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The Beechcraft T-6 Texan II is quickly becoming the go-to primary trainer for air forces all over the globe. And why wouldn’t it? Powered by the world-class Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop, the T-6 Texan II has everything you could want in a primary trainer: great speed, jet-like performance with fuel consumption a fraction of a jet, glass cockpit with modern avionics, and tandem seating. Texan IIs are presently being flown by many ally nations, including Canada, Mexico, the UK, Chile, and Argentina, to name a few. Our South American allies are ramping up their fleets, replacing old aircraft with modern designs to take their fleets well into the 21st century. Chile is finalizing the procurement of 24 Texans IIs, and they aren’t alone in South America. Let’s take a look at what’s going on in lovely Argentina.
Argentina’s Air Force
Sharing an incredibly long border with Chile (about 3,300 miles), these two South American countries share the third-longest border of any two countries globally, behind Canada-USA and the Kazakhstan–Russia border. The Fuerza Aérea Argentina, or Argentine Air Force, was founded in 1945 and maintains a modest force of nearly 14,000 personnel and a little over 200 aircraft. Like many of their South American neighbors, the Argentine fleets are outdated, operating aircraft that have long been retired by other nations. For instance, the Fuerza Aérea Argentina still operates A-4AR Fightinghawk aircraft, which are modernized versions of the Vietnam-era A-4 Skyhawk jet. But to say Vietnam-era isn’t entirely accurate; the “Scooter,” as it was affectionately known to its users, was developed in the early 1950s. So, the design is actually about seventy years old now. Unsurprisingly, the Argentine Air Force has had to largely shelve the A-4s because of parts issues and few flyable spare. The remainder of the Argentine fleet is no newer; their prime fighter aircraft were Mirage IIIs and Mirage 5s, being retired due to age.
Argentine is trying to rebuild its fleet from the ground up, starting with its fleet of trainers. This makes sense since the Texan II is capable of dual roles, with it also designed as a light attack aircraft. When you consider the problems that plague South and Central America (drug cartels, drug trafficking, terrorism), a fleet of light attack aircraft that have a low operating cost and can operate from remote areas with a minimal logistics chain makes a lot of sense. Especially when you can take a pilot through primary training, and then they don’t need to learn a new airframe as they transition to the operational fleet.
The Future of the Fleet
Even though the Texan is a great airframe that has proven to be adaptable for various missions, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution for everything. The Argentine Air Force has been making do with ancient aircraft for far too long and has passed a breaking point. They have zero offensive capabilities. Their A-4 fleet is their only real fighter/attack asset, with six or fewer operational units in total. For fighters, this wouldn’t even represent a small squadron in a major Air Force. By comparison, a smaller squadron in the U.S. Air Force might be around 20 or so fighter aircraft, which would be found in Air National Guard squadrons that are smaller than active duty units.
Having five or six operational fighters in the entire fleet equals not having a fleet. Argentine has had several potential suiters lining up to transfer aircraft, including China and Russia. In the interim, Argentina has announced it will adopt the South Korean KAI FA-50 as an in-between fighter. There are no solid figures on how many FA-50s would be ordered, but some educated guesses put the number at ten.
When Will the Texan IIs Be Delivered?
Argentina is already a Texan II user, with their initial round of aircraft delivered in the past few years. The total count after the contract will be 24 aircraft, but the foreign military sales (FMS) contract will also include provisions for training and support. The most recent developments with this contract came from the U.S. State Department last April when the State Department approved the possible FMS transaction with Argentina to the tune of $73 million. This approval is for the approval of aircraft sustainment and other related equipment. In short, this is the logistical approval to acquire a reliable supply chain for their T-6 Texan II investment. This sustainment contract will keep their Texans from having the same fate as their A-4 and C-130 fleets: sitting on ramps, unable to operate due to deteriorated supply chains.
The acquisition request includes follow-on sustainment and the support of their fleet of aircraft. This will include software and hardware upgrades and other necessary modifications over the years. The goal of the FMS program is to legally equip our allies with equipment and the necessary equipment to defend themselves and provide alliance to the U.S. when necessary. But the FMS program, while a legal instrument, needs to determine who can provide the parts, services, and engineering support for foreign fleets. That’s where Government Procurement comes in. We are the one-stop shop to source parts, establish a robust logistics chain, and even source maintenance contracts for foreign fleets.
Whatever the need is, we can help you and your team source it or fulfill contracts. If you are an approved foreign operator or represent one, and are ready to set up the supply chain you need, or need to update and upgrade your fleet, contact Greenwood Aerospace today, and our team of experts will set you up for success!