China’s attempt to sell Argentina its JF-17 jet that it makes in collaboration with Pakistan could be blocked by the U.K. as one of its crucial components- the ejection seat- is made by a British company, Martin-Baker.
London had earlier vetoed the sale of 12 South Korean TA-50 light fighter jets to the South American country citing an arms embargo imposed on Argentina after the 1982 Falklands war. The TA-50 contains several British-made component including the Martin-Baker ejection seats and landing gear made by Safran U.K.
Following the collapse of the South Korean deal earlier this year, China’s CATIC (China National Aero-technology Import & Export Corp.) which manufactures major components of the JF-17 and assembles the jet in Pakistan, sent a delegation to Buenos Aires on May 8. The delegation reportedly discussed the sale of 12 units of the JF-17 and visited the facilities of FADEA, an Argentine aircraft manufacturer, which may be involved in a potential assembly or service of the fighters.
What is not known is whether the CATIC delegation offered the current JF-17 Block II or the upcoming Block III version that offers an AESA radar besides the latest weapons bringing it close to the best 4.5 generation light fighters such as the F-16V and the Saab Gripen. An earlier attempt to sell Brazilian Gripen jets to Argentina fell apart as it contained British-made components.
Martin-Baker supplies its PK16LE ejection seats for the JF-17. In fact, a Pakistani Air Force JF-17 aircraft had crashed on September 5, 2020 with the pilot successfully electing. The British company had announced then, “This marks the first JF-17 ejection, an aircraft that’s fitted with Martin-Baker PK16LE ejection seats.”
In addition to accepting offers from CATIC, Argentina has officially sent a request for information (RFI) to Russia to buy 12 units of the Su-35 jet. The RFI seeks details on financing, rates and terms for the respective equipment and systems offered. The Russian plane is arguably among the best 4.5 generation jets in the market and leaves the JF-17 far behind in terms of speed, maneuverability and weapons carrying ability.