After announcing an increase in defence spending, Argentina has produced a five year plan to modernise its armed forces and replace much of their outdated equipment.
Expenditure was initially expected to concentrate on the weapons and support necessary for the ‘North Shield’ operation, aimed at combating narcotics trafficking, but recent statements have suggested that a nuclear powered submarine may also be on the cards.
The military in Argentina was once one of the best equipped forces in South America but, following change in the political dynamics after the demise of the last Junta, which had lost the Falklands War in 1982, spending was curtailed drastically. The result has been an under-funded force with obsolete equipment.
A member of UNASUR, Argentina is now promoting the idea of a UNASUR wide defence force and would need to spend heavily in order to bring its own contribution up to scratch. Currently some easy-term deals are being offered by Chine, Russia and Europe. However this is against a background where, last year, there was a call by Latin American states for greater transparency in South American weapons buying programs, and the United Nations has grown concerned about an arms race in the region.
Argentina has also been concerned about what it calls the ‘militarization of the south Atlantic’, accusing Britain of building up its forces on the Falkland Islands following the controversial decision to explore for oil by the Falkland Islands’ Government.
Quite how much it is likely to cost to upgrade Argentina’s obsolete equipment, or where the money is going to come from for an increase in the overall defence budget, has not been made clear by the Government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.