WARSAW and LONDON — Russia and Argentina are eyeing a deal under which Moscow would lease 12 Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer aircraft to Buenos Aires in return for beef and wheat, the London-based paper Sunday Express has claimed.
As a result, the British Defence Ministry has reportedly launched a review of the air defenses of the Falkland Islands.
"The MoD undertakes regular assessments of potential military threats to the Falkland Islands to ensure that we retain an appropriate level of defensive capability to address any threats. We continue to remain vigilant and committed to the protection of the Falkland Islanders," it said.
British analysts said Argentina's acquisition of a credible combat jet force could significantly tilt the strategic balance in favor of Buenos Aires, unless London reinforces the Falklands.
"I'd back four Typhoons every day of the week against the threat posed by the 1960/1970s technology of the Russian jet," he said.
The Su-24MK is a twin-engine, all-weather land and maritime attack aircraft with a flight range of 2,775 kilometers, according to data from Sukhoi.
Barrie said just how effective the Su-24 would be in the hands of the Argentine Air Force depended on the weapons package that came as part of any deal with the Russians.
"The Su-24 is not what Argentina needs. They have competent crews but they need a multi-role platform not a single-role air-to-surface aircraft, which is expensive to fly and expensive to maintain," he said.
Argentine press reports said Defence Minister Agustin Rossi has denied there is any new defense deal with Russia for fighter jets.
Most recently a possible sale of Saab Gripen aircraft was raised by Argentina, but any possibility of that deal taking off was rapidly scotched by the British government.
Russian jets or the Chinese FC-1/JF-17 are often touted as potential platforms for the Argentine Air Force.
The hard-up Argentine government won parliamentary approval recently for an economic and investment deal with China.
In 2010, Moscow and Buenos Aires signed a deal under which Russia delivered two Mil Mi-17 helicopters to the country's Air Force, marking Argentina's first purchase of Russian military hardware.
Imports of Argentinian food and goods are viewed as an attempt to bypass Western sanctions imposed on Russia following the country's intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimean peninsula.
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Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.
Jaroslaw Adamowski is the Poland correspondent for Defense News.