Wednesday, May 17

Venezuela - Sale of F-16s a (almost a) Non-Issue

President Hugo Chavez now has a reason to be pissed at President Bush. The US has halted all sales of military equipment to Venezuela, mostly for the acid comments by the President against the US, although the official Government reason is "in response to a lack of support by Venezuela for counterterrorism efforts."

This has caused problems for Venezuela's Air Force in obtaining replacement parts for the F-16s the US sold them years ago. Venezuela's Defense Minister was so pissed off at the move that he suggested that they sell the jets to Iran:

Gen. Alberto Muller, an adviser to Chavez, said earlier he had recommended to the defense ministry that Venezuela consider selling its F-16s after the U.S. announced a ban on arms sales to the South American country. Muller said he thought it worthwhile to consider "the feasibility of a negotiation with Iran for the sale of those planes."

He has since backed away from this idea. At least, this is what they are saying. No matter, this is a non-issue for two reasons:

1) If Venezuela can't get the spare parts to put these jets in the air, just where will Iran find the parts? (and pilots for that matter)

2) How does Venezuela plan to get the jets to Iran without the US Navy intercepting the shipment?

This is probably a move to try and cash-out some value out of the jets instead of bearing the cost of preserving the jets until the day the US agrees to sell them parts again. The other option is to start cannibalizing jets to keep the others flying.

It is possible that the jets could make it to Cuba, but what would Castro use to pay for them and just what would he do with them?

The one real troubling move would be for Hugo to let China take one apart right there in Venezuela and then let the Chinese courier the interesting pieces home. They could then arrange for the airframe to have some sort of 'accident' to account for what happened to the jet. (The Chinese have probably already been through the jet.) Thankfully, these jets have not been upgraded.

I have a photo of a US P-3 operated by Iran but the quality is not so great. Thanks to the Internet, I found a webpage that has a great picture of an Iranian P-3 here. I have no idea if any of the P-3s are still flying.

Venezuela Weighs Selling U.S. Jets to Iran - Washington Post

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