Colombia's quest for replacing its aging fleet of fighter-bombers has turned a new leaf, sparking interest among leading aircraft manufacturers around the globe. With its ties severed with Israel, the nation is faced with the need to replace its Kfir aircraft as South American tensions rise.
From Disinterest to Need: The Change in Colombia’s Stance
Starting with Gustavo Petro, the Colombian President, initially stating that the procurement of new combat aircraft wasn't high on the list, the situation has now altered significantly. As of December 2022, Petro announced the potential order of 16 Rafale aircraft from the French manufacturer, Dassault Aviation.
A Necessity Dictated by Ageing Inventory
This decision is largely driven by the impending need to replace the Kfir fighter-bombers. These aircraft, which were procured from Israel in the 1980s, are set to reach the end of their operational life by 2025. The cost of maintaining and operating these old aircraft is also a concern for the Colombian Air Force (FAC).
The Global Interest and Proposal by Spain
As early as July 2019, the Colombian Ministry of Defense had shown interest in purchasing new aircraft. This move attracted several manufacturers, including Lockheed-Martin, Dassault Aviation, Saab, and the Eurofighter consortium. In an interesting turn of events, Spain offered a proposal in February 2020 to resell 12 Eurofighter Typhoon EF-2000s to Colombia. The proposed deal included an upgrade to a tranche 2 standard.
The Funding Hurdle and Attempts from Competitors
According to reports, no agreement has been reached in the discussions between Bogota and Paris over the Rafale purchase. One major obstacle remains the budget allocation by the Colombian Ministry of Defense, which could commit only million by the end of 2022 for the new combat aircraft funding.
Meanwhile, competitors of Dassault Aviation, such as Saab and U.S., continue to eye the deal. The Colombian Air Force reportedly received a renewed offer involving second-hand Eurofighters from Spain. This offer covers 12 to 16 aircraft upgraded to tranche 2 standard, and includes guarantees for their development and operational condition.