Argentina’s firebrand president has jets that can hit the Falklands

Sources said the British Overseas Territory had already become its “fourth most pressing consideration” after Gaza, Ukraine and China in the run up to Javier Milei’s victory last week.

“Anyone on the Latin American desk will tell you they have been particularly busy,” revealed a source. The chainsaw-wielding Milei – dubbed “el loco” by critics and supporters alike –has tried to cite the return of Hong Kong to China as an historical precedent for Britain to “return” the Falklands.

His decision to double down on the claim even after his election victory has caused analysts to worry it is more than just a “bombastic” campaign strategy.

While Milei advocates a diplomatic solution, he will soon have a new fleet of F-16 supersonic fighter jets which will give Argentina the ability to harass the islands for the first time in decades.

The purchase also includes missiles with a range of 70 miles, allowing pilots to fly 400 miles to launch their missiles then fly back.

The £700million deal to buy 20 F-16s from Denmark, a close ally of Britain, was sanctioned to prevent Beijing spreading its political influence and securing a military sales foothold in South America.

Argentina has been investing in defence forces, taking delivery of a third ocean patrol vessel in a deal with France and buying new combat helicopters from Italy.

While it is not likely to launch a full-scale invasion on the islands, the assets could be a “thorn in Britain’s side”, said Prof Alessio Patalano of King’s College London.

He said: “The Falklands remain a key issue in Buenos Aires. Even without an invasion, it is possible they will use these fighter jets in the same way Russia does, constantly flying close to British airspace.

READ MORE Argentina’s new president presents ‘enhanced threat’ to Falklands, says expert

“In this way it can keep the debate alive, keep the pressure on and be a real thorn in Britain’s side in the South Atlantic.”

Milei has pledged to limit the size of the state and show a fiscal balance by the end of 2024. However, inflation is 143%, net central bank reserves are $10billion in the red and a recession is looming.

Sydney Stewart, of the Sibylline strategic risk group, said: “More than 40% of Argentines live below the poverty line.

“Tackling this is the real priority. The Falklands issue is one for the long term.”

Britain has four Typhoon jets stationed in the South Atlantic. An MoD spokesman said: “We remain fully confident in the security of the Falkland Islands and the capability we have to defend them.”

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