BUENOS AIRES, April 18 (UPI) -- Argentina is planning to expand defense manufacturing including joint production of unmanned aircraft and air-to-air missiles with Brazil.
Plans for wider defense production coincide with growing military unease over outdated inventories that critics say affect the law enforcement agencies' performance against better organized crime and drug gangs.
The unmanned aircraft systems, planned with Israeli Elbit company, are designed to meet an urgent need to improve border patrols and contain drug and immigration crime. Eventually, however, Argentina aims to target export markets with its defense manufacturing.
The unmanned aircraft initially will be simple drones to help monitor the border and then developed into more sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicles, official data indicated.
In Argentine news commentaries the defense production program was given a new twist as implementation of the government's strategy to build up defenses in support of a claim for Argentine sovereignty over the British-ruled Falkland Islands.
Fernandez has been ratcheting up diplomatic campaign to bring Britain to the conference table to discuss the future of the Falklands. London says the islands' sovereignty isn't negotiable.
Argentine diplomatic efforts to promote the sovereignty claim at the recent summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, didn't lead to a joint statement of support, as Fernandez expected.
A new diplomatic initiative is aimed at a regional conference, scheduled for Sept. 18 in Montevideo, Uruguay, on establishing a Peace and Cooperation Zone in the South Atlantic. The Argentina quest for the zone is also aimed at reducing British armed forces and British navy's visits to the region.
Argentine Defense Minister Arturo Puricelli and Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim met in Brazil and agreed on what Argentine media described as joint defense production projects.
Brazil sees the region as a potential market for its defense industry and recently showed off its advanced UAVs during border operations in Bolivia and Paraguay.
Argentina also wants Brazil to speed delivery of a version of Guarani troop transport vehicles produced in Brazil and A-Darter air-to-air missiles, developed in collaboration with South Africa.
Argentine officials said they want to share Brazilian expertise to recondition and upgrade their French Exocet MM-38 and MM-40 missiles to prolong their use in Argentine armed forces.
Argentina and Brazil are collaborating in the development of a KC-390 air transport assembly line in Argentina and airborne refueling between KC-390 and other military and tactical transport aircraft.