KAI’s FA-50 closes the deal in Argentina or not?

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The argentine newspaper Ambito, expressed what was first published by LATAMilitary, regarding a possible agreement for the purchase of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 Lead In Fighter Trainers (LIFT) for the Argentine Air Force within the context of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan. The Air Force and KAI are very committed toward signing the agreement but within the Ministry of Defense, some voices have expressed their caution and asked to hear an offer as well by the second-best candidate: Leonardo’s M-346 FA Fighter Attack.

It is very wise to have and compare options, but is that the case or is it another agenda behind waiting for them? The Air Force selected the FA-50 based on a very thorough analysis and the possibility of take flight in the aircraft, which was not possible for the M-346FA since still is in prototype phase and yet lacks many of the actual features offered to their potential customer. Other than actual technical limitations, concerns were expressed on the dependence this would have on the engine supplier, Honeywell, which is also the supplier for the TFE-731 engines in the Pampa III.

One of the official reasons behind the PT6A-62 being selected for the re-engine project of the IA-58 Pucara was the poor relationship and issues in their support when the argentine economy and their payments were past due. The fact that the company does not offer the full overhaul and maintenance on their F124-GA-200 engines and this relationship precedent. Holds at least some logical doubts for the Air Force’s caution.

Critical components such as electronic warfare and radar are of British origin or British control, a re-engineering effort for new components would be costly both in time and resources to actually perhaps not even performing to the actual aircraft expectations. Although Argentina and the U.K. have met half way on many terms, still there’s a low-key conflict upon resolution of sovereignty of the Malvinas, 37 years after the armed conflict.

In the case of the FA-50, there’s no actual participation of U.K. companies and no objections from the Foreign Office to Argentina. This relates directly for two specific reasons, one is that the combat radius of the FA-50 es insufficient to reach Malvinas (as a refueling capability is not yet available) and the second is that the aircraft do not challenge the current qualitative military edge of the Eurofighter Typhoons F4 based in RAF Mt. Pleasant.

Although KAI is very interested of also proposing the rest of their fixed and rotary wing products, Argentina is only interested in the FA-50 as well as assistance and agreements upon upgrading the Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) and other maintenance work.

To consider this situation among the odds and what happened in the near past, it would be optimistic to have a sign off, but it is far from impossible. In other scenarios, the same thing happened but the opposition of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lt Gen Bari del Valle Sosa prevented them to materialize. Some sources indicate a bias towards the Italian consortium, if that would be the case, why? For now, we can only speculate.

The situation of massive obsolescence of equipment in Argentina’s armed forces will turn to proposals and bids on other important replacements, medium transport aircraft, two types of helicopters and gear among others. Will this uncertainty continue be the rule and not the exception?

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