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Argentina formalizes acquisition of Danish F-16 fighters

March 27, 2024 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Danish Minister of Defense, Troels Lund Poulsen, arrived in Argentina on March 26 to seal the agreement for the purchase of 24 to 28 F-16MLU fighter jets, decommissioned by the Danish Air Force (RDAF), putting an end to the exaggeratedly long search for a supersonic multi-role fighter for the Argentine Air Force (FAA).

Image posted by the Argentinian Ministry of Defense showing single seat F-16s that appear to have been doctored to add the livery and markings of the Argentinian Air Force.

On Tuesday Troels Lund Poulsen signed a letter of intent with Defense Minister Luis Petri of Argentina for a deal worth approximately US$ 300 million. US Ambassador Marc Stanley was also present at the ceremony as a token of Washington's acquiescence to the operation.

The purchase of the F-16s would benefit from generous U.S. financing, whereby Argentina would have six years to pay for the nearly $700 million involved in the operation. This budget would be divided almost equally between the purchase of the aircraft, spare parts, simulators and training of FAA personnel, and the acquisition of the guided armament to be carried by the fighters.

The final contract will be signed next month in Copenhagen when Petri travels to the European country. Economy Minister Luis Toto Caputo was also reported to have greenlighted the expenditure.

Denmark is donating 19 F-16s to Ukraine, and has decided to sell 24 Danish F-16 fighters to Argentina. In their current configuration, the F-16s sold to Argentina were initially delivered in the block 1, block 5 and block 15 configuration and later upgraded up to the block 20 Mid Life Update configuration, with capabilities considered comparable to the F-16C Block 50/52 configuration.

The RDAF F-16s have a few unique features, some of which were adopted also by other F-16 users. The first of these features is a search light mounted on the left side of the fuselage, just under the Radar Warning Receiver antenna in front of the cockpit.

The most notable systems that were developed by Terma specially for the RDAF are the ECIPS and PIDS pylons and the Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP). The ECIPS (Electronic Combat Integrated Pylon System) and the PIDS (Pylon Integrated Dispenser Station) are modified weapons pylons carried on stations 3 and 7 of the F-16’s wings that contain a Radio Frequency (RF) jammer and additional chaff/flares dispensers.

The pylons were later upgraded to the ECIPS+ and PIDS+ configurations with the addition of a Missile Approach Warning Receiver (MAWS). It’s not known, however, if Argentina will also receive the modified pylons or the standard ones.

The first four F16B two-seaters and two F-16A single-seaters should arrive in Argentina in 2025. The deliveries will be completed by 2028. The home base for the aircraft will be the VI Air Brigade in Tandil, and maintenance will be performed at the Río Cuarto Material Area.

The transaction involving these aircraft for the Argentine Air Force ends all previous talks with India, and particularly with China, whose JF-17 model was also a likely option.

With this choice, Argentina's military forces and systems will be technically in line with those of the United States. Had Argentina opted for the JF-17s, Buenos Aires would have lost security and defense cooperation agreements with Washington.

The contract with Denmark and the United States was discussed by Petri last Monday with British Ambassador Kirsty Hayes, given the UK's military embargo on Argentina following the 1982 South Atlantic war. The F-16s are said not to have any UK-made components.

In 2017 Argentina phased out the French-built Dassault Mirage after four decades of service.

Denmark has ordered 27 F-35A fighter jets, and the switch to them is taking place at the end of 2025.

Additional images:

RDAF F-16AM #E-600 from Esk. 730 is climbing out with full afterburner at RNAS Yeovilton on July 18th, 2017. [ photo by Robert Nichols]

RDAF F-16A block 15 #E-606 from Esk. 730 is passing the camera at Karup AB on August 25th, 1993 ready for a training sortie. [ photo by Joop de Groot]

Image posted by the Argentinian Ministry of Defense showing single seat F-16s that appear to have been doctored to add the livery and markings of the Argentinian Air Force.