The Argentine navy harbored plans to reactivate a second-hand Super Étendard carrier-capable fighter jets squadron. However, the plans have been abandoned in the absence of sufficient spare parts for the aging aircraft.
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, according to Argentinean Minister of Defense Jorge Taiana.
The fourteen Super Étendard carrier-based attack aircraft acquired by Argentina at the end of the 1970s and operated by the 2nd Escuadrilla Aeronaval de Caza y Ataque distinguished themselves during the Falklands War fought between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982.
However, as time passed, these Super Étendard aircraft found themselves nailed to the ground because the Argentine Navy could no longer guarantee their maintenance owing to a supply issue complication caused by the United Kingdom.
Argentina has been unable to obtain ejection seats for French jets due to sanctions, which have banned Argentina from acquiring British-made armaments since the Falklands War.
Martin Baker, a British manufacturer, provides the Super Étendard’s ejection seat system. Due to a lack of funding, creating a different solution was also put on hold.
Despite the limitations, the Argentine Navy persisted in getting them to take off again. To that end, an agreement for purchasing five of these aircraft was signed on an official visit of the former Argentine Mauricio Macri to France in 2018. The aircraft was decommissioned from the French Navy, which had then switched to an “all Rafale” naval fleet.
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.
For instance, these five Super Étendard could carry 250 kilograms of GBU-49 and 125 kilograms of GBU-58 guided bombs and be outfitted with a Damocles laser designation pod. They also had a Fightacs navigation board, a Video Rover stream transmitter, a VHF/FM radio for communicating with ground forces, and a secret Saturn HAVEQUICK radio.
At the time, the agreement may be considered a great bargain. Except for the Martin Baker Mk 4A ejection seats, which the British government blocked, these new aircraft which Buenos Aires paid to ship to Argentina, could never take to the skies in their new colors.
According to reports, Argentina’s inability to find a supplier for the ejection seats for these five aircraft bought second-hand from France led to the hard decision of finally retiring these ‘flying beasts.’
On May 17, on the occasion of the 209th anniversary of the Argentine Navy, he announced the withdrawal from service of all the Super Étendards of the Aviación Naval Argentina.
However, due to the heroism displayed by these combat-hardened fighter jets, they will forever be marked as the protagonists of the Falklands War, in which Argentina faced a much more powerful enemy with a much-advanced military.
Heroes Of The Falklands War
The Falkland Islands War, also known as the Guerra de las Malvinas, lasted ten weeks in 1982. It was fought for two British dependent territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands and its dependent territories, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
Argentina invaded and conquered the Falkland Islands on April 2, and South Georgia was invaded the next day.
The United Kingdom responded by sending a naval task force to engage the Argentine navy and its air force. This was followed by a large-scale amphibious invasion that eventually ended in a British victory.
The 74-day war ended on June 14 with an Argentine surrender, handing back control of the islands to the UK.
However, despite losing to the British, some gallant stories emerged from the Falklands War, including those attributed to the Super Étendards. According to reports, the aircraft rose to fame during the Falklands War when they successfully attacked British ships with AM39 Exocet missiles.
As the story goes, two Super Étendards fired Exocets at the British warship HMS Sheffield on May 4 while guided by a Lockheed P-2H Neptune—one of the missiles disabled Sheffield.
On May 25, two Super Étendards launched a second strike, and two missiles struck the Atlantic Conveyor, a commercial ship transporting supplies and several helicopters to the front lines. Decoy chaff used by other ships as a defensive tactic accidentally deflected the Exocets that struck the Atlantic Conveyor.
Following these Exocet strikes, the Sheffield and Atlantic Conveyor both sank while being towed a few days later.
Later, on May 30, two Super Étendards took off to attack the carrier HMS Invincible, one of which was carrying Argentina’s last surviving Exocet. They were accompanied by four A-4C Skyhawks, each carrying two 500lb bombs. HMS Exeter’s Sea Dart missile defense system successfully downed the attacking missile.
Following the end 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.