Tejas Mk-1А closer to Argentina, after a deal for 20 Indian helos

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL] and Argentina’s Ministry of Defence have signed a letter of intent to secure utility helicopters for Argentina’s military. Argentinian Defence Minister, Mr. Jorge Taiana, visited HAL’s Bengaluru facilities, marking a step towards stronger bilateral ties. 

India gets Prachand: a domestic light helo armed with Mistral AAMs
Photo credit: Twitter

The letter of intent was signed at HAL’s headquarters, with guests including Argentinian officials and HAL’s Chairman and Managing Director, Mr C B Ananthakrishnan. The Argentinian delegation visited HAL’s Light Combat Aircraft and Helicopter Divisions, gaining insight into the aerospace company’s activities. 

The signed letter indicates growing cooperation between India and Argentina in defense and aerospace, with potential for further joint ventures. In 2023, HAL discussed supplying 35 Tejas LCA Mk-1A to Argentina’s armed forces. This was reinforced when Argentinian firm FAdeA signed an MoU with HAL. 

The visit from Argentina’s Defence Minister paves the way for future defense partnerships between the two countries. The collaboration between HAL and Argentina’s Ministry of Defence could benefit both countries’ military capabilities and growth. This year, Argentina acquired six Bell 407GXi aircraft and signed a letter of intent for 12 Airbus H215 Super Puma Helicopters.

Introducing LCH Prachand

The LCH Prachand, a multi-purpose combat helicopter developed in India, was incorporated into the Indian Army and Air Force in 2022 for border deployment. It’s a symbol of India’s growing defense capabilities. 

Built to adapt to India’s varied landscapes, the LCH Prachand is a robust aircraft created from a collaboration between India’s HAL and France’s Safran company. It is powered by twin Shakti engines. 

With a top speed of 288 mph, a combat radius of 500 km, and a service ceiling of 21,000 feet, the LCH Prachand can operate effectively in places like the Siachen Glacier. The cockpit is equipped with armored panels for the pilot and Weapon Systems Operator [WSO]. 

This helicopter has a 20mm nose gun, and a 70mm rocket pod, and can support the ‘Dhruvastra’ anti-tank guided missile and French ‘Mistral-2’ air-to-air missile. It also has an electro-optical pod for surveillance and target tracking. 

The LCH Prachand was conceived in 2003 as a response to the ineffectiveness of Russian Mi-25 and Mi-35 helicopters during the 1999 Kargil Conflict. The project was approved in 2006. After a decade of hard work and multiple operational clearances between 2017 and 2019, the LCH proved its capabilities by successfully operating at high altitudes with heavy loads. 

Argentina buys RBS 70 ground air defense with 5 sec reloading time
Photo credit: SAAB

Exploring the South American Defense Market

The LCH sale could boost India’s defense export ambitions, following a setback with the ALH ‘Dhruv’ export to Ecuador. After a series of crashes, Ecuador decided to ground and sell its fleet of Indian-made helicopters, leading to a dispute with India. 

India is now marketing its defense products to Latin American, African, and South East Asian countries, offering comprehensive packages including training and infrastructure development. Having already exported the BrahMos to the Philippines, India is eager to explore further opportunities in Latin America.

Argentina’s challenges

Argentina is facing difficulties in buying a combat fighter from the US or Europe due to several reasons. One of the main reasons is the high cost associated with these aircraft, which is beyond the budget of Argentina. Moreover, the US and European countries have strict regulations and export controls on the sale of military equipment, which makes it challenging for Argentina to acquire these fighters. Additionally, political and diplomatic tensions between Argentina and some of these countries have also hindered the procurement process.

The Indian Tejas Mk1 is a good fit for the Argentine Air Force for several reasons. It’s a cost-effective fighter aircraft, making it appealing for Argentina. India has been marketing the Tejas globally and has secured orders from other countries, proving its reliability. Furthermore, the Tejas can operate in diverse environments, including high-altitude areas, making it ideal for Argentina’s varied landscape.

The Tejas Mk1, a modern and advanced fighter aircraft, is ideal for the Argentine Air Force. Equipped with cutting-edge avionics and weapons systems, it excels in combat. Its low radar visibility makes it hard to detect, providing a vital edge in modern warfare.

Denmark opens up an opportunity

In a surprising turn of events, India’s Tejas fighter could potentially penetrate the Argentine market, thanks to Denmark. Earlier in the year, Argentina expressed interest in procuring second-hand American F-16s. This interest was to be satisfied by Denmark, who had plans to offload its used F-16s to Argentina. 

In Norway, 12 deeply modernized combat-ready F-16s are aging
Photo by Eirik Helland Urke

Subsequent to this, a series of visits were organized involving delegations from Lockheed Martin, the Argentine military, and Danish government officials. The aim was to acquaint the Argentines with the Danish F-16s. These visits indicated that the UK would not obstruct the US from selling F-16s to Argentina. 

However, the conflict in Ukraine shifted the dynamics. Assurances were given to Kiev that European partners would facilitate the re-export of F-16s to the war zone. Denmark was among the first to volunteer for training F-16 pilots and is expected to supply its aging F-16s to Ukraine. This development potentially opens the Argentine fighter jet market for India to steer negotiations. 

Interestingly, the US seems in favor of this arrangement, given that Denmark is a larger customer of US military equipment than Argentina. This suggests that Washington could negotiate with Copenhagen with ease for the sale of upgraded weapons, replacing the possible donated F-16s in the future.


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