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Phantom F-4C's of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina

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McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom - Grupo 8 de Caza, Fuerza Aérea Argentina, 1982

 

During the early 1960's the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (FAA) began an ambitious plan to replace the F-86F Sabre then in service as their main interceptor-fighter. The British English Electric Lightning was briefly considered but was quickly dismissed on account of it's very short range. The Swedish Saab Draken was successfully evaluated and FAA pilots submitted a very favourable report as was the French Dassault Mirage III and it seemed likely that a decision would be made between these two competing aircraft. However, the end of the Frondizi government in 1962 and the subsequent turmoil over the next few years saw the FAA's plans put on hold but the Israeli's successful use of the Mirage III in the 1967 Six-Day War saw the FAA finally decide on the French aircraft. However negotiations with the French Government came to an abrupt end in May 1968 when Juan Carlos Onganía, fearful of a coup d'état, dismissed the leaders of the Armed Forces and cancelled the Mirage order.

 

The 1973 elections (the first general elections for ten years) saw Dr. Hector Cámpora elected as President with a campaign based on a platform of national reconstruction. For the FAA this meant that it's F-86 replacement plans could finally continue but with an aircraft from an unexpected source. Despite the turmoil of Argentina's recent history, the US State Department saw Argentina as a bulwark of anti-Communism in South America and US President Richard Nixon sanctioned the export of 28 ex-USAF F-4C's with deliveries to Grupo 4 de Caza starting in August 1973 and deliveries to Grupo 8 de Caza starting in January 1974. The 1976 US Presidential elections saw incoming President Jimmy Carter highlight issues of human rights and eventually secure a congressional cutoff of all US arms transfers to Argentina and the FAA found it increasingly hard to support Phantom operations except by clandestine support. The FAA used the Phantom during the 1982 Guerra de las Malvinas as a long-range strike aircraft but the FAA's lack of aerial refueling capability and the long distance from their bases dramatically reduced their ability. After 1982 the FAA's Phantom force was increasingly supported by Israel Aircraft Industries and although no additional aircraft could be sourced the remaining 17 aircraft remain in service.

 

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McDonnell Douglas Phantom F-4C - Grupo 4 de Caza, Fuerza Aérea Argentina, 1979

 

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