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Falklands Again
Russia Offers Arms to Argentina

Russia is set to lease Argentina up to a dozen long-range, supersonic strike aircraft in exchange for supplies of wheat and beef. This would be a coup for Argentina, because UK influence has scuppered previous plans to upgrade its aerial attack capabilities. IHS Jane’s reports:

For some years now, Argentina has been trying to replace its antiquated and increasingly unserviceable Dassault Mirage IIIEA, IAI Dagger, and McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk fighter fleets with a newer and more capable type.

Reported procurements of surplus Spanish Mirage F1s, Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) Kfirs, Chengdu Aircraft Corporation FC-1/JF-17, and Saab Gripen E/Fs all appear to have stalled for either economic or political reasons (the proposed buy of the Gripen E/F was effectively vetoed by the UK, which manufactures many of the aircraft’s systems).

What makes the Su-24 report so alarming for the UK government is that the proposed lease from Russia would not likely be affected by either economic or political reasons, and so is much more likely to progress.

There’s only one conceivable target on which Argentina would want to mount a supersonic, long-range attack, and that’s the Falkland Islands. UK military capability has been dwindling there (as well as everywhere), and London won’t be ready to field its next-generation aircraft carriers in the south Atlantic until at least 2020.

Another sign of world peace in 2015.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Is there anything much more stupid and unnecessary for the 21st century than Argentina and The United Kingdom in a perpetual twit over the Falkland Islands?

    • Josephbleau

      I agree with you completely. The present executive of Argentina needs a tail waging the dog event and will not care about the human cost. How much money will Argentina get from conquering the Malvinas.

      • Kevin

        If I were her I might go for it. She cares primarily about domestic political standing, not money. Putin has shown you can get stratospheric approval ratings by invading your neighbors. Could the UK stop them? I don’t think the UK will be able to count on US support. Most of Latin America along with Russia (and probably China) would back Argentina, at least in the UN. The EU would waffle indecisively and utter pious platitudes at most.

        • bannedforselfcensorship

          Signing a deal for planes, and actually receiving them, and then being trained and proficient is a very different thing.

          I’d say you’d need a couple of years time to do that. And if they were smart they’d get extra spare parts and munitions. During the first Falklands, they actually only had a handful of Exocets because the rest of the shipment hadn’t arrived yet.

    • Corlyss

      The Kashmir squabble between nuke-armed India and nuke-armed Pakistan?

      • bannedforselfcensorship

        Siachen Glacier is better.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Okay. Your example is more dangerous than the Falklands. Whether it’s dumber, hard to say.

    • InklingBooks

      Given the sad state of the Argentinian economy and its repressive political system, this tension is necessary for Argentina’s government. They stir up trouble with the UK over the Falklands for the same reason Democrats in our country stirred up trouble over the events in Ferguson. It diverts the attention of idiots and fools.

    • Rick Caird

      I have been to the Falklands and they are as British as the day is long. There is absolutely no trace of Argentinian influence or culture. Argentina, while a delightful country, is a country continually being destroyed by a succession of horrid governments. The fault, here is all on Argentina.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I am going to be the dissenter here. The Falklands have very rich fishing grounds inside the EEZ, and their are apparently oil and gas deposits (though very hard to get to in these treacherous waters) in considerable quantities. For a basket-case economy like Argentina’s, both would be of considerable value, even discounting the populist show to cover up their failed economic policies. As for the Brits, the political consequences of a Falklands withdrawal would be strongly negative, and they already have invested non-trivial funds in exploiting the fish, gas, and oil discovered in the region. Anticipating your objection, the gas and oil discoveries long predate the current drop in prices, and unless you believe that prices are going to stay low eternally (which is unlikely), they still represent worthwhile exploration for the future.
      None of this is to suggest that these vital interests for either side, but they certainly aren’t stupid and unnecessary. I do, however, agree with most of the posters here that the real reason behind this is the Argie government’s desire to find SOMETHING else to discuss other than their utter failures in governing.

  • Andrew Allison

    Or, another way for Putin to demonstrate his irritation with sanctions.

  • bannedforselfcensorship

    Let’s see if they are smarter this time and wait for the actual missiles and munitions to arrive before invading.

  • Let’s say this transaction goes. I’m not in anyway knowledgeable of military matters, but I do remember that in 1982 the brits were basically caught napping by the Argentines and there were less than a hundred soldiers and royal marines defending the island. Also, at that time Argentina has the largest air force in the region, with close to 400 war planes.

    I just look at the list of active ships in Argentina’s navy and didn’t see anything that looks like a assault capability able to overwhelm the 1,300 British soldiers that now defend the Falklands. There are also 4 Eurofighther Typhoons stationed there, and the UK has over 120 of those; I think they can fly some more down there in short order in case Argentina gets these Russian planes.

    I mean, my question is: don’t the Argentines need more than 12 warplanes to support an invasion? This is alarming because I think the current president (Cristina Fernandez) might be crazy enough to believe that she can pull this off and start a war. But it looks to me that even without an carrier group the UK can easily defend the islands now. Or can’t they?

  • f1b0nacc1

    If the Argies want to buy SU-24s, I suggest that we encourage them to do so. These rather elderly aircraft (typically about 20-25 years old), are notoriously unreliable and suffer from numerous major design deficiencies (lousy avionics, seriously flawed engine design, structural issues with their ‘swing-wings’) which significantly reduce their value. The Russians (who designed and built the things) are unable to get readiness levels of above 40% even with the newest versions, and are desperately trying to replace them with a newer design, the SU-34. As another poster pointed out below, the Brits have a decent enough garrison on the Islands to prevent a repeat of the invasion of 1982, and can rather easily reinforce their existing troops if a shooting war began. The marginal value of these aircraft to the Argies is only above zero because their existing air force is so bad in the first place. They represent very, very little threat to defenders of even limited competence, and the Brits (with or without carriers) are considerably better than that.
    This really looks like a political gesture by the current government. Their economic policies have been catastrophic failures, and they need to distract the population with something popular. The Falklands are always good populist fodder, and this should do the trick.

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