Argentina's Defense Minister Jorge Taiana was reported Monday to have signed a letter of intent with Italian aircraft manufacturer Leonardo for the acquisition of eight AW 109 helicopters for surveillance operations in the South Atlantic and thus strengthen the Navy's patrolling capabilities in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
In Argentina, our ocean patrol ships need light helicopters that can fit in the hangars of the OPV ships. We are convinced that Leonardo is the right company to acquire these helicopters, Taiana said.
The AW 109 model is suitable to operate from the Navy's newly purchased OPVs, it was explained.
The AW109 multi-mission helicopter is a medium twin-engine helicopter that can be configured to perform a variety of missions, including surveillance, medical evacuation, and search and rescue (SAR), for which it is equipped with a side hoist to facilitate air evacuations.
It can accommodate a pilot and co-pilot and six crew members and can operate for three hours with a range of approximately 574 kilometers.
The defense cooperation between Argentina and Italy dates back to 1992, when the Defense Cooperation Agreement was signed in Rome and entered into force in 1997, establishing the guiding principles for mutual cooperation in the productive sector and the acquisition of capabilities related to defense equipment.
While in Italy, Taiana also met with his Italian counterpart Guido Crosetto to boost cooperation in production and defense, training, and Antarctic support.
Argentina has also been reported to be interested in decommissioned US CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, for which an Air Force delegation plans to visit the 309th Aerospace Service Group in Arizona.
Air Force Chief Xavier Issac hinted his country has signed a contract with Columbia Helicopters to repair, modernize, and modify the CH-46s to replace two Russian Mi-171E helicopters ordered in 2010 for US$ 26.5 million and which have been in use in Antarctica since 2011 but are now lacking maintenance due to Western sanctions against Russia.
Argentina sought mechanical help from Peru, Colombia, and Mexico but the companies in these countries are not certified to work with Mi-171E engines, it was explained.
In this scenario, the Argentine Air Force wants to buy at least four US CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters for a sum that has not yet been disclosed.