Military Aviation

The JF-17 is the strongest candidate to become Argentine Air Force future fighter jet

The bid submitted for the JF-17 weapon system complies with all the requirements established by the Argentine Air Force.

Details were given on the requirements established by the Argentine Air Force (FAA) and the models studied for its future supersonic multi-role fighter in a September report provided by the Chief of Cabinet of Ministers to the Argentine Congress, Aviacionline Defensa reports.

Deputies of PRO (opposition party to the current Government) made the following diagnosis before asking questions to the Chief of Cabinet about the future incorporation of a supersonic fighter for the Argentine Air Force (FAA):

«At present, only a handful of A-4AR aircraft are in limited operational conditions. The aforementioned complement is not even a deterrent, much less sufficient to guarantee the integrity of the vast national territory.

Not only are the current capabilities patently insufficient, but they have also become dangerous for aviators, which could result in invaluable human losses of highly qualified military personnel. The situation of the equipment and its capabilities is serious and dangerous, affects the fundamental function of the force and allows the infringement of national sovereignty.»

The FAA established the following requirements the Chief of Staff said:

  • Multi-role supersonic fighter.
  • In-flight refueling capability compatible with the FAA’s existing refueling aircraft.
  • Airborne electronically scanning radar (AESA).
  • Tactical Data Link capability.
  • Electronic self-defense capability.
  • Logistic and temporal potential and projection.
  • No components of British origin.
  • Availability (supply) for the use of armament.

The models under evaluation are the following:

  • JF-17
  • F-16
  • HAL TEJAS
  • MIG-35

There is no mention of the Israeli offer for the Kfir.

The bid submitted for the JF-17 weapon system complies with all the requirements established by the FAA and includes according to the information submitted by the Argentine Ministry of Defense:

Visit of the Argentine Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Pakistan, where he had a first-hand look at the JF-17 Block III offered.
  • Technology transfer to national companies
  • Spare parts
  • Simulators
  • Instruction for personnel
  • WS-13 engines of Chinese origin
  • Ejector seat of Chinese origin
  • Short- and medium-range air-to-air missiles (BVR capability)
  • Ninety percent compatibility with JF-17 Block IIIs being manufactured by Pakistan for its own Air Force
  • All material is free of restrictions

The JF-17 Thunder is a single-engine multi-role combat aircraft developed jointly by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation of China. The builders say that the JF-17 can be used for multiple roles, including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance.

58% of the JF-17 airframe, including its front fuselage, wings, and vertical stabiliser, is produced in Pakistan, whereas 42% is produced in China, with the final assembly taking place in Pakistan.

The JF-17 Block III is the latest version of this type with a new electronically scanned radar as well as advanced electronics.

Second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets such as those offered by the US so far, could not meet the requirements (they lack AESA radar and they can’t be refueled by FAA KC-130H aircraft).

Anyway, while it is clear that there is a higher degree of knowledge about the JF-17 than about the other weapon systems mentioned, and that negotiations with China have been more in-depth than with the other bidders, all is not yet said and done.

In fact India is actively advertising its Tejas light fighter for the FAA, which was specifically mentioned in the work agenda established by the two countries to strengthen their bilateral cooperation.

Meanwhile the US will do everything possible to prevent Argentina from buying Chinese or Russian defense material, so as not to allow the establishment of military relations with its geopolitical opponents in the region.

As already reported, the FAA has been searching for a new supersonic fighter aircraft since when the Dassault Mirage III interceptor fleet was retired in 2015.

It looks like the UK is the biggest hurdle: in the last years in fact Argentina tried to purchase JAS-39 Gripen fighters from Sweden and KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle jets from South Korea but since these aircraft use British equipment such as ejection seats built by Martin Baker, the UK blocked both the options.

The same may happen to the Tejas because of the British manufactured parts in the aircraft.

According to Janes, other potential solutions that have been reported included surplus Spanish Mirage F1s and Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoons, Leonardo M-346FA/FTs, CAC J-10s, and Aero L-159s. Even the Sukhoi Su-24 ‘Fencer’ (although this is widely believed to have been a hoax) and the new Sukhoi Checkmate were touted.

Photo credit: Asuspine via Wikimedia Commons, Peng Chen – Flickr: Pakistan airforce FC-1 Xiao Long and Argentine Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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