Argentina Invests $110 Million in AW109M Helicopters for Maritime Protection
The Argentine Defense Ministry is set to acquire eight AW109M lightweight helicopters from Italian company Leonardo. This is a strategic move to bolster the Argentine Navy’s capabilities in patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). The primary objective is to deter and prevent illegal exploitation of Argentina’s fishing resources. The country suffers a significant annual loss estimated between $1 billion and $2.6 billion due to illegal fishing. The acquisition is part of a wider effort by the Argentine government to strengthen its capacity to detect, deter, and combat illegal fishing activities.
Budget Allocation for Maritime Defense
The funding for the procurement of the AW109M helicopters has already been factored into the draft budget for 2024. The government has requested $110 million to be allocated to the maritime lightweight helicopter program, to be spent over a span of 10 years. This budgetary allocation signifies the Argentine government’s commitment to safeguarding its marine resources and underscores the importance of maritime surveillance in the nation’s defense strategy.
Argentine-Italian Defense Ties
The purchase of AW109M helicopters is also a testament to the strengthening defense ties between Argentina and Italy. The two countries have had a defense cooperation agreement in place since 1992, which came into effect in 1997. This agreement has guided mutual cooperation in the productive sector and the acquisition of defense equipment capabilities. The latest acquisition signifies the continuance of this longstanding relationship and the shared commitment to bolstering defense systems.
Other Defense Procurements
Apart from the AW109M helicopters, Argentina is also exploring the acquisition of decommissioned US CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. This initiative, led by an Air Force delegation, is aimed at replacing two Russian Mi-171E helicopters. The Mi-171E helicopters, purchased in 2010, have been in use in Antarctica since 2011. However, maintenance of these helicopters has become increasingly challenging due to Western sanctions against Russia, leading to the decision to replace them with the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.
Impact on Argentina’s Defense System
The acquisition of the AW109M and the potential purchase of CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters significantly enhance Argentina’s defense capabilities. The AW109Ms, suitable for operation from offshore patrol vessels, will enable Argentina to expand its control and surveillance capabilities of maritime spaces under national jurisdiction. The CH-46 Sea Knights, once refurbished and modernized, will replace the Russian helicopters, thus overcoming the maintenance challenges faced due to Western sanctions against Russia.
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