BUENOS AIRES --- Argentina is talking with China about buying up to 24 FC-1 / JF-17 fighters capable of reaching the Falklands, as confirmed by the Minister of Defence, Agustín Rossi. He said that an official delegation will travel to China next week to begin the talks.
"The Chief of Staff of the Air Force (Mario Miguel Callejo) is going to China with a technical mission to explore the possibility of purchasing" the fighters, Rossi confirmed as he accompanied President Cristina Fernandez in announcing an investment of $930 million to equip the Army.
Argentina’s interest in the Chinese fighters was first reported by the London Sunday Express newspaper The possibility was first raised as part of the trade agreements signed by Fernandez during her recent trip to China.
“The aircraft is a single-seat, single-engine design capable of a top speed of Mach 1.8 at an altitude of 55,000 feet. It also has a combat range of 1,350 kilometers, which allows him to fly back and forth to Stanley from the base of Tierra del Fuego," Rossi explained during an interview with Radio America.
Rossi declined to give many details of the talks but confirmed that the intention is to buy "not less than 12 and not more than 24" aircraft. If the agreement did indeed materialize, he said it would be "something new for Argentina’s Air Force, which has always had Western equipment."
The defense minister said that China is not the only country with which negotiated for the purchase of fighter planes. For the moment, Argentina has "two formal offers" for Spanish Mirage F-1s and Israeli Kfir Block 60s. "We also have an informal French offer," he said, but avoided giving details.
Argentina will make its decision once all formal offers are on the table, but the intention is that it should happen before the end of the year. "Then, I'll take the options to the President to make the decision," Rossi confirmed.