Venezuela Threatens to Sell F-16s to Rogue States
Venezuela is threatening to sell U.S. F-16 fighters to rogue states, including Iran and Cuba.
Venezuela’s military is considering the possibility of selling its fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to another country, perhaps Iran, a Venezuelan military official said Tuesday. In response to a U.S. ban on arms sales to President Hugo Chavez’s government, Gen. Alberto Muller, a senior adviser to Chavez, told The Associated Press he had recommended to the defense minister that Venezuela consider selling the 21 jets to another country. Muller said he thought it was worthwhile to consider “the feasibility of a negotiation with Iran for the sale of those planes.”
Even before the United States announced the ban on arms sales Monday, Washington had stopped selling Venezuela sensitive upgrades for the F-16s.
Chavez previously has warned he could share the U.S. jets with Cuba if Washington does not supply parts for the planes. He also has said he may look into buying fighter jets from Russia or China instead.
U.S. officials have said a 1982 contract requires Venezuela to consult with Washington before transferring any F-16s to another country.
Certainly, Chavez has the right to buy his planes elsewhere. If, on the other hand, he tries to sell U.S. made planes to our enemies, especially in violation of the terms of sale, I would not at all be surprised to see those planes suddenly explode from mysterious, plausibly deniable causes. It happens.
Update: Michael Brandon McClellan observes that, “When American enemies resort to selling second-hand American war machines to other American enemies, and view this as a credible threat, it poignantly reminds us of the power disparity between the likes of Venezuela or Iran and the United States.” Nonetheless, he sees significant dangers in such a sale.
Spook86 notes that,
Short of military action, there really isn’t much we can do to block the F-16 transfer to Iran or Cuba, if Chavez decides to go ahead with the deal. But careful observers will note that neither Tehran or Havana is exactly jumping up and down at the prospect of obtaining Yanqui F-16s.
And with good reason. The F-16 is more than a sleek, 80s-era fighter jet. It’s a complete weapons system. If you plan to operate the F-16, you’ll need simulators, extensive training, infrastructure upgrades and a massive inventory of spare parts, among other things. Needless to say, those “extras” don’t come cheap. Beyond that, there’s the question of where you can actually obtain the stuff you need to operate an F-16 squadron. Limited quantities of spare parts and munitions can be purchased on the gray market, and Venezuela could provide some assistance in flight and maintenance instruction; but to make the jets fully operational, a customer needs access to U.S. contractor support and technical data, which (in turn) requires approval of the U.S. government. Obviously, George Bush and Don Rumsfeld aren’t about to sign off on an F-16 transfer to Iran or Cuba.
Certainly true. Then again, once upon a time, Iraq had plenty of pilots trained in flying American fighter jets. Still, the first F-16s went into the inventory shortly after the Shah fell.