Having visited Pakistan and China, is Argentina ready to buy the JF-17 jet?

ISLAMABAD and SANTIAGO, Chile — The recent visit to Pakistan by the head of Argentina’s joint military staff has fed speculation that a JF-17 fighter jet deal is on the horizon following more than a decade of interest by the South American nation. But despite China’s willingness to help fund an acquisition program, its unclear if any major progress was made.

Lt. Gen. Juan Martín Paleo visited with several military and government figures June 14-15 in Islamabad including Pakistan Air Force head Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu and Minister for Defence Production Muhammad Israr Tareen.

While Paleo is Argentina’s senior military officer, he is not the key decision-maker on the selection of a new fighter jet. That role belongs to Gen. Xavier Isaac, the head of the Air Force.

In May, a delegation of Air Force pilots and technicians evaluated the JF-17 in China. This included a full technical evaluation, use of a simulator and evaluation flights. In the more recent trip to Pakistan, officials discussed collaboration on defense materiel production during a visit to the Ministry of Defence Production.

Neither the ministry, the Defence Export Promotion Organization nor the local Argentine Embassy responded to requests for additional information.

However, sources in Argentina told Defense News that officials discussed the possibility of having the FC-1 — the export variant of the JF-17 — assembled in the country, with parts and components supplied by China and Pakistan in addition to some produced locally. The country would eventually want to be able to make major modifications to its own FC-1 aircraft, said military officers and government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of concerns over job security.