SANTIAGO, Chile — The Argentine Army will begin receiving its first modernized 2CA2 medium tanks in September, with a dozen to be delivered by year’s end, military sources in Buenos Aires told Defense News.

The more detailed confirmation follows a hint from the president during a June 20 event in the capital. In front of attendees, Argentine President Javier Milei asked Defence Minister Luis Petri: “Is it true that we will have new toys?”

“Yes, Mr. President,” Petri replied. ”We will start receiving the modernized tanks this year.”

The program is expected to be worth $30 million and involve the modernization of 74 of Argentina’s existing 200-plus medium tanks by 2027. The initial budget for this effort is $3 million, but the government plans to allocate more money between fiscal 2025 and fiscal 2027, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the program.

Argentina launched the tank upgrade project in 2010 under a cooperation agreement with Israel where Elbit Systems would provide technological support to the South American country. For its part, Argentine private firms involved in the metal mechanic sector would participate.

The initial budget was approved in 2021, and contracts were finalized by July 2023 following a technical and operational evaluation of the final prototype. Work started in late 2023.

“One of the main priorities of President Javier Milei is rebuilding the capabilities of Argentina’s armed forces, neglected by governments since the 1980s and 1990s, and even more after the financial meltdown of 2000,” according to Emilio Meneses, an independent analyst based in Santiago, Chile.

“Milei wants to make a difference. The recent procurement of F-16s, coupled with the decision to phase out older fighter jets like the A-4AR and the Super Etendard, confirms his priorities — and it is the same with the upgrade of the [medium tank],” Meneses told Defense News.

According to the military sources, the Army would like to modernize up to 50 more medium tanks over those already earmarked in the current program.

What are the upgrades?

The tank modernizations are expected to improve the 2CA2 medium tank’s detection, targeting, engagement and destructive capabilities. To that end, Elbit is providing a new fire control system and associated technology.

The main local subcontractor, IMPSA, which specializes in precision engineering and the production of components for nuclear reactors, is refurbishing and modifying the turrets, replacing the original hydraulic action system with a new, indigenously designed servo-electric version that includes improved stabilization and reaction.

IMPSA is also integrating the new fire control and subsystems provided by Elbit. These include the Israeli firm’s E-LAWS laser warning system, which can simultaneously detect up to 10 threats, establishing an order of priorities for engagement.

Each tank is to receive two COAPS-L sight systems — one for the tank commander position and one for the aimer — fitted with optronics for thermal detection and vision as well as laser range-finding. The systems provide a day and night, all-weather capacity for target acquisition and tracking. The driver position is being fitted with a thermal vision system.

They will also receive a new communications suite, both for internal and external communications, with data transfer capabilities, as well as an auxiliary generator to secure electricity supply for electronic systems.

The tank’s main weapon is not changing; it is currently a Rheinmetall-made RH-105-30 105mm gun, manufactured under license by the local state-owned firm Fabricaciones Militares.

Protection improvements are currently on hold. However, the plan is to use a custom-designed, add-on applique armor proposed by Israeli company IMI, which is now a part of Elbit.

Arsenal Battalion 602, the Army’s main maintenance and support center for mechanized equipment, will use its facilities at Boulogne-Sur-Mer to complete any remaining work, testing and acceptance efforts of the upgraded tanks.

José Higuera is a Latin America correspondent for Defense News.

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