The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Argentine Armed Forces (EMCOFFA) has approved the purchase of six new-build Bell 407 GXi utility helicopters in a deal worth US$32.4m.
While a purchase contract between EMCOFFA and Bell Textron Canada – the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the Bell 407 GXi – was signed on December 21, 2022, at the Argentine Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) headquarters in the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires, the formal green light to proceed with the acquisition was given on January 30, 2023. This acquisition aims to enable the Argentine Air Force (FAA) to replace its ageing fleet of Aérospatiale SA-315B Lama light helicopters in performing high-altitude search and rescue (SAR) operations in Argentina’s mountainous regions.
This purchase comes more than a decade after Argentina first moved to acquire a successor for its venerable Lama fleet, which entered operational service in December 1972. Such replacement efforts were delayed due to a lack of resources being allocated to the Argentine MOD. In sourcing a replacement, the Argentine MOD evaluated proposals from Airbus Helicopters and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, regarding the H145 and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) Mk I, respectively, but Argentina eventually opted for the Bell 407 GXi.
In addition to the six new aircraft, the contract includes the provision of training for aircrews and maintainers, along with relevant ground support equipment, manuals and tooling. It has been reported that the six helicopters will be split between the FAA and Argentine Army, with each service receiving three Bell 420 GXi helicopters each.