Argentina Strengthens Defense Ties with Italy, Acquires AW 109 Surveillance Helicopters
Argentina’s Defense Minister, Jorge Taiana, recently signed a letter of intent with the Italian aircraft manufacturer, Leonardo, for the acquisition of eight AW 109 surveillance helicopters. These helicopters are intended to strengthen the Navy’s monitoring capabilities in the South Atlantic and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The AW 109 model is a medium twin-engine helicopter that can be used for multiple missions, such as surveillance, medical evacuation, and search and rescue (SAR). The helicopter can accommodate a pilot, co-pilot, and six crew members, and can operate for three hours, covering a distance of approximately 574 kilometers.
Deepening Argentina-Italy Defense Ties
The defense cooperation between Argentina and Italy can be traced back to 1992 when they signed the Defense Cooperation Agreement in Rome. The agreement, which came into effect in 1997, established the guiding principles for mutual cooperation in the productive sector and the acquisition of defense equipment capabilities. This latest acquisition is a testament to the ongoing relationship between the two nations and their shared commitment to bolstering defense systems.
Consideration of Decommissioned US CH-46 Sea Knight Helicopters
Argentina is also reportedly interested in acquiring decommissioned US CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. As part of this initiative, an Air Force delegation is planning to visit the 309th Aerospace Service Group in Arizona. Air Force Chief Xavier Issac has stated that Argentina has signed a contract with Columbia Helicopters to refurbish, modernize, and modify the CH-46s. These helicopters are planned to replace two Russian Mi-171E helicopters.
Replacing Russian Mi-171E Helicopters
The Russian Mi-171E helicopters, purchased in 2010 for US$ 26.5 million, have been in use in Antarctica since 2011. However, maintaining these helicopters has become increasingly challenging due to Western sanctions against Russia. Argentina had sought mechanical assistance from Peru, Colombia, and Mexico, but the companies in these countries are not certified to work with Mi-171E engines. This has led to the Argentine Air Force’s decision to purchase at least four US CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, although the exact cost has not been disclosed.
Implications for Argentina’s Defense System
This acquisition of AW 109s and the potential purchase of CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters will significantly enhance Argentina’s defense capabilities. The AW 109s, 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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