Despite the Argentine economic crisis, which has caused most modernisation programmes for the armd forces to be slowed down or delayed, the government has accelerated the upgrade programme for the Air Force’s C-130 HERCULES Fleet. The fourth modernised aircraft – a C-130H – was handed over to 1 Brigada Aérea on 6 May, joining another C-130H and two KC-130H already delivered. A fifth aircraft is due for delivery by the end of next year. FAdeA Will start work on the sixth aircraft – an L-100-30 – in 2021 and is considering upgrading the seventh and last aircraft in the inventory, another C-130H.

The aircraft are being upgraded with new avionics, a full glass cockpit and other modifications at the same time as receiving a major structural overhaul.

When the COVID-19 crisis first took hold, the Argentine Air Force had only a single Fokker F28 and two HERCULES in service in its transport fleet. With the C-130s undergoing modernisation, a decision was taken to resurrect a second F28. The type had been due for retirement in 2019, when the in-service example was found to have significant corrosion damage, but lack of funds to procure a replacement aircraft has resulted in a refurbishment programme that aims to have the airframe returned to service before year-end, when the type will serve till at least 2024.

The Defence Fund Law, already passed by the Chamber of Deputies but yet to be approved by the Senate, will be the enabling legislation that will lead to acquisition of new combat aircraft, according to Defence Minister, Augustín Rossi. The KAI FA-50 is still widely thought to be the lead contender, although Air Force Chief of Staff, Brig Xavier Isaac, has recently been quotes as saying the selected aircraft needs to be supersonic, new-build and affordable – which makes the concept of an air superiority fighter unachievable in the short term, due to cost and also excludes a number of proposed subsonic or second-hand platforms. Meanwhile, the service is aiming to ensure the fleet of upgraded A-4AR – dubbed FIGHTINGHAWK in recognition of the F-16 being the source of its new avionics – reaches at least 10 aircraft by year-end.

Santiago Rivas and Florencia Lucero Heguy in Buenos Aires for MON

TC-66 – the fourth HERCULES to be upgraded in the Argentine Air Force programme – was handed over on 6 May. (Photos via authors)

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