The US State Department has scrambled to clear the sale of Danish F-16 fighters to Argentina as China offered a ‘sweetened’ JF-17 deal to the country. The ball is now in Argentina’s court to declare the deal winner to fill the capability void left by the retirement of 16 Dassault Mirage III fighter jets in 2015.
Argentinian news outlets call it “an operation with enormous geopolitical impact in which Washington competes directly with China.” The Argentinian Air Force’s operational inventory includes 10 A-4 fighter bombers armed with IA-63 Pampa jet trainer supplements.
The US State Department approved the transfer of 24 Danish Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters to Argentina. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs posted on X (formerly known as Twitter): “Today (On October 11) @StateDeptPM’s Mira Resnick (deputy assistant secretary for Regional Security) delivered a letter to @JorArguello (Argentinian Ambassador to the United States) approving the transfer of F-16 aircraft from Denmark to Argentina. The transfer reaffirms our close defense ties and steadfast support for Argentina’s air force modernization efforts.”
“The F-16 is a reliable and proven platform that will allow regular training and exercises to increase Argentina’s interoperability with its neighbors and the United States,” Resnick said, addressing the reporters after handing over the formal letter while maintaining the final decision rests with Argentina.
“This builds relationships. It is an opportunity for both countries to face mutual threats together, and this is an aircraft that many countries around the world operate and have demonstrated their capability for military modernization,” he added.
Today @StateDeptPM’s Mira Resnick 🇺🇸 delivered a letter to @JorArguello approving the transfer of F-16 aircraft from Denmark 🇩🇰 to 🇦🇷Argentina. The transfer reaffirms our close defense ties and steadfast support for Argentina’s air force modernization efforts. pic.twitter.com/ia4D92An40
— Political-Military Affairs, US Dept of State (@StateDeptPM) October 11, 2023
The Danish F-16s were earlier meant for Ukraine as the country had announced that it would transfer its retiring fighter jets to the war-ravaged country. Denmark started training Ukrainian pilots and technical specialists on the F-16 in August 2023. The number of F-16s available for Ukraine will depend on whether Argentina accepts its F-16 offer.
The US State Department has jumped some hoops with alacrity to counter the Chinese offer to supply JF-17 to Buenos Aires. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Kanewske specified in the call that the F-16s offered to Argentina include AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9 air-to-air missiles, the two main air-to-air missiles used by the US Air Force.
The Argentinian defense ministry will evaluate the offer from the US and Denmark. China and India are also expected to give their offers concurrently. Beijing’s offer is financially more attractive and comes with fewer “restrictions,” according to La Nacion.
China has reportedly offered a batch of 15 aircraft to Argentina with a possibility of two more batches. The Sino-Pakistani aircraft is more modern than the Lockheed Martin platform that first flew in the 1970s.
As the reports about the engine troubles grounding the Myanmar Air Force’s JF-17 fleet, Beijing has offered a new version of JF-17s powered with Chinese engines. The JF-17s with Pakistan, Myanmar, and Nigeria have Russian engines.
“They are new aircraft, and China offers a complete weapon and sensor package with few restrictions,” La Nacion quoted military sources.
US’s Exigency To Offer Danish F-16s To Argentina
As the EurAsian Times earlier reported, a flurry of activities started between the US and Argentina in July this year when two US defense heavyweights, the number two in the State Department, Wendy Sherman, and the head of the Southern Command, Laura Richardson, were in Argentina. And, by October, the Danish F-16s are of Argentina’s for taking.
“The urgency of the United States to seal the aircraft deal with Argentina is aimed at countering the proposal for the JF-17s produced by China and Pakistan, which comprises fewer units (15) but are new and offer the possibility of ordering a second and third batch,” the report added.
In the technical specifications, the F-16 qualifies as a more powerful aircraft with more weapons capacity than the JF-17, according to the FAD experts. However, it has a shallow engine intake port that tends to ingest many foreign objects and ‘would require investment in improving airport infrastructures.”
The UK’s veto to transfer weapons to the South American country has thwarted Argentina’s efforts to modernize its air power since the 1982 Falklands War. In this scenario, the China-Pakistan joint production of JF-17 fighters emerged as a viable option for Argentina.
Even the Indian offer LCA Tejas hit the roadblock over the UK component as its ejection seat is from Martin Bakers.
Resnick confirmed that the sale of Danish F-16s doesn’t require the UK’s approval. The US has further sweetened the deal by offering Lockheed P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare turboprops.
The Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) currently operates 33 F-16A fighters and ten two-seat B-model trainers, according to Cirium. Copenhagen is in the process of replacing the aging fourth-generation fighters with Lockheed F-35A fifth-generation fighters.
According to Lockheed, Denmark plans to acquire 27 F-35s, and the first four RDAF F-35s arrived in the Scandinavian country in September.
F-16 Scores Over JF-17?
Last week, it became clear that despite “intense lobbying” from China and India, Argentina has opted to purchase American F-16 fighter jets as it signed a Transfer to Third Parties (TPT) document with the US to authorize the transfer of 38 second-hand F-16s from Denmark.
Argentinian news portal Aero Naves inferred the development as “an acceptance of the conditions proposed by the offeror (United States).
The TPT document is issued by the Department of Political-Military Affairs of the US State Department’s Office of Regional Security and Arms Transfer. The body is responsible for authorizing arms transfers to a third country by another State that has acquired US military equipment.
Following the signing of the TPT, the next step was delivering the formal offer for the aircraft, which had already been done. “After having the corresponding permission, Denmark must make the offer as the operator of the 38 F-16s,” the report read. There are six F-16 Block 10 and 32 F-16 Block 15, worth approximately US$338.6 million.
The US has approved the sale of the 38 F-16 fighters to Argentina. The approval considers a package of support, equipment, and maintenance information in addition to armament. Washington has been harping on the fact that the F-16 is a battle-proven platform with a high availability of spare parts. While the jet belongs to the first versions of the aircraft, it can undergo modernization to keep them fighting fit.
- Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
- She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
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