Why Argentina's new French weapons will be a headache for the UK

You would think that, as NATO allies with the United Kingdom, France wouldn’t do anything to make the lives of British forces harder. Unfortunately, the French may have done just that with a small arms sale that didn’t really make much of a blip.

According to Scramble Magazine, the French sold Argentina five Dassault Super Etendard carrier-based attack planes. Now, you may wonder how this makes the life of the U.K.’s Royal Navy harder, especially since the Argentinean Navy hasn’t had a carrier since the Veinticinco de Mayo was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1997.

Argentina Super Etendard France

A Super Etendard refuels four other planes. (U.S. Navy photo)

For that answer, we need to go back roughly 36 years, to the Falklands War, when Argentina had seized the Islands. At the time, among their potent aircraft were some newly-purchased Super Etendards, armed with the Aerospatiale AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. At the time, they had a grand total of five planes and five missiles but were waiting on delivery of several more aircraft, according to The National Interest. Despite that very limited inventory, the Super Etendards carried out two successful strikes that sank the Type 42 guided-missile destroyer, HMS Sheffield, and the merchant vessel, Atlantic Conveyor.

While the British eventually liberated the Falkland Islands from Argentina, the Etendard had left its mark.

Argentina Super Etendard France

The Type 42 guided-missile destroyer HMS Sheffield, sunk by an Exocet fired by an Argentinean Super Etendard. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Nathalmad)

Argentina eventually got the full delivery of 14 Super Etendards. They also, presumably, had a good stock of Exocets. But in the 1990s and 2000s, the Argentinean military got hit with budget cuts after the country’s economy suffered serious problems. The Super Etendard force had declined to a lone operational plane in 2014, according to Scramble, with nine reserves in storage.

This sale of five planes will push Argentina to a minimum of six operational planes and, if the other nine return to service, the British could once again have to prepare for a fight near the Falklands.