‘Not Purchasing Pakistani JF-17s’ — Argentina Shoots Down Media Reports Over Fighter Jet Acquisition

Argentina’s Defense Ministry has issued a statement dismissing media reports that the country decided to purchase a dozen of Chinese-Pakistani-made JF-17 fighter jets.

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The JF-17 is a multirole fighter aircraft, which has been jointly developed by China’s Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) as well as Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The aircraft was developed for meeting the requirements of the Pakistan Air Force.

It was widely reported by news portals that the government of Argentina had requested a budget allocation of $664 million for procuring a dozen JF-17 Block III fighter jets from Pakistan. The JF-17 Block III is the latest version of this type with a new electronically scanned radar as well as advanced electronics.

An Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan Strategic Forum (PSF), had earlier issued a statement saying, that, “the Government of the Argentine Republic has officially included funding for the purchase of 12 PAC JF-17 A Block III fighters in a draft budget for 2022 presented to Argentina’s Parliament.

The funding requests $664 million for the purchase of 12 JF-17s from Pakistan. The Argentine Air Force has chosen Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder, discarding offers from Russia, the USA, and India”.

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The Pakistani Consulate General in Jeddah also tweeted, “Argentina has officially earmarked $664 million in its next year’s budget for the purchase of 12 JF-17 Block-III fighter jets from Pakistan”.

File:PAK Kamra JF-17 Thunder at PAris Air Show, June 2019 (2).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
File: PAK Kamra JF-17 Thunder at PAris Air Show, June 2019 – Wikimedia Commons

Denying all these claims, the Argentine Defence Ministry issued a statement on September 21 saying, “the Defense Ministry informs that, by means of Public Credit Operations Authorization note, it has requested the inclusion of the authorization to manage a credit of up to $664 million for the acquisition of multipurpose fighter aircraft for the surveillance and control of airspace into the 2022 budget”.

“Likewise, the Ministry clarifies that it has not issued a decision to purchase a supersonic aircraft of any origin and is in the stage of technical-economic and financial evaluation of five alternatives”, it added.

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However, the statement did not clarify which aircraft had been chosen by Argentina for its fighter jet quest.

Argentina’s Quest For A New Fighter Jet

Ever since the Dassault Mirage III interceptor fleet was retired in 2015, the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA) or Argentina’s air force has been looking for a new supersonic aircraft.

However, the UK seems to be the biggest hurdle.  Recent attempts by Argentina to acquire JAS Gripen jets from Sweden and KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle from South Korea were also blocked by the UK as they use British equipment which included ejection seats built by Martin Baker.

The JF-17 (FC-1) Thunder.

China is believed to have offered the FC-1 fighter jet (Chinese designation for the PAF JF-17) to Argentina. However, the complication in acquiring the JF-17s is that the fighter aircraft also has its ejection seats built by Martin Baker and an embargo may be placed on its sale by the UK.

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The same may be the case with India’s homegrown fighter jet HAL Tejas, which was also reportedly under consideration for the fighter jet program. However, the involvement of British manufactured parts in the aircraft has eliminated it from the procurement race.

Russia is also pitching its MiG-35 to Argentina over the past few years. Israel had reportedly offered an upgraded version of its Kfir fighter to the South American nation.