Argentina is considering buying Chinese JF-17 fighters after a similar deal was halted last year, renewing Beijing’s hopes of expanding the reach of its military equipment in South America, where it is competing for influence with the US.
Sabino Vaca Narvaja, Argentina’s ambassador to China, held a meeting with Argentine Defence Minister Jorge Taiana in Buenos Aires recently to discuss plans to cooperate with Beijing on defence, according to a Weibo post by the country’s embassy on Tuesday.
The plan could see Argentina procure JF-17 aircraft along with 8×8 armoured vehicles made by China North Industries Corporation (Norinco) to “meet the needs of the Argentine military to maintain unity and stability”, the embassy said.
The announcement came months after Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said his country would not make any immediate military aircraft purchases.
“Argentina has to allocate its resources to more important things than the purchase of military aircraft,” Fernandez told the Financial Times in December.
The JF-17 Thunder, jointly produced with Pakistan, is a lightweight single-engine multirole jet with a top speed of Mach 1.6 and combat radius of up to 1,400km (870 miles).
It is reportedly a front-runner to fill the Argentine Air Force’s gap in fighter jets, with other potential candidates including India’s Tejas, Russia’s MiG-35 and second-hand American F-16s from the Danish air force.
The embassy’s post mentioned discussions between Vaca Narvaja and representatives of China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Corporation about the possibility of procuring the JF-17. The talks took place during an air show in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai last November, according to the embassy.
India has also been in talks with Argentina about a possible sale of Tejas aircraft, manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited chairman CB Ananthakrishnan said in February, according to India Today.
Any deal with Argentina would be subject to a British arms embargo – put in place after the 1982 Falklands war – that has prevented the Latin American country from acquiring weapons with British-made components.
HAL has reportedly been working to replace all British components in the Tejas fighter with Indian-made parts.
Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, said the JF-17 contained a British-made ejection seat, but added that “we can replace it with a domestic one – there’s no problem about that”.
“The key is whether Argentina has the economic strength to buy.”
Source : South China Morning Post