Argentina’s First F-16 Breaks Cover

Argentina F-16
The first F-16BM with the Argentine insignias. (Photo: Forsvarsministeriet)

Argentina Signed Deal to acquire 24 F-16s from Denmark. The F-16 will replace the obsolete A-4R Fightinghawk, with first deliveries expected later this year.

Six months after the approval from the United States, Argentina officially concluded the deal during a signing ceremony at Skrydstrup Air Base in Denmark on April 16. During the ceremony, which saw the participation of the Defense ministers of both countries, it was confirmed that Argentina will receive 24 F-16AM/BM from the Royal Danish Air Force, together with eight spare engines, spare parts for five years and four flight simulators.

After the signing of the deal, the first F-16 with the insignias of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina was unveil unveiled. The aircraft, the F-16BM 86-0199/ET-199, is painted in dark grey “Have Glass” color scheme, with full color Argentine flag and roundel. Interestingly, the F-16 was also armed with an inert GBU-31 JDAM and BRU-61 rack with four GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs.

Interestingly, some images were posted online by the Ministry of Defense and, among them, there are also two photos showing single seaters that appear to have been doctored to add the livery and markings of the Argentine Air Force.

“With these new aircraft we are taking a transcendental step in our defense policy,” said Argentine Defense Minister Luis Petri. “From today, Argentines, we once again have forces from heaven to protect us”. At the end of the ceremony, the minister also took flight in the back seat of a RDAF F-16.

Argentina F-16
Officials pose in front of Argentina’s first F-16. (Photo: Forsvarsministeriet)

Argentina already tried in the past to acquire new aircraft, however the sales always met the veto from the United Kingdom as most western aircraft use British components, such as the Martin Baker ejection seats. This situation existed since the end of the Falklands War, however the transfer of the F-16s did not require the approval from the UK.

According to Argentine newspapers, the package also includes AIM-120 and AIM-9 missiles, while other weapons will be acquired directly from the United States. The whole del is worth about $ 300 million which, according to a government spokesperson, is below the market cost of the aircraft.

“I am very pleased that the Danish F-16 aircraft, which over the years have served us well and have been thoroughly maintained and technologically updated, will now benefit the Argentine Air Force,” said the Danish Minister of Defence Troels Lund Poulsen.

In their current configuration, the F-16s sold to Argentina were initially delivered in the Block 1, Block 5 and Block 15 configuration and later upgraded up to the Block 20 Mid Life Update configuration, with capabilities considered comparable to the F-16C Block 50/52 configuration.

The RDAF F-16s have a few unique features, some of which were adopted also by other F-16 users. The first of these features is a search light mounted on the left side of the fuselage, just under the Radar Warning Receiver antenna in front of the cockpit.

The most notable systems that were developed by Terma specially for the RDAF are the ECIPS and PIDS pylons and the Modular Reconnaissance Pod (MRP). The ECIPS (Electronic Combat Integrated Pylon System) and the PIDS (Pylon Integrated Dispenser Station) are modified weapons pylons carried on stations 3 and 7 of the F-16’s wings that contain a Radio Frequency (RF) jammer and additional chaff/flares dispensers.

The pylons were later upgraded to the ECIPS+ and PIDS+ configurations with the addition of a Missile Approach Warning Receiver (MAWS). It’s not known, however, if Argentina will also receive the modified pylons or the standard ones.

Fleet modernization

Since 2015, Argentina has lacked a primary fighter aircraft following the retirement of the French-made Mirage III, which served during the Falklands War. During the same conflict, Argentina utilized Douglas A-4 Skyhawks, a model dating back to the 1950s.

In 1994, Argentina acquired 36 updated Skyhawk from the U.S. Marine Corps, allowing retirement of its older fighters. However, despite this upgrade, Argentina’s Air Force continued to express the need for more modern and capable equipment due to the aging and limited capabilities of its replacements.

With the delivery of the F-16, starting between the end of 2024 and the beginning of 2025, Argentina will be able to finally replace the Mirage III and also, moving forward, retire and replace the A-4AR Fightinghawk.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.