Argentine Navy is ready to buy second-hand European submarines

The Argentine Navy is exploring the possibility of acquiring a second-hand submarine. This was revealed by Rear Admiral Carlos María Allievi, Chief of the General Staff of the Argentine Navy, during an interview with Pucará, a local defense news outlet. 

French Scorpène-class sub will boost Philippine Navy's capability
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Rear Admiral Allievi discussed the challenges faced by the Argentine naval forces, highlighting the absence of an active operational submarine. He mentioned, “We send contingents of submarine officers and non-commissioned officers to the Peruvian Navy, which gives us the opportunity to go on board and practice,” indicating how they strive to maintain the operational readiness of their submariners. 

Allievi noted that the French Scorpène-class submarine stands out as a strong contender for the Argentine Navy. His comments came after reviewing the current state of their submarine acquisition project. He explained that the Argentine military is examining various options regarding the operational capabilities and costs of different submarine classes, with a keen eye on what Buenos Aires might have to budget.

French Scorpène-class sub will boost Philippine Navy's capability
Photo credit: Chilean Navy

Scorpène-class submarine is suitable

“The Navy has conducted studies and identified the French-origin Scorpène submarine alongside the German 209 New Generation submarine as potential options. In the Southern Cone, both Chile and Brazil operate Scorpène submarines, while Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela use the 209 model. Operationally, the Scorpène boasts superior capabilities, suggesting that acquiring it could establish a strategic balance in the region, bringing Argentina on par with Brazil and Chile,” noted Allievi.

He added, “Argentina views the Scorpène as the optimal choice. However, that doesn’t imply a decision has been reached yet. The selection process involves not only technical and operational assessments but also the pursuit of external funding as directed by the Defense Minister.” 

Argentine Navy is ready to buy second-hand European submarines - Scorpene submarine
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Second-hand submarines from Europe

Notably, Buenos Aires aims to avoid straining the national budget with new acquisitions, especially given the current economic conditions. This approach likely explains why Allievi mentioned the potential investment in more economical options, such as second-hand submarines.

“We are on the lookout for a used submarine, which is quite challenging as operational submarines are typically retained by navies until they are ready for reserve,” remarked the Argentinian rear admiral. “We are exploring if any European nation plans to decommission submarines so we can negotiate,” Allievi added. 

Sweden boosts NATO by deploying its silent Gotland-class submarine
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ARA Santa Cruz

Currently, the Argentine Navy has two German submarines in reserve that are not in active service. The fleet, including the ARA Santa Cruz and ARA Salta, has encountered significant hurdles leading to their inactivity. A major factor behind this is the lack of sufficient maintenance and modernization over the years. Financial constraints and budget limitations have severely hindered the Navy’s ability to keep these submarines operational. 

The ARA Santa Cruz, a TR-1700 class submarine, has been especially impacted by these challenges. Despite receiving a mid-life upgrade in the early 2000s, it has faced several mechanical and technical issues that have rendered it unfit for active duty. The shortage of resources to address these problems has only worsened the situation.

Argentine Navy is ready to buy second-hand European submarines Ara-Santa-Cruz-2
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ARA Salta

The ARA Salta, a Type 209 submarine, grapples with similar maintenance woes. Built-in the 1970s, the Salta’s operation has been severely limited in recent years due to its aging systems and the Argentine Navy’s inability to carry out necessary overhauls. Its outdated technology and the high cost of refurbishment have made its continued service impractical. 

No major incidents or accidents have directly led to the decommissioning of the ARA Santa Cruz and ARA Salta. Instead, their inactivity stems primarily from prolonged neglect and insufficient investment in the Navy’s submarine fleet. The tragic loss of the ARA San Juan in 2017, another TR-1700 class submarine, underscores the urgent need for improved maintenance and safety protocols.


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