Argentina gives up on Super Etendard fighters after controversial procurement

Martin Otero / Wikimedia

Argentine Minister of Defense Jorge Taiana formally announced the retirement of the last Dassault Super Étendard single-engine attack fighters, both the original models purchased in 1979 and those acquired second-hand from France in 2018. 

In January 2018, the sale of the five Dassault-Breguet Super Etendard Modernisés that had retired from active duty within the French Navy was announced during a visit by then-President Macri to France.  

The €12 million contract included eight ATAR 8K50 engines, spare parts, and a training simulator. After Argentina delayed the payment for four months, the five aircraft were eventually delivered and in May 2020, one of them made its first rollout. However, these aircraft have never been able to achieve operational status. 

Diplomatic grounding 

Since the war fought between the United Kingdom and Argentina in 1982 over the Falkland Islands, the former has imposed an arms embargo on the South American country.  

Due to the embargo, the Super Etendard Modernisés could not be delivered with their MK6 ejection seat manufactured by the British group Martin Baker. Three years later, the Argentinian authorities have finally given up on circumventing British sanctions.  

“We had planned to recover them, so I went to speak with the [French] defense minister, who told me that they cannot be recovered, for two reasons,” Taiana explained during a press conference for the Day of the Argentine Navy on May 17, 2023. “Because of the seats, which the British did not give up, and because of a series of parts of the Super Etendard Modernisés that are now retired. Therefore they, who had initially seen the possibility of manufacturing the parts, say that they cannot make them.” 

The reasons given may seem surprising given that they were known before the purchase was finalized. Regardless, the retirement of the Super Étendard marks the end of Argentina’s naval aviation. And with only several antique A-4AR Fightinghawk light attack jets still operating, the country’s military and defense authorities are left facing questions about the future of their aerial capabilities.

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