Argentina Buying Russian All-weather Attack Aircraft Su-24. President Putin’s visit to Argentina in July laid the groundwork for exchanging Russian military hardware for wheat, beef and other goods Moscow needs due to EU food embargoes.
The deal involves a lease/lend of 12 Sukhoi Su-24 supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft. They are ageing but Nato still regards what it codenames “Fencers” as “super-fighters”, with their 2,000-mile range and laser-guided missiles. The aircraft, which Moscow will swap for beef and wheat, would be able to mount air patrols over Port Stanley.
Ministry of Defence officials fear Buenos Aires would take delivery of the planes well before the deployment in 2020 of the Navy’s 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its F-35B fighters, leaving a “real window of vulnerability”.
Defence cuts have left the Falklands with just four RAF Typhoon fighters, Rapier surface-to-air missiles and fewer than 1,200 troops, supported by a naval warship that visits throughout the year.
In October, defence minister Agustin Rossi announced the purchase of 24 Saab Gripen fighters, which were to be provided by Brazil, which has just purchased 36, but Whitehall squashed the deal as some of the jet’s parts are made in the UK Tensions over the islands resurfaced after exploratory seabed drilling revealed the promise of an oil bonanza.
Last night Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, of the UK National Defence Association, said: “The Ministry of Defence should be worried.
“It always trots out the mantra of reviewing force levels but the only real solution is to deploy a sizeable force of Typhoons, at least a squadron, to buy us time to formulate a proper reinforcement package.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “We regularly review force levels around the world, though we wouldn’t comment on the detail of this for obvious reasons.”