According to a recent publication, The Dominican Republic is looking for more aircraft and air surveillance radars. Currently the AF holds a roster of 8 EMB-314 Super Tucano which are the spearhead of the DRAF, after the A-37 Dragonfly were taken out of service, they have no jet aircraft left. The main interest and hot spot are the operations of irregular air traffic, related to drug trafficking and smuggling with aircraft with origin in the vicinities of Colombia and/or Venezuela.
Air defense roles are based upon information provided by radars integrated in a circuit, installed in the Las Americas and Punta Cana airports. Still, such radars are more related to an air traffic control function other than air surveillance and defense roles. Commander Richard Vasquez Jimenez declared that to the actual requirements, the Super Tucano is a very capable aircraft. None the less, the fully militarized Human Machine Interface (HMI) increases the actual operating cost of the EMB-314, more related to an actual all-weather light attack platform.
For that purpose, an interest has been developing in acquiring T-34C Turbo Mentor aircraft, presumably from U.S. surplus that are being taken out of service. Over 150 of them are in storage at the Davis-Monthan AFB with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), yet no details on how many of them actually have weapons capability, presumably with DRAF intention of integrating gun pods on wing hardpoints. Considering their almost completely analog cockpit, the costs are based mainly on the operation and maintenance of the PT6 turboprop engine. Further so that not so long ago, the DRAF operated piston versions of the Mentor, the T-34B.
Even so, an opportunity for the Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) is on the table if proper political conditions are provided and not just for them but also for INVAP. But and there’s always a but, allegedly the DRAF is more concerned in slower aircraft of STOL capabilities that may operate from unprepared land runways even from within the Dominican Republic and the lower stall speed, compared to the IA-63 Pampa, is on the T-34’s favor.
The IA-63 and the EMB-314 have similar stall speeds but the Pampa has 50% higher maximum speed. As seen and required by central American operators, the IA-63 Pampa Serie III could fill that gap on interception of higher performance aircraft also with a high degree of components commonality with the EMB-314, driving operational costs down.
None of these matters are of any use without proper detection, in a 2011 contract between a third party, allegedly representing Israeli company Elta, and the DRAF was provided a number of Elta 2106 NG radars (now also considered inadequate) but an investigation shed light on allegedly misconducts and lack of bureaucratic compliance so the radars are currently on hold due to a court order. So they are dependant on the civilian system or on the cooperation of the U.S. forces deployed in the region.
This, if the conditions are in place, could be a major opportunity for INVAP’s radars of which could provide two alternatives. The RMF-200V 3D tactical radar and the RPA-170M medium range tactical radar. Of course, other than the obvious price tag difference, both products would be selected according to DRAF needs and budget. On both cases the AESA radars can be field operated and integrated within the current Dominican air defense network.
Will Argentina seize the opportunity?