BUENOS AIRES, March 8 (UPI) -- Argentina is beefing up its defense budget and in a few years will be spending at last 1.3 percent of its national earnings on the military, a report on Argentina's arms buying projections through 2015 said.
Argentina began buying weapons and modernizing its armed forces as it ratcheted up an international diplomatic campaign disputing British sovereignty over the Falklands Islands in the South Atlantic.
The South American nation's under-resourced military procurers are being wooed by Russians arms exporters and approaches are under way with China and other suppliers.
A Research and Markets news report said the largest share of new spending would likely go to the army, which has struggled to recoup losses suffered when Britain repulsed Argentina's assault on the Falklands in 1982. The 74-day conflict caused deaths of about 1,000 fighters and civilians.
Research and Markets said Argentina's defense budget, reported at $2.6 billion in 2010, recorded a compound annual growth rate of 17.36 percent during the review period. By 2015, the budget will likely jump to $5.5 billion, at least 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product.
Official estimates attributed part of the increase to an increase in salaries and the rest to new acquisitions.
Last year Argentina announced plans to expand its nuclear energy and research program, though it didn't say how it would finance the expansion and construction of a new nuclear reactor.
Argentina has two nuclear reactors generating nearly 1-10th of its electricity. The country's first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1974 and the third facility is due for completion this year.
Still short of hard currency for arms shopping, Argentina has announced no major contract for refurbishing its air force, which claims about one-quarter of the national defense budget. But spending on naval forces is set to increase to more than 25 percent.
Independent arms trade figures cited by Just the Facts Web site for civilian monitoring of U.S. defense and security assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean showed that most countries apart from the United States boosted military exports to the region.
During the 2006-09 period, the United States dropped to third place after Russia and France among Latin America's top arms suppliers. Russia sold the region 46.78 percent of its weapons, France captured 26.55 percent of the market and the United States accounted for 10.23 percent of the region's arms purchases.
Argentina, which traditionally depended on U.S. defense exports and military assistance, is planning to switch to European and Russia suppliers but is hamstrung by lack of cash resources.