During the last session of the National Defense Commission of the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Nation, with the presence of the Secretary of International Defense Affairs, Juan Battaleme, the Head of the F-16 Program of the Argentine Air Force participated. Throughout their presentation, Vice Commodore Juan Manuel Sosa, accompanied by Vice Commodore Cristian Darío Giaccaglia, in the capacity of Implementation Management Chief, responded to a series of questions from lawmakers that allowed for the disclosure of new details and the current status of the incorporation of the new multirole fighter.

During their presentation, the military officials were queried about the selection process of the U.S.-origin multirole fighter over other options, some criteria for selection, capabilities, and limitations of the recently acquired weapons system from Denmark. Other questions posed by Deputies from various political factions emphasized the acquisition of complementary aircraft to support the F-16s, such as their operational horizon and remaining service life.

Firstly, asked about the process of selecting the new fighter, Vice Commodore Sosa mentioned that the evaluation process is not new, as it originated between 2010 and 2011 when the Mirage/Finger interceptors were still operational. Originally, the aim was to incorporate an aircraft that would allow for a transition without losing capabilities, which eventually happened with the retirement of the Deltas without a replacement in 2015.

However, the evaluation process and the formation of a data matrix continued in order to present the political authorities with the most information and details about the candidates evaluated. Since 2019, it was mentioned that the evaluation process considered proposals based on the South Korean KAI FA-50, the Russian MiG-35, the Indian HAL Tejas, the Chinese JF-17 Thunder, and the U.S. F-16 through Denmark.

“… the air force did not start this process in 2019, it started much earlier, around 2010, 2011. Prior to the decommissioning of a weapons system, we do not go out to search for a weapons system once it’s decommissioned, but rather we search for it beforehand, in order to be able to overlap them operationally and not be left without a weapons system, as was the case with losing the supersonic capability of the country…,” Vice Commodore Sosa expressed.

Continuing his presentation, the military officials were asked about the timelines for the incorporation of the new aircraft. In this regard, it was confirmed that the arrival of the first operational F-16 fighters is expected by the end of 2025, with the VI Air Brigade of Tandil being the operating unit, located in the Buenos Aires province. For this purpose, it was also mentioned that, regardless of the selection of one proposal or another, the investment and enhancement of facilities had to be carried out in order to accommodate any weapons system regardless of its origin, as the building infrastructure dates back to the 1960s.

Additionally, the incorporation process is subject to the progress made in the training and learning stage of pilots, technicians, and support crews, which has already begun with the selection of the first personnel and the start of technical English courses in response to the requirements of the F-16 program.

Asked about the potential service life of the F-16s, Vice Commodore Sosa categorically stated that the aircraft could be operated for the next 25 years, highlighting, both by the military commanders and civilian officials, that the combat aircraft remains in production and has nearly thirty operators worldwide.

An aspect also queried by lawmakers is the technology transfer associated with the incorporation of the F-16 fighters and a possible involvement of the Argentine Aircraft Factory Brigadier San Martín (FAdeA). In this regard, it was indicated that such transfer is focused on issues related to software management and obtaining sustainment and maintenance capabilities; adding that, as of the present date, the participation of the Cordoba-based factory in industrial matters is not contemplated due to the small number of units to be acquired.

Finally, the incorporation of new refueling aircraft for the F-16s was noted and queried by the deputies, as the current FAA KC-130Hs are not compatible with their boom system. While it is not part of the program that Vice Commodore Sosa leads, he mentioned that it is the intention of the Air Force to incorporate at least two KC-135 aircraft, which is part of a parallel process. Meanwhile, alongside the purchase of equipment for the fighters, the addition of more external fuel tanks has been planned to extend the combat aircraft’s autonomy, which would be around four hours depending on the flight regime.

Session of the National Defense Commission, June 11, 2024:

*Photographs used for illustration purposes.

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