Biden Administration notifies Congress on potential sale of 38 F-16s to Argentina in a move aimed at countering the JF-17 fighter jets offered by China

US State Department clears the transfer of 38 F-16 Viper fighter jets from Denmark to Argentina

By Dario Leone
Oct 12 2023
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Transfer of 38 F-16 Vipers to Argentina cleared

The US State Department has cleared the transfer of F-16 fighter jets (including a package of support, equipment, and maintenance information in addition to armament) from Denmark to Argentina, Alert 5 reports. The letter approving the transfer was delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Security in the State Department, Mira Resnick, to Jorge Argüello, Argentina’s ambassador to US on Oct. 11, 2023.

According to The EurAsian Times, despite an official decision has not been taken yet, the Argentine Air Force has already opted to buy the F-16s. In fact, not only the US has cleared the transfer of the Vipers from Denmark to Argentina, but Buenos Aires has also signed a Transfer to Third Parties (TPT) document with Washington 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. It is the body responsible for authorizing arms transfers to a third country by another State that has acquired US military equipment.

The next step: the formal offer for the aircraft

Biden Administration notifies Congress on potential sale of 38 F-16s to Argentina in a move aimed at countering the JF-17 fighter jets offered by China
A diamond formation of nine F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft from Squadrons 727 and 730, Fighter Wing Skrydstrup, Royal Danish Air Force on a display flight at Danish Air Show 2014. 

Following the signing of the TPT, the next step is the delivery of the formal offer for the aircraft. “After having the corresponding permission, it is Denmark that must make the offer as the operator of the 38 F-16s,” the report read. As already reported, the former Royal Danish Air Force’s F-16 aircraft are from two batches, with up to six Block 10 fighters and up to 32 aircraft of the Block 15 variant set to be transferred. These F-16s still hold significant capabilities and will provide Argentina with a substantial upgrade to its air combat fleet: actually even though they are older variants of the Viper, they can undergo modernization to keep them fighting fit.

Transfer of four P-3 maritime patrol aircraft to Argentina was cleared as well

The transfer of four P-3 maritime patrol aircraft from Norway to Argentina was cleared as well.

The timing of this approval comes as Argentina seeks to replace its aging fleet of fighters and P-3B patrol aircraft. The US Congress’ green light will mark a crucial step toward enabling the purchase and subsequent deployment of these advanced military assets.

The Argentinian government will now have to decide whether to accept the offer from the US.

The Argentinian defense ministry allocated US$664 million to acquire 12 new fighter jets in September 2021. With the UK putting an arms embargo in place against Argentina, the choices for it have been reduced to Russian-built MiG-29 and MiG-35, China-Pakistan-built JF-17, and Indian-made LCA Tejas.

Biden Administration notifies Congress on potential sale of 38 F-16s to Argentina in a move aimed at countering the JF-17 fighter jets offered by China
Royal Norwegian Air Force P-3 Orion

But as Buenos Aires Times reported in August, “The White House has once again pressured Congress to approve the sale of 24 F-16 fighter jets to Argentina, which has not yet decided whether to buy the China/Pakistan-made JF 17 Thunder or the Indian-made HAL Tejas.”

Military sources told to La Nación newspaper in July;

“Currently, they are considering the second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16A/B Fighting Falcon, operated by Denmark – originally from the US model, although they were manufactured between the Netherlands and Belgium in the ’80s – and the Chengdu JF-17 Thunder Block III offered by China.”

MiG-35 ruled out, little chance for HAL Tejas

The military sources added that the MiG-35 proposed by Russia was initially ruled out, and the armed forces see little chance for the Indian HAL Tejas.

However, one thing is sure: the US is doing 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.

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As already reported, the Argentine Air Force (FAA) has been searching for a new supersonic fighter aircraft since when the Dassault Mirage III interceptor fleet was retired in 2015. Its current operational inventory includes at least 10 A-4 fighter bombers flanked by armed IA-63 Pampa jet trainers.

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: Slaunger Own Work and Mark Harkin via Wikipedia

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Dario Leone

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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