July 4, 2006:
Chile's recent acquisition of 28 F-16 fighters (10 new built F-16C/D and 18 former Dutch F-16AM/BM), for $785 million ($28 million each), initiated a new regional acquisition boom. Brazil has decided to cancel its long awaited $700-million FX fighter program and opted for second-hand Mirage 2000's for a $100 million, and augment its F-5 and Xavante (a license-built MB-326 light attack jet) fleets with additional examples from Saudi Arabia (9 for $24 million) and South Africa (12 Impalas). Colombia is looking for additional Kfirs and/or ex-USAF F-16's. Argentina, still recuperating from several years of depression would like to have at least 24-36 new (second-hand) fighters, with ex-USAF F-16's or French Air Force Mirage 2000's as alternatives, although currently lacks the $200-300 million to pay for it.
Exemptions from the rule are Venezuela and Mexico, both of which are being courted by Russia, with offers of new Su-27/-30 fighters at a competent price. Venezuela has expressed its intention in replacing the ageing and spares/upgrade-banned F-16 fleet with some 24 Su-30MK versions at about a $700 million ($29.2 million each), while the Mexican Navy has expressed its intentions to acquire about a dozen Su-27s for $240 million. Peru might follow suit, as its Su-22 fleet is showing its age. Ecuador, Bolivia and Uruguay will also son need to follow the pack, as their fighter fleets become more and more expensive to operate.
Although its not nearly as profitable as the Middle East market, Latin America projects an interesting niche market for low cost and/or second-hand well maintained fighters. Iñigo Guevara (email@example.com)