Everything Old Is New Again

30 Oct

This article on War Is Boring piqued my interest a couple of days ago. Not so much the fact that Argentina might by  a few Swedish fighter planes, but the bit about the US government potentially barring the sale.

What, you might well ask, has this to do with anything? Well, it provides and interesting contemporary connection to and article I’ve just submitted to an esteemed scholarly journal for peer review. Starting in the 1970s, the Indian Air Force (IAF) sought to purchase a new ‘Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft’ (DPSA). The competitors for this lucrative contract were Britain (with the Anglo-French Jaguar design), France (with the Mirage), and Sweden (with the Viggen, predecessor of the aircraft that Argentina might be buying).

The tensions that this potential purchase created – particularly after the May 1974 Indian nuclear test – are the subject of the article I’ve just submitted to the Journal of Cold War History for review. Hence, I won’t be saying too much about that!

The connection to the current situation with Argentina stems from the Swedish entrant to the Indian DPSA competition. SAAB was suite keen to land the lucrative contract, submitting their capable AJ37 Viggen. The problem was – and as is the case with the Gripens that might get sold to Argentina – is that the aircraft uses a license-produced version of an American engine.

In 1976, the Ford administration persuaded Sweden to withdraw from the negotiations by refusing Stockholm permission to export aircraft powered by an American-designed engine, Washington arguing that it violated SAAB’s license production agreement).[1] The reasoning behind this was complex: a combination of concerns over the strategic balance on the sub-continent, moves towards nuclearisation by Pakistan, Washington’s 1970s ’tilt’ towards Islamabad, and so on. Such a situation was not unique during the Cold War, as the US used licensing agreements as coercive tools.

What is striking is that nothing new is, actually, new. Even though in the case of Argentina, it is most likely that the UK would attempt to stop the sale by pressuring Washington to pressure Sweden, it is possible that the same tools will again be used to the same end. Only without the nuclear element.



[1] United States Embassy Stockholm to State, ‘Implications of SAAB-Scania Request to For U.S. Permission to Export Viggen to India,’ August 6, 1976, US National Archives and Records Administration, Access to Archival Databases system, Wars/International Relations: Diplomatic Records; Eric Arnett, ‘Nuclear Stability and Arms Sales to India: Implications for U.S. Policy,’ Arms Control Today, 27:5 (August 1997), 10.

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