere of national defense.

Narvaja discussed the potential of Argentina purchasing the JF-17 aircraft with officials from the China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Corp during the Airshow China 2022 held in Zhuhai, the embassy added. 

Argentina’s ambitions to buy a new fighter plane have drawn much attention since the competition pits the Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Thunder against the India-built HAL Tejas. 

Earlier, a top Argentine Air Force mission was reportedly visiting Denmark to inspect secondhand F-16 fighter planes. The delegation conducted technical evaluations of Danish F-16 A/B MLU fighters.

JF-17C Pakistan
File Image: JF-17C Pakistan

At that time, Brigadier Diego Garcia, the Argentine Air Force’s Director of Plan, Projects, and Budget, disclosed that the team comprised experts and technicians who had gone to Europe to assess the proposed aircraft. 

The country’s air force has been exploring procuring a new fighter jet for decades. However, the nation’s precarious financial situation and the British blockade have hampered these attempts.

The latest event comes months after Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernandez, declared that his country would postpone buying any military aircraft for the time being since there were more vital things to allocate its resources on.

After the 1982 Falkland Islands War, the United Kingdom imposed an export ban on Argentina to prevent the Argentine military from modernizing.

As part of this approach, Britain has barred Buenos Aires from procuring multiple fighter jets by restricting parts manufactured in the UK. 

The US is negotiating with the UK to allow the transfer of a former Danish F-16 A/B MLU to Argentina. Given China’s expanding influence in Argentina, the US is paying particular attention to the country. 

JF-17 Fighter Jets Best Choice For Argentina? 

On March 15, Chinese analysts informed the Global Times that JF-17 is the best choice for Argentina regarding availability and performance.

According to Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, Argentina has long sought to acquire brand-new fighter jets to replace its deteriorating and dwindling warplane fleet. The UK has, however, obstructed Argentina’s attempts to purchase aircraft on the world market due to historical disputes.

Qianshao claimed the UK could use diplomatic pressure to persuade other nations not to sell warplanes because South Korean and Indian jets employ UK components, notably ejection seats.

In the past, the British embargo prevented Argentina from purchasing aircraft, including the Swedish Saab Gripen and the South Korean FA-50 trainer/light fighter. Both aircraft include ejection seats developed by Martin Baker, a British firm.

martin-baker (1)
File Image: Ejection Seat by Martin Baker

The Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Embassy in the UK announced last year that China’s stance on the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands matter is unchanged and that Beijing firmly supports Argentina’s justifiable claim to exercise full sovereignty over the Islands.

As a result, Qianshao added, “the JF-17 is the most available fighter jet to Argentina.” The State-media highlighted that the JF-17 has evolved into three generations known as Block 1, Block 2, and Block 3.

Block 3 is outfitted with sophisticated avionics and flight control systems, an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a combination of China’s best beyond-visual and short-range missiles, and more. Chinese analysts say the earlier blocks are less expensive yet still perform well.

The warplanes that have been assessed and are being thought about as prospective alternatives by Buenos Aires are India’s Tejas, China-Pakistan’s JF-17, and US-made F-16.

It is important to remember that the US F-16 aircraft offered to Argentina is not equipped with an AESA radar. Additionally, they are incompatible with the tankers the country’s air force currently employs for in-flight refueling operations.