Like the rest of the world, Argentina has been striving to modernize its military, notably its Air Force, for decades. But with its messy military history and unresolved issues with the United Kingdom, the South American nation has been struggling to expand its defense spending. Not to mention the present trend of the global recession that has placed the Argentine economy under more pressure.

Nonetheless, the Argentine government has been working on buying its Air Force some new jet fighters to replace its deteriorating fleet, having to set aside about $684 million in 2021. After a long discussion on what jet fighters to purchase, Buenos Aires has narrowed its limited options between India’s Tejas and China’s JF-17 Thunder.

It’s been a while since Buenos Aires has had supersonic fighter jets, with the last being the Mirage aircraft that was retired in 2015 after more than four decades of service. The Argentine Air Force (AAF) currently maintains a handful of its indigenously-made FMA IA-63 Pampa, an advanced jet trainer with combat capability, and a small fleet of about six to eight Lockheed Martin’s A-4AR Fightinghawk ground attack aircraft, which unfortunately are experiencing severe parts shortages.

IA-63 Pampa Trainer Jet
FMA IA-63 Pampa Trainer Aircraft (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

However, the prospect of having a new supersonic aircraft in the AAF has been thrown out of the window after Argentine President Alberto Fernandez recently announced that the nation would not be making any “immediate military aircraft purchases,” seemingly postponing arms deal with either the HAL Tejas and JF-17.

In an interview with the Financial Times’ Global Boardroom program last week, Fernandez said, “there are other priorities before buying weapons, definitely,” adding that there are no impending nor looming war problems in the South American nations.

“Argentina has to allocate its resources to more important things than the purchase of military aircraft. We are in an unequal continent, but there are no war problems, and unity among countries is sought,” Fernandez said.

Aside from HAL Tejas and JF-17, the American-made F-16 fighter and Russia’s MiG-35 were also considered by the AAF, with the latter later eliminated. Other disregarded aircraft were Israel’s Kfir jets and French-made Mirage F1 fighters, both secondhand.

Sweden’s Gripen and South Korean-built FA-50 fighters were also considered, but like most of its options, they are outfitted with British-made components, which the UK has barred Argentina from acquiring following the 1982 Falklands War.