Argentina acquires 24 European F-16A/B MLU with AIM missiles

After a period of intense deliberations, Argentina has made a decision on the F-16 to strengthen its air defense capability.

The choice has focused on the acquisition of modern Tejas Mk1 fighters from India, JF-17 from China or second-hand F-16A/B MLU from Denmark. According to informants close to the Government of Buenos Aires, the Argentine president, Javier Millei, has opted for the Danish F-16. The president himself announced this election during a speech given on Wednesday, March 20.

However, the situation in Ukraine has cast shadows over the transfer of Danish F-16s to the Argentine Air Force. Preliminary reports suggested that Denmark could repurpose these fighters in support of Ukraine rather than ending their sale to Argentina.

The possibility of Argentina opting for the Chinese JF-17 did not represent a viable alternative for either Washington or London. In the end, Denmark decided not to divert the F-16s to Ukraine and wait for the Argentine resolution, a decision that undoubtedly favors the interests of Washington, Copenhagen and Buenos Aires.

Argentine air reinforcement: An investment of strategic impact

Argentina acquires 24 European F-16A/B MLU with AIM missiles
Lockheed Martin F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft of the 331st Squadron of the 132nd Wing of the Norwegian Air Force. 2017. Photo: Norwegian Ministry of Defense.

This amount includes the acquisition of 24 previously used F-16A/B MLU fighters, as well as the inclusion of two missile variants: the AIM-9 Sidewinder and the AIM-120 AMRAAM. It was that first indicated that the deal would incorporate AIM-120 missiles in September, citing confidential sources in the Argentine Ministry of Defense.

The AIM-120 stands out for its advanced engineering, which integrates state-of-the-art active radar technology. This air-to-air missile is equipped with a solid-fuel rocket motor, an active radar system for target detection and a highly destructive warhead. Its technical specifications are impressive: it measures 3.7 meters long, has a diameter of 178 millimeters and a wingspan of 53.8 centimeters. Despite its weight of approximately 152 kilograms, the AIM-120 is a compact and effective weapon.

The range capacity of the AIM-120 is notable, being able to intercept and neutralize targets at distances of up to 180 kilometers, depending on the model. The warhead of this missile, designed for explosive fragmentation, weighs about 23 kilograms and is optimized for target annihilation, dispersing a deadly shower of shrapnel upon detonation.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a short-range missile designed for close-air combat. It measures 9.5 feet in length and 5 inches in diameter and weighs approximately 190 pounds. Its operating range varies depending on the version; Early models had a range of nearly 5 miles, while more advanced versions, such as the AIM-9X, can pursue targets up to 22 miles away. The speed of the missile also varies from model to model, some reaching up to Mach 2.5.

Expanded capabilities: The AIM-9 and the F-16 in the Argentine Arsenal

Argentina acquires 24 European F-16A/B MLU with AIM missiles
ADF F-16 firing an AIM-7 Sparrow missile. Photo: USAF.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder, with its explosive fragmentation warhead, is meticulously designed to devastate or destroy targets with a lethal combination of explosive and fragmentation effects. The detonation of the warhead, which weighs approximately 9 kilograms, is precisely regulated by a proximity fuze, which is activated when approaching the target.

The official website of the US Air Force describes the F-16 Fighting Falcon as a versatile and compact combat platform, notable for its cost-effectiveness and operational effectiveness. Among its most notable attributes are superiority in air combat, agility and operational autonomy.

This technological gem has the ability to attack targets in all weather conditions and track aircraft at low altitudes using its advanced radar. In ground attack missions, the F-16 is capable of traveling more than 860 kilometers, executing its attacks with great precision, defending against enemy air threats and returning to its base without incident.

Recent diplomatic interactions between Argentina and the United States show a strengthening of bilateral ties. In this context, the meeting of the director of the CIA, William Burns, with senior Argentine officials at the Casa Rosada and the upcoming visit to Argentina of General Laura Richardson, Head of the United States Southern Command, stand out.

During his stay at the Casa Rosada, Burns discussed important topics with key figures from across the Argentine political spectrum, including the Chief of Staff, Nicolás Posse, the Minister of Security, Patricia Bullrich, and the Director of the Federal Intelligence Agency, Silvestre: Sívori, and the United States Ambassador, Marc Stanley.

Strategic Dialogue: A bridge between Buenos Aires and Washington

As a top U.S. intelligence official, Burns raised concerns about several issues critical to the region, including suspected Hezbollah operations, the growth of drug trafficking, the risks of Russian cyberattacks under Putin, and China’s growing influence.

A seasoned diplomat with deep knowledge of the Middle East, Burns has served under the administrations of George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Known as “America’s master diplomat,” he assumed leadership of the CIA in 2021 by appointment of President Joseph Biden, succeeding Gina Haspel, appointed during the Donald Trump administration. Earlier this year, Posse and Sívori held meetings with Burns in Washington, DC, to coordinate national security strategies.

Since his election, the Argentine president has held meetings with prominent figures in US politics, such as Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Brent Neiman of the Treasury Department, Gita Gopinath of the IMF, and Brian Nichols, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Western Hemisphere.

Instead, during his attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington in February, the Argentine president expressed his support for former President Donald Trump’s aspiration to return to the presidency.