HAL’s LCA Tejas deal with Argentina has been put to hold

Argentine Air Force, after evaluating HAL’s LCA Tejas and China’s JF-17 Thunder, is inspecting US Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, making India’s deal sceptical.

Top Argentine officials are in Denmark to see the F-16s that their country intends to buy used from Lockheed Martin, a US aerospace company. The F-16 A/B MLU fighter bombers are being inspected on-site by a committee of the Argentine Air Force. 

This might be the conclusion of the technical analyses used in the selection process, according to reports in a local news source called Zona Militar. This is the third offering to go through technical testing, following China’s JF-17 Thunder and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas.

The HAL Tejas is an Indian, single-engine, delta wing and light multirole fighter

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However, the community as a whole remains dubious about any Argentine agreement going through.

For a while now, Argentina has been hunting for a fighter plane for its air force. Due to their difficult relations with the United Kingdom, the South American country has historically struggled to develop reliable defences.

During the pandemic, there were reports that Argentina had finalized the Chinese JF-17. In fact, insider information revealed that China had reportedly transported a few JF-17 fighters to Argentina for evaluation by their air force, which took around a month.

There is a rumour that Argentina was pressured into terminating the deal by the United States. China would have gained a foothold in America’s backyard had the deal been approved.

Following that, India proactively promoted the HAL LCA Tejas, and the Argentine was interested. The bond and the likelihood of the deal both rose over the course of several rounds.

Tejas is fitted with an active electronically-scanned radar for critical operation capability. It can refuel in the air and be ready for war again.

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According to sources close to the transaction, the top defence authorities from Argentina frequently brought their best pilots along when they visited HAL facilities in India to inspect the LCA Tejas. Argentina reportedly asked for another chance to test the homegrown fighter plane, but HAL postponed it until sometime in 2023 for unknown reasons.

A high-level delegation from HAL also visited Argentina earlier this year, demonstrating both India’s initiative and Argentina’s interest. It happened shortly after Dr S. Jaishankar, the external affairs minister, visited the country in August.

The Indian Ambassador to Argentina, Dinesh Bhatia, and the Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Argentina, General Juan Martin Paleo, met just last week, as a follow-up to General Paleo’s recent trip to India, where he also visited HAL facilities.

Following such bilateral discussions, domestic circumstances may prevent Argentina from selecting a fighter jet.

Until the domestic problems of Argentina are cleared off, the Argentinian deal with HAL’s LCA Tejas remains on hold

Due to the nation’s complicated military past and diplomatic pressure from the UK, it has been reluctant to make defence investments. The agreement for the fighter jets will probably become mired in political controversy in light of the forthcoming elections, further jeopardising it. 

The Argentinean government set aside about US$ 700 million in September for the purchase of fighter jets. Even while it suggests that the deal will be improved, the current state of the economy makes it impossible for it to do so on its own. 

Until the domestic problems of Argentina are cleared off, the deal with HAL’s LCA Tejas remains on hold. 

(With inputs from Financial Express)