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Armada Argentina - Argentine Navy - Modernization

The Argentine Navy faces a substantial block obsolecence problem around the year 2020. Most of the existing fleet was acquired in the 1975-1985 timeframe, and even allowing for a 40 year service life [versus 30 years in the US Navy], most of the fleet would need to be replaced in the 2015-2025 timeframe.

Argentina’s resolution of disputes over its defaulted debt has removed the threat that twice manifested itself during the previous administration of Argentine ships being seized in foreign ports based on international legal actions. Nonetheless, Argentina’s surface and submarine fleets remain small, with expired munitions, as well as delayed upgrades and service-life extensions for its core surface combatants, its four Meko 360 destroyers and six Meko 140 frigates. The purchase of ocean patrol vessels from China or France has also been postponed, while Argentina’s three submarines spent so little time underwater in 2014, that the country is assessed to no longer have a submarine capability. Even the rental of Russian tugboats as part of the nation’s campaign to support its bases in the Antarctic had to be abandoned following problems with the bidding.

In 2011 President Fernandez announced a five-year program for increased defense spending on military refurbishment, plans to modernize all armed forces and replace aging naval fleet. Little progress was made on that program. The absence of external and inter-state threats has meant a shift in focus towards other non-traditional security concerns. Naval modernisation is seriously hindered by a desperately weak economy. The country's navy budget accounted for an average of 25.3% of the defence budget during the period 2010-2015.

Everything said about the future of the ARA is mere speculation, if not impossible fantasy: conclusion of the TR-1700 abandoned in the yard in the Domecq García years, modernization of MEKO-360 frigates, acquisition of antiship and antisubmarine capable naval helicopters, recovery of the capacity naval air attack of ships... in short, expressions of nostalgia for the past.

From the third government of Juan Perón [1974] the Navy failed to specify any program to equip its fleet. Peron's program included a total of 17 vessels, among which included the provision of four frigates that were built in Germany program six corvettes Meko-140 produced in Rio Santiago (ex Naval Shipyards and Factories state) as Spiro, Gómez Roca, Spore, Rosales, Parker and Robinson. It also featured an unfinished endowment of six submarines, two of them made in Germany (Salta and San Luis) and four the former shipyard Domecq Garcia never got to complete. Finally, the plan of Perón for equipment included the construction of an icebreaker 13,000 tons burden that was built in Finland - the "Almirante Irizar", which replaced the veteran "General San Martín".

Most vessels in the Argentine fleet were constructed in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), France, Britain, or the United States. Argentina also had an advanced shipbuilding program that during the early 1980s even included plans for the possible construction of a nuclear-powered submarine.

At the time of the Malvinas war, the launching at the Blohm and Voss shipyard in Germany on 17 February, of the Frigate "Heroina" — which joined the Argentine Navy — did not go unnoticed. Nor was it a secret that another frigate, "Sarandi," became operational in March 1982 and that there are two more in that same family that were in the final construction phase. Not to mention the six Meko-140 corvettes, the six Thyssen TR-1700 submarines, all of which were under construction, plus the orders for Aeromacchi and Super-Etendard aircraft, helicopters, missiles — all for the Argentine Navy. Naval power specialists firmly believed that these new equipment items, added to the already well-equipped Navy, would give Argentina undoubted hegemony among similar forces in Latin America.

Despite budget cutbacks and the commitment of future monies for equipment contracts already signed, it was anticipated that the Argentine Navy would continue to spend considerable amounts on procurement. According to material published in late 1984 by the United States political risk analysis and market research firm Frost and Sullivan, Argentina was expected to spend some US$500 million for the acquisition of naval vessels and another US$736 million on the purchase of new tactical missiles between 1984 and 1988. But with the end of military rule, the Argentine military entered a prolonged produrement holiday.

In the mid-1980s Argentina enjoyed the distinction of being one of two Latin American naval powers that had an aircraft carrier. Argentina's sole carrier, the 25 de Mayo, had been in service with two other countries since first being launched in the mid-1940s. This was the Argentine fleet's second aircraft carrier. The first, the Independencia, had been acquired in 1958 and withdrawn from service in the late 1960s when the former British Colossus-class 25 de Mayo was transferred to Argentina from the Netherlands. The carrier was maintained in excellent repair, although it was reported to have persistent engineering problems. The carrier played no major role in the conduct of Argentine naval- or sea-based air operations against the British during the South Atlantic War.

Accounts of British Ministry of Defence documents published in 1984 noted that Britain had authorized its fleet to engage the aircraft carrier as of April 30. On May 5 the carrier was withdrawn from action and returned to port.

Ten destroyers were in service with the Argentine Navy in 1985. These included four German-built MEKO-360 H2 destroyers, which were launched in the early 1980s, and two British Sheffield-class guided missile destroyers commissioned in the early 1970s. Destroyers that were previously in service with the United States Navy included one Gearing-class and three Allen M. Sumner-class vessels, all of World War II vintage, that were transferred to Argentina in the early 1970s. In 1984 they were scheduled to be replaced by the MEKO-360s.

The Argentine Navy was also in the process of acquiring additional frigates during the mid-1980s. Already in the Argentine fleet were three French-built Type A-69 vessels, two of which entered into service in 1978, and the third, in 1981. The first two ships were specifically acquired in order to augment the Argentine fleet in the face of possible war with Chile over the Beagle Channel. Six MEKO Type 140 A16-class ships were ordered in mid-1979. By 1983 four of the vessels had been launched, and the remaining two were under construction in Argentine shipyards. Most of Argentina's warships were fitted for carrying either the MM-38 or the MM-39 Exocet surface-to-surface missiles. Each carried an average of four missiles; a total of 184 were estimated to have been deployed by late 1984.

Other major vessels in service with the Argentine Navy as of early 1984 included five corvettes, all formerly in service with the United States Navy and of World War II vintage; some six fast—attack craft, acquired during the 1970s; and six minesweepers previously in service with the British navy. A new tank landing ship, which would become second in the Argentine Navy's inventory, was ordered in 1982 and, in 1984, was under construction in the Republic of Korea. Various amphibious warfare and hydrographic ships were also in service with the Argentine Navy in the mid-1980s.

The three-masted Libertad, built in Argentina, was said to be the world's largest active sailing ship and was used as a sail training vessel. The Argentine fleet's sole icebreaker, used for support in Antarctica, was built by Finland and entered into service in late 1978. It reportedly was used as a hospital ship during the South Atlantic War.

In terms of naval-operational capability, a $65 million (peso) budget increase was decided in 2007 to address key material priorities. This is coupled with the completion (for about $50 million pesos) of the half-life repair of Frigate ARA Libertad, an Argentine true floating embassy which set sail in 2007 with the first women ensign class on board.

Furthermore, the Ministry continued to support the modernization of the Marine Corps material after the development of the Track Amphibious Vehicle (Vehículo Anfibio a Oruga, TAV), and planned to have two new units ready in 2007. The acquisition of basic engineering to build Multipurpose Ocean Patrol Boats (POM) intended for territorial sea control and surveillance, and the recovery of antisubmarine capabilities through the half-life repair of Submarine ARA San Juan at the Argentine shipyard Domecq García weae other imminent actions.

It is also proper to mention the beginning of recovery activities, with a cost of $15 million pesos, to repair Icebreaker Almirante Irízar, a key piece of the Antarctic Campaign and undisputed symbol of Argentine presence in “the white continent”.

On 09 September 2014, the Minister of Defense, Agustín Rossi, signed an agreement with the General Manager of INVAP S.E. (an Argentine state-owned applied research company), Héctor Otheguy, to modernize and restore the shipping system in the context of the Research and Development Progressive Program carried out by the Navy and the company. “The relation with INVAP has allowed Argentina to implement scientific and technological developments of its own. This agreement is part of a long-term public policy pursued by our government since 2003,” the Minister pointed out.

The two documents signed lay down the bases to modernize and increase the potency of four Meko 360 corvettes and two TR-1700 submarines, the "Santa Cruz" and the "San Juan". “Both contracts amount to approximately 22 million Argentine pesos and will extend for another thirty years the lifetime of these two weapon systems,” Rossi said in San Carlos de Bariloche.

“Through the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Production for the Defense, headed by Santiago Rodríguez, we are working to strengthen this policy, that will enable us to narrow the technological gap between our country and the First World,” the official said. He also added: “These decisions reaffirm the autonomy and sovereignty of our country. They have to do with a model that has to be preserved with deep political convictions.”

By May 2016 the Argentine government was in active negotiations with its French peers for the acquisition of three corvettes type A69 / D'Estienne d'Orves class. The ships, which are part of the nine units that was still active in the French Navy and was being removed from service, would come to complement the three ships of the same type, with small differences, which Argentina already had in the Navy and known locally as the Drummond class.

Of the three existing units in Argentina, two were bought in 1978, after the sale of these ships to South Africa were frustrated because arms embargoes during Apartheid, the third was commissioned in 1981. Unlike their French sisters, Argentine units were modified removiéndoseles double dual-use assembly Bofors coming instead of rocket launcher of 375 mm, for one quick shot Breda Bofors 60 / L70 mm. South American ships have also been subject improvements in electronics, receiving, among others, the installation of a new console Local Miniacco development of C4I (Command, Communication, Control, Computing and Intelligence).

By 2017 the re-equipment program included the construction at the Tandanor yards of four patrol vessels, with support from France, Italy and China. The vessels are in addition to four LICA, for cadets' training. currently under construction at the Rio Santiago yard, with Japanese (NKK) supervision and the first to be delivered in early 2018.

After President Jair Bolsonaro's visit to Argentina, the Macri government agreed to acquire 4 used IKL submarines from the Brazilian Navy. A little smaller, with less range and "cousin" of the Salta submarine, this is the ship that Brazil could send to the Argentine Navy if the letter of intent signed on 08 June 2019 between the defense ministers of both countries prospers. With a length of 61.2 meters, almost five less than the ARA San Juan, Submarines Tapajó IKL-209/1400 of the Brazilian Navy are also of German origin, as was the Argentine ship that sank in November 2017.

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Page last modified: 23-07-2019 18:52:32 ZULU