Jan 12, 2015

UK Bolsters Falkland Defenses to Counter Argentine Air Ambitions

British military capability planners are eyeing a major improvement to ground-based air defenses in the Falkland Islands amid continuing signs that Argentina is looking to update its Air Force with modern strike aircraft.
Argentina and the UK fought a short but bloody war over the British territory in 1982. The dispute received new life recently by Argentinean President Cristina Kirchener's launching a diplomatic war of words in an effort to eject the British.
Now it has emerged that the British have been planning to replace the aging ground-based system on the Falklands with a package including a battle management command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (BMC4I) system, a new missile and a radar.
As recently as December, unconfirmed reports emerged that Buenos Aires was in talks with the Russians over the possible lease of a squadron's worth of Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer attack jets in a move that would threaten Britain's control of the skies locally.
The reports drew a response from the UK Defence Ministry that it would adjust defense capabilities to the appropriate level to address any threats to the disputed islands, which the Argentinians refer to as the Islas Malvinas.
Britain has maintained forces on the island since the war. The force includes four Typhoon jets, Rapier missiles, naval assets and around 1,200 troops.
Last year, the British spent £63 million (US $95 million) for defense of the Falklands.
It is not possible to say when the Falklands system would enter service, as the project, which is fully funded, is in only its assessment phase.
The British effort to bolster its air defense capabilities on the South Atlantic islands comes as Argentina continues efforts to find a way of updating an Air Force that is pretty much flying the same aircraft as it did when it attacked the Falklands.
The financially hard-pressed Argentineans have made several attempts to buy second-hand combat jets, such as the Mirage 2000, without success.
Recently, Buenos Aires signaled interest in acquiring Saab Gripen NG fighters from a production line being set up in Brazil.
That came to nothing after the UK government warned they would block any sale by refusing to approve the export of the substantial amount of British technology used in the fighter.
Although media reports that the Argentineans are looking at the Su-24 have been denied by Buenos Aires, analysts in the UK said an eventual purchase of a credible combat jet could alter the balance of power in the South Atlantic.

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