SANTIAGO, Chile — The Argentine government has finalized negotiations to buy four surplus P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, meeting a requirement set in 2015 by the South American country’s Navy.
The agreement was reached Aug. 31 in Buenos Aires during a meeting between Defence Minister Jorge Taiana and representatives of the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency.
Three of the P-3C aircraft are fitted for maritime surveillance, anti-submarine and anti-surface missions, and one P-3N is designed for search and rescue operations, according to a news release from the Argentine Defence Ministry. The statement also also noted the deal is worth $67 million.
Argentina originally intended to acquire surplus P-3Cs from the U.S. Navy. However, the American aircraft would have required refurbishment that exceeded the Argentine government’s funding, according to local military sources, who spoke to Defense News on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.
Argentine and Norwegian officials began talks about purchasing the aircraft in late 2022. In February 2023, the head of the Argentine Navy, Adm. Julio Guardia, confirmed negotiations were underway with Norway to acquire three or four P-3s that the Nordic country would consider surplus after replacing them with P-8 Poseidon aircraft. Negotiations covered the financial conditions of the potential sale and included efforts to receive U.S. government permission for the transfer of the Lockheed Martin-made aircraft.
The first two planes are to arrive in Argentina by the beginning of October. The P-3s are expected to bolster the capabilities of the Argentine Navy’s surveillance squadron based at the Almirante Zar Air Naval Base near Trelew along the Patagonian coast of southern Argentina. Since 1997, the unit has operated P-3Bs acquired from the U.S. Navy, but their need for servicing has limited their use.
Between 2009 and 2016, before Norway decided to replace its P-8s, all of the country’s P-3s underwent life extension and upgrade work. That included Lockheed Martin replacing wings and parts of the horizontal stabilizers using components made of new alloys more resistant to fatigue and corrosion. The P-3C mission systems underwent an upgrade with the integration of AN/USQ-78B acoustic processor technology refresh, AN/ASQ-227 aircraft mission computers, and tactical mobile acoustic support systems.
“Even when the acquisition of a new, long-range maritime surveillance aircraft should have taken place several years ago, it is a very good and important step toward increasing surveillance, control and protection of Argentina’s extended exclusive economic zone,” Luis Piñeiro, an independent defense and security analyst based in Buenos Aires, told Defense News. “Illegal fishing, which is causing losses of $2.6 billion each year to this country, will be from now prevented and fought more effectively with the support of newer and more capable [maritime patrol aircraft].”
José Higuera is a Latin America correspondent for Defense News.