Signal: Falkland Islands in focus after Argentina election

The election victory of Argentina’s president-elect Javier Millay on November 19 prompted a backlash from the UK government, with UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps declaring on social media that the Falkland Islands “are British”, a stance which was described as “non-negotiable and indisputable”.

Making the statement on X, formerly Twitter, Shapps recalled that the result of the 2013 Falkland Islands referendum resulted in “99.8% of islanders voting to remain British”, with the UK defending “the right to self-determination » of the Falkland Islanders. .

Shapps also noted that the Lot 2 river class offshore patrol boat HMS Front had arrived in the Falkland Islands area of ​​operations to replace sister ship HMS Medway as it rotated outward. Lightly armed, the Batch 2 River class displace around 2,000 tons and are typically used for maritime security operations far less than warfighting.

Comments attributed to far-right populist Milei during the election campaign said the country had a “non-negotiable” sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

The United Kingdom and Argentina have historical claims to the Falkland Islands, which are a collection of islands in the South Atlantic about 300 kilometers east of Argentina’s Patagonian region. The two countries fought a war in 1981 after Argentina invaded the UK-controlled islands, resulting in hundreds of military deaths on both sides, and the UK retaining its sovereignty.

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From GlobalData

The UK also holds sovereignty over South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands about 1,500 kilometers east of the Falkland Islands.

After the war, the United Kingdom moved to increase its permanent defense presence in the Falkland Islands, as recently clarified in a series of parliamentary written answers on 17 November, outlining a stable military air force by four Typhoon jetssupported by a transport aircraft (usually an A400M Atlas) and an A330 MRTT air-to-air refueling aircraft.

The aforementioned HMS Front is the resident patrol vessel of the Falkland Islands and is supported by the United Kingdom’s military presence in the West African region. The Royal Navy’s nuclear-powered attack submarines are believed to conduct frequent missions in the South Atlantic to support UK sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.

There are approximately 1,500 UK military personnel stationed in the Falkland Islands at any one time.

Argentina’s defense ambitions move forward in 2023

According to GlobalData’s analysis of defense spending in Argentina, published in March this year, the country recorded military spending of $2.4 billion (854.55 billion pesos) in 2023. Over the next five years, Argentina is projected to see a compound annual growth rate of 6.4% to estimate military defense spending at $3.2 billion in 2028.

The analysis showed that disputes over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and the modernization of their armed forces have been the main drivers of Argentina’s defense spending. However, the turmoil in Argentina’s economy, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, has affected Argentina’s ability to spend on its armed forces.

That said, the historic struggles in Argentina’s defense modernization have gone some way toward resolution in recent years, with progress being made in areas such as military aviation. A post on X by the US State Department earlier in October this year revealed that officials had approved the transfer of F-16 fighter jets from Denmark to Argentina.

“The transfer reaffirms our close defense ties and our steadfast support for the modernization efforts of the Argentine Air Force,” the US State Department post said.

Press release which was issued on 19 November from the US State Department said the US “looks forward to working with President-elect Milei and his administration on shared priorities that benefit the people of both countries, such as protecting human rights and democracy, addressing climate change and investing in the middle class”.

Other recent sales of military equipment to Argentina include additional four P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft;, Bell 407GXi helicopters, as well as additional spin-off acquisitions from India’s HAL and Europe’s Leonardo. Perhaps of greatest interest to UK defense planners is the the acquisition of French Scorpene submarines by Argentina;something that would add a significant sub-surface capability to the Argentine Navy.

However, the defense gap between Argentina and the UK is significant, with the UK’s defense budget estimated at $63.9 billion (£50.99 billion) in 2022, more than 26 times Argentina’s spending in 2023. GlobalData analysis shows that the UK will spend $75.6 billion on defense by 2027, which will correspond to 2.4% of GDP, according to the 2022 forecast.

Our signal coverage is powered by Topic Engine by GlobalData, which tags millions of data items in six alternative datasets – patents, jobs, deals, company filings, social media mentions and news – across topics, sectors and companies. These signals enhance our predictive capabilities, helping us identify the most disruptive threats in each of the sectors we cover and the companies best suited for success.

Additional reporting by Harry McNeill.

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