South American nation Argentina stands out among the countries expressing their interest in the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. Mired in a fierce diplomatic struggle against the United Kingdom (UK), Argentina has been unable to modernise its defence forces. While the US has offered them second-hand F-16s with modest modernisation, it is keen to equip itself with more formidable combat aircraft for starters. And aircraft might be the start.
Top Argentine Defence Delegation here
Top diplomatic sources confirmed to Financial Express Online that top military officers led by the Argentine Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Juan Paleo will be visiting the DefExpo in Gandhinagar to scout around for different platforms and weapons India has to offer. Besides visiting the pavilion of Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), he and his officers will also meet top officials of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) during the expo.
Diplomatic sources have also confirmed that pilots of the Argentine Air Force have been to the HAL facility to test the LCA `Tejas’ in Bengaluru and General Juan Paleo and his team will also be stopping over in Bengaluru at the HAL facilities on their way back to New Delhi.
Interest in the recently inducted Light Combat Helicopter
The team is expected to test with its pilots the helicopters on offer by HAL, especially the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Prachand.
Financial Express Online has reported earlier that in a historic clash of claims over the Falkland Islands, a group of islands off the coast of the South American nation and the UK have been engaged in a hardline diplomatic standoff. The turning point in the dispute was the Argentine attempt at militarily reclaiming the islands. The UK was able to ensure the surrender of the Argentine offensive. Since the 1982 Falklands War, the UK has been actively against the modernisation of the Argentine military. The UK’s arms embargo against the country remains in effect even today.
Also Read: China Out, HAL offers LCA `Tejas’ Mk1A and trainer variant to Argentina
Argentina scouts around for fighter jets
When Argentina was in the market for fighter aircraft, it selected the South Korean FA 50. However, the UK arms embargo rendered the deal dead, and prior to the FA-50, Argentina favoured the Israeli Kfir Block 60s. This, too, did not mature following the US snub over the American engines in the fighter.
The Air Force of Argentina is now with dwindling air power and fleet and there seems to be no respite. According to reports in the public domain, the Chinese aircraft deal was cancelled following American pressure.
The India way
Financial Express Online had reported in 2021 that HAL had offered the LCA Tejas to Argentina. However, fearing the UK arms embargo, Argentina has tasked HAL to find alternatives for any components from the UK being used in the LCA Tejas. This task includes finding a replacement for the UK-origin ejector seats.
Is there an alternative to Martin Baker’s Ejection Seat?
Yes, HAL has been looking at the possibility of using a Russian ejection seat to replace the UK company’s if a deal with Argentina goes through.
Also Read: Catch-22 for HAL Tejas in Argentina
HAL & Argentina
HAL has been bullish on engaging the South American nation. In September HAL executives went on a high-profile visit and met vital members of the military as well as their state-owned aeronautics enterprise, Fábrica Argentina de Aviones.
State-owned HAL has positioned itself as a defence partner instead of backing on a single product export. And Argentina seeks to build up its air power as quickly as possible.
“India’s self-reliance journey can further empower Argentina’s sovereignty over choosing fighters for its defence,” observed a senior officer who wished to remain anonymous.