The possible transfer to Argentina of a refurbished model of the French manufactured fighter-bomber Super Etendard, which had an outstanding performance during the 1982 Falkland Islands conflict, is under consideration by the French Ministry of Defence, reveals the French publication, Mer & Marine.
The operation which includes giving the Argentines part of the sophisticated avionics of the Super Etendard Modernized (SEM) model would take place in 2015 when the French navy will de decommissioning their air fleet to be replaced by the new Rafale.
However in the event of the operation going ahead it will depend on the availability of SEMs at the moment the French navy begins the decommissioning process, subject to the Rafale delivery program.
If an agreement is reached with Argentina it won’t necessarily mean the transfer of aircraft to fly with the Argentine Navy colours.
“The sale of aircraft or spares in stock will only be leased to ensure the modernization of the Argentine Super Etendard”, points out a French military source quoted by the publication.
In 1979 Argentina purchased 14 French Super Etendard, five of them were delivered before the Falkland Islands conflict and the rest following the end of hostilities with Britain.
Originally purchased to operate from the air carrier ARA 25 de Mayo, the eleven which remain, are now grounded in air fields because of the decommissioning of the carrier.
Since they use the same aircraft, the Argentine and French navies hold regular contacts and exchange of information.
To such an extent that Argentine pilots recently visited Landivisiau, northwest Bretagne, for training purposes and to be updated on the evolution of the SEM.
The Dassault Aviation Super Etendard flew for the first time in 1974 and four years later 74 of them were incorporated to the French Navy. Since then it has undergone several upgrading which make it “a reliable, modern and extremely polyvalent aircraft”.
The SEM refurbishing has included improved radar (Anemone), an Atlis laser system, Sherloc detectors, heat oriented Barracuda missile and Alka and Phimat flare systems.
In 1997 SEM was equipped with laser guided bombs and AS 30 missiles. As of 2003, 25 SEMs have night operational gear, a combination of GPS and laser which enables the aircraft to pinpoint the objective with just a few metres precision.
“This modernization process should enable the SEM to remain highly effective until at least 2015”, points out the Mer & Marine publication.