Uruguay is seeking second-hand fighter aircraft in an effort to broaden the operational capabilities of its small air force, which until now has largely been confined to the role of light attack and transportation.

A senior Uruguayan air force official says: "We don't currently have fighters and this is an issue that the air staff is studying." The study supports an air force funding request as part of the next five-year budget that extends to 2005. Once this has been approved, the air force will seek formal proposals.

The number and type of aircraft being sought has yet to be determined, but given the country's limited financial resources, it will almost certainly be a small quantity.

Industry sources suggest the proposals are likely to be based around surplus Northrop F-5s or McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawks.

Uruguay has traditionally received US military aid and observers suggest it might seek surplus US Air Force and Navy equipment. The Uruguayan air force says it would prefer a "government-to-government-type deal" rather than buying aircraft from the private market.

It fields two front-line squadrons equipped with five FMA IA-58 Pucara supplied from Argentina and 11 ex-USAF Cessna A-37B Dragonflys.

Source: Flight International