Once again, Argentine mass media takes notice on the proposed purchase of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 Golden Eagle for the Argentine Air Force. We did cover this fact recently and in short, Clarin published already known information but with stating a supposed green light by the President Mauricio Macri to go on and submit this agreement.
Such negotiations allegedly are for first squadron of 8 to 10 aircraft and their logistical support and training for the next two years. Financial restraints would prevent the AF to also include advanced weaponry to which will turn to its own arsenal of AIM-9L/M and free fall bombs for the time being.
Many criticisms come from the fact that no FA-50 in service is capable of using Air to Air Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weaponry and still with no air to air refueling capacity or large capacity conformal fuel tanks (CFT), which would leave the aircraft with internal fuel only and on a very limited combat radius. This is only offered by KAI as a possible development on request.
The FA-50 is no match in the class of neighboring F-16’s and Gripens but will bring sustainable scalability and capabilities in which the aging and progressively obsolete A-4Ar Fightinghawks don’t make the cut anymore. Such a baseline capability it develops into a future commitment on a higher performance aircraft to complement the FA-50s and provide the actual superiority.
It’s no news that the AF since 1982 has progressively lost every critical capability, from strategic transport to supersonic interception and also proper maintenance, tooling and technical development of its ground crews’ qualification. If purchased, the FA-50s will be deployed supposedly to the Tandil AB, only 300 km away from the nation’s capital. An equal or even larger investment compared to the one to be made in the FA-50s is required to rebuild its air bases also for new tooling and training for its ground crews considering that many of these are low tech or based upon late 1950s technology.
Some of them might be short-termed and other in the mid-term, for example, Singapore is looking to sell its KC-135R tanker and transport aircraft on delivery of its new Airbus A330 tankers. These aircraft have been completely overhauled and upgraded by Boeing and even as some are built in 1959, they have many years of service ahead. This would provide the AF a lost strategic transport and refueling capacity since the Boeing 707s were phased out, for both Argentina and its allies.
Tactical transport is performed by recently upgraded KC/C-130Hs, who in the lack of smaller aircraft are stressed for all sorts of transport requirement being of military and public interest. This could be actually both softened and more efficiently done by acquiring new C-130J’s or KC-390s and C-295s the replacement for F-27 and F-28 medium transports.
Network Centric Warfare and this information age will require also the purchase and/or development of Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) to jointly work with indigenous ground based AESA radars and both radio and satellite communications. All of these, achievable milestones by the argentine aerospace industry.
Even if considering all of these necessary requirements, an actual budget assignment and statesmanship is required to provide not a rudimentary but an actual credible air deterrence.