WASHINGTON (Agencies): 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.
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.