Yesterday, the draft budget for fiscal year 2022 was presented to the National Congress, which includes a request of US$ 664 million for the acquisition of JF-17 Thunder Block III fighters.
Thus, it is now clear which is the choice of the Argentine Air Force (FAA) for its next supersonic fighter, discarding the offers from Russia, USA and India.
The budget requested would be enough for the purchase of 12 JF-17 Thunder in its latest and most modern standard, taking into account the rumored price of 50 million per unit (which the Government would have tried to lower). Also, within this U$S 664 million, 20 million are contemplated for the repair and modernization of the runways and infrastructure that would host the new aircrafts.
So far, this is the clearest sign in favor of the Chinese option, which evidences the Air Force’s firm intention to complete the purchase as soon as possible. However, no one can claim victory yet. Until the contract is signed and the first funds are disbursed, there may still be counter-offers from other countries.
And it should also be remembered that in 2015, during Agustín Rossi’s first term as Argentina’s Minister of Defense, a budget of U$D 360 million had been authorized for the purchase of 14 IAI Kfir, which was then frozen in view of the imminent change of government. And finally, the administration of President Mauricio Macri decided to dismiss the acquisition of the Israeli fighters.
Therefore, the presence of the Thunder in the 2022 budget should be taken only as a purchase intention (a serious and firm indication, that’s for sure), and not as a deal already closed. One cannot underestimate the current economic and political situation in the country, in which the incorporation of modern weapon systems may not be seen as a priority.