The U.S. State Department has signed off on Argentina’s proposed purchase of four ex-U.S. Navy P-3C patrol planes.
The $78-million acquisition, should Buenos Aires follow through on it, would continue the slow regeneration of Argentina’s air power.
The P-3C deal, which the State Department approved in late December 2019, includes the four airframes plus spare engines and all the electronics and support systems the turboprop P-3s require. The U.S. Navy has nearly finished replacing its hundreds of Lockheed Martin-made P-3s with a force of around 120 more-capable P-8 patrol planes.
The used P-3Cs would replace six older P-3Bs in Argentine naval aviation. None of the P-3Bs are operational, the State Department noted.
The situation is similar across the Argentine military. As recently as 2017, the Argentine fleet on paper operated around 40 warships together displacing around 120,000 tons of water. These included three submarines of 1970s- and 1980s-vintage, four 1980s-vintage frigates and nine corvettes dating from the ‘70s, ‘80s and 2000s.
But many of the ships were in poor repair and rarely sailed. The destroyer Santisima Trinidad, a survivor of the Falklands War, in 2013 sank at her moorings. Engineers refloated her in 2015, but the 40-year-old vessel was in no condition to return to service. In 2017 the submarine San Juan sank following a battery fire, killing all 44 people aboard.
Then in July 2019 the Argentine navy announced it would scrap the frigate Heroina and the corvette Rosales, potentially shrinking the fleet to just a handful of operational warships that increasingly are suitable only for coastal, “brown-water” missions.