The Argentine Navy has abandoned plans to reactivate the five former French Fleet Air Arm-operated Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard IVM naval strike fighters that were purchased in 2019, as the nation is unable to return the aircraft to operational service.
Along with related spare parts – including additional radars and engines – and a simulator, the second-hand fighters were acquired from France for $12.5m by Argentina’s previous government, led by former President Mauricio Macri, with the five jets arriving in-country via ship in May 2019. However, since the Super Étendards arrived, the Argentine Navy has proved unsuccessful in reactivating them for operational use, leaving the aircraft grounded until a decision was recently taken to abandon the reactivation plan in its entirety and further adding to Argentina’s struggle to keep its combat aircraft active and relevant.
The reason behind the grounding of the former French Super Étendards in Argentina is related to need for new pyrotechnic devices for the fighter’s ejection seats, which were manufactured by UK-based Martin-Baker. Following the conclusion of the Falklands War in 1982, the UK placed sanctions on Argentina that prevent the nation from purchasing both weapons and military equipment that feature British-made content. While Argentina did try to mitigate this issue by developing an alternative system, this project was ultimately cancelled due to a lack of available funds.
Argentina is currently the only remaining operator of the Super Étendard, despite none of its aircraft being in an airworthy condition. The Argentine Navy has operated the type since 1979, with the strike fighter gaining notoriety by sinking Royal Navy ships – including the Type 42 guided-missile destroyer, HMS Sheffield (D80) – with the French-developed Exocet anti-ship missile during the Falklands War. While it remains unclear how many Super Étendards remain in the Argentine Navy’s inventory at present, reports indicate that nine examples could be returned to operational use, in addition to the five former French Navy IVMs that were delivered in 2019.