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Better than the F-39 Gripen? Argentina strengthens its air defense with 24 F-16 fighters

17 April 2024 20 gies: 46
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Better than the F-39 Gripen? Argentina strengthens its air defense with 24 F-16 fighters
F-16 Photo: Disclosure/FAA

Argentina reinforces air defense with the acquisition of 24 F-16 fighters from Denmark, modernized and equipped, but still inferior to Brazil's F-39 Gripen and Chilean F-16s, marking a significant advance despite future upgrade limitations.

Argentina takes an important step towards modernizing its air fleet with the purchase of 24 F-16 fighters, a necessary measure after years of reduced capabilities since the retirement of the Mirage 3s in 2015. These fighters, acquired from Denmark, represent not only a technological update for the Argentine Air Force, but also an effort to better position itself in the South American defense scenario.

This transaction, which is the most significant since 1983 in terms of aerial military acquisition, seeks not only to increase Argentine air power, but also to balance military capabilities in the region, marked by the recent inclusion of more advanced fighters by neighboring countries.

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Capacity of F-16 fighters acquired by Argentina

The F-16 fighters, specifically in the A/B MLU Block 15 version, received extensive modernizations in the late 80s. Compared to the vectors previously used by Argentina, such as the A4 Skyhawk and the IA 63 Pampa light attack trainer, the F -16 represents a considerable advance.

However, despite the improvements, these fighters are still classified in the fourth generation, not being compared with the most advanced Chilean F-16s, or with the F-39 Gripen, recently incorporated by the Brazilian Air Force – a 4.5 generation aircraft, considered one of the most advanced in operation in the region.

Statements and reactions

During the contract signing ceremony, the Argentine Minister of Defense, Luis Petri, highlighted the importance of the agreement: “Today we are concluding the most important military aeronautical acquisition since 1983. There are 24 F-16 aircraft that have been modernized and equipped with the best technology, and which today are at the level of the best aircraft flying in the skies of South America and the world.”

Arsenal

The deal that Argentina made includes a notable weapons package, highlighting the A9X and A10 missiles, the latter similar to the one used by Chile with a range of around 110 km. However, due to the nature of the purchased version, future updates may be limited. Even so, given the current context of Argentine Air Force and available resources, the purchase of F-16 fighters is seen as a positive step for the country, although it does not substantially change the balance of air power in South America.

This move reinforces Argentina's defense capacity but, at the same time, raises questions about comparisons with its neighbors' air vectors, especially the modern F-39 Gripen operated by Brazil.

Why are Argentina's F-16 fighters inferior to Brazil's F-39 Gripen?

The F-16 fighters acquired by Argentina are considered inferior to the F-39 Gripen operated by Brazil for several technological and capability reasons. The F-16s purchased by Argentina belong to the A/B MLU Block 15 version, one of the first versions of the F-16 that were modernized in the late 80s. Despite the updates, they remain fourth generation aircraft. On the other hand, the F-39 Gripen is a 4.5 generation fighter, positioning itself between fourth and fifth generation aircraft, which gives it significant technological advantages.

The F-39 Gripen is known to be a multi-role fighter capable of efficiently executing a variety of missions such as air superiority, ground attack and reconnaissance. This versatility is a huge advantage compared to F-16s, which, despite being also versatile, do not have the latest upgrades that come with more modern fighter models.

Gripen incorporates most advanced technologies, including state-of-the-art avionics, electronic warfare systems and superior networking and data capabilities. This allows for better situational awareness and combat effectiveness compared to the F-16s acquired by Argentina, which, due to their generation, have limitations in terms of future upgrades due to the older design base.

The Gripen is notable for its operational efficiency and low maintenance costs compared to other fighters, which represents a significant economic advantage in the long term. Meanwhile, F-16s, being older models, may incur higher operational and maintenance costs.

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