The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas) in 1982 took a heavy toll on the Argentine Air Force, which lost over 60 aircraft.
Argentina was desperate for new aircraft. In 1994, the United States made an offer to modernize 36 ex-USMC A-4M Skyhawks in a US$282 million deal that would be carried out by Lockheed Martin. The Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawk was a major upgrade of the McDonnell Douglas A-4M Skyhawk, 36 were purchased by Argentina.
Parallel to this, as a result of four Royal Singapore Air Force A-4S (refurbished A4B’s) being written off in separate accidents, coupled with the low serviceability of the original batch of A-4S, investigations conducted by Singapore Aircraft Industries (SAI) revealed that, although there was plenty of fuselage life left, the Wright J65 turbojet engines in use by the Skyhawks was too old and the associated spare parts were becoming both difficult and expensive to obtain. Consequently, the RSAF decided to upgrade the A-4S/TA-4S rather than to replace them.
With SAI contracted as the main contractor for the upgrading project and a non-afterburning General Electric F404-GE-100D turbofan engine (same as the FA-18) was selected as the new engine.
The modernised Super Skyhawk A-4SU and TA-4SU versions with its new F404 turbofan engine had 29% more thrust, which resulted in a 30% reduction in takeoff time as well as an increase in usable payload, range and maximum speed. The maximum speed at sea level is 610 knots (1,130 km/h; 700 mph), and maximum cruise speed at 30,000 feet (9,100 m) is 446 knots (826 km/h; 513 mph).
In 2003 Argentina decided to further up-grade their A-4AR Fightinghawks specifically for extremely long-range delivery of 2 Exocet type missiles. This involved testing and fitting a totally new wing, enlarged tailplane, the replacement of the old Pratt & WhitneyJ-52 engine with the F404 turbofan engine (as per the RSAF Super Skyhawk installation) and an aerodynamically refined (lengthened) nose.
The wing was a high aspect design tailored to long range and high speed cruising (with double the fuel tankage and 5 pylons). In fact, it was a scaled down version of the highly efficient Boeing 747’s wing. All work was completed in Singapore by SAI, despite the protest of the British government. Multiple C-801 anti-ship missiles (NATO reporting name CSS-N-4 Sardine) were purchased from China.
The new aircraft could carry double the amount of anti-ship missiles for nearly 3 times the distance (without air-to-air refueling) as the Super Étendard used to deliver the infamous 5 Exocets during the 1982 Falklands War.
Recently a large oil reserve was discovered near the Falklands. Around 1bn barrels of oil are thought to be recoverable within an area no further than 200 nautical miles away from the two islands. With Britain no longer having a fixed wing naval fleet (all Harriers / Sea Harriers had been retired by 2010 due to budget cuts) Argentina decided that a ‘re-match’ may have been on the cards….
The 1958 proposal for the A4D-4 was cancelled in the project design stage. It was a proposal for a long range, all weather A-4 version for delivery of a special weapons load at low altitudes. It incorporated a swept wing design, with two “Whitcomb Bodies” to reduce drag. Wingspan would have been much increased and would have incorporated a folding wing. The design included seven hard-points. It never made it past the drawing board stage.
Argentina retired all but 5 of its Lockheed Martin A-4AR Fightinghawk in 2016 – no new jet fighters have yet been ordered due to severe financial restraints.
Britain did retire all its Harriers and won’t be able to field any maritime fighters until its 2 new carriers (and F-35 fighters) enter service later this decade.
The oil is real…