Colombia was the protagonist of an embarrassment over the time-consuming selection of a new fighter to replace the old IAI Kfir. After announcing the “pre-selection” of the Dassault Rafale in December, the Minister of Defense of the South American country, Iván Velásquez, acknowledged that a flash agreement with the French manufacturer failed.
Velásquez also revealed that the $678 million budget approved by the Colombian Congress had expired as it was only valid until December 31st.
As a result, it will be necessary to approve a new federal decree authorizing spending on the fighter jet purchase program. President Gustavo Petro’s Government Minister surprised by stating that Saab was also consulted to supply the Gripen.
The option for the Swedish fighter was unlikely since the Air Force would have come to the conclusion that the aircraft was the least suitable among the four competitors.
According to Velásquez, the intention was for Dassault to deliver three to four Rafales or Saab, five to six Gripen for the approved amount. The other intended aircraft would depend on the release of more funds in the future.
“Unfortunately, in the pre-negotiations that took place at the end of the (last) year, we were unable to confirm with the French or the Swedes,” said the Colombian minister. Manufacturers, as expected, prefer to close a long-term agreement for 16 aircraft, due to cost issues.
Kfir fighters over 40 years old
Finally, the Colombian defense minister stated that the ministry will make “continuous efforts” to make the purchase of new fighter jets for the FAC possible later this year.
It remains to be seen whether the final choice will be for the Rafale or the Gripen – or if there will be new surprises in the aircraft selection process, which had the participation of Airbus (Eurofighter Typhoon) and Lockheed Martin (F-16 Block 70).
Currently the last operator of the IAI fighter, the FAC has been looking for a new air superiority jet for over a decade. The current fleet in service in the country is made up of 19 Kfir with an average age of 42 years. Those planes were acquired in 1989 second hand by Colombia from Israeli stocks.