Ukraine risks getting fewer F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets because of a standoff between the US and China involving Argentina

By: Maksim Panasovskyi | 27.09.2023, 12:43

A big game between China and the United States could leave Ukraine with fewer fourth-generation F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters than the warring country needs. Argentina, which wants to upgrade its fleet of aircraft, and White House interests are involved.

Here's What We Know

The US is trying to dissuade Argentina from buying Chinese JF-17 fighters to replace the A-4 Skyhawk. The South American country wants to get rid of about two dozen old aircraft. The US is offering old F-16s, while China is ready to sell at least 15 brand new JF-17 Thunder Block 3 with the possibility of ordering second and third batches.

Ukraine risks getting fewer F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets because of a standoff between the US and China involving Argentina

Local media are writing about US pressure on the Argentine government. The White House does not want China to expand its presence in Latin America, so Washington is pushing Buenos Aires to choose American aircraft.

Argentina will not be able to buy the most modern version of the F-16 for two reasons. The first is that the queue for the Block 70/72 (Viper) is lined up for several years ahead. The second reason is the high cost.

The US State Department has authorised the sale of aircraft to Argentina, but does not specify details. The transfer of up to 32 F-16 Block 16 fighters and up to six F-16 Block 10s to the Danish Air Force was approved over the summer. The cost was estimated at $338 million. The F-16A/B aircraft underwent MLU (mid-life upgrade). But even after the upgrade, the 40-year-old fighters will not be able to fly as much as the new Chinese JF-17s.

Ukraine risks getting fewer F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets because of a standoff between the US and China involving Argentina-2

The possible sale of Danish aircraft to Argentina is not a good development for Ukraine. The Danish Air Force has just over 40 F-16A/B MLU fighters, which after modernisation correspond to the C/D level. Moreover, not all of them are in combat-ready condition. The Scandinavian country is one of the key donors of aircraft for the Ukrainian Air Force. It has officially announced the transfer of 19 fighter jets after pilot training.

Ukraine risks getting fewer F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets because of a standoff between the US and China involving Argentina-3

It is possible that some of the F-16s will still go to Argentina. In that case, Ukraine will receive fewer aircraft than it could in theory. Earlier this year, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced agreements to supply 50-60 F-16 fighters. In addition to Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands have approved the F-16 transfer.

Source: Breaking Defence