Colombian Air Force’s (FAC) main fighter, the IAI Kfir, will be withdrawn from service in 2022, according to the Defensa website. The service would have decided to bring forward the deactivation of the jets due to the high cost of maintenance and operation, in addition to the difficulty of obtaining spare parts for the fleet.
The Kfir have been in active service with the FAC since 2011, although the aircraft are nearly 40 years old. The fighters were acquired second-hand from the Israeli Air Force. In all, the Colombians bought 24 aircraft, two of which were lost in accidents – Flight Global had 19 active fighters in its most recent directory of air forces.
The imminent retirement of the Colombian Kfir can be considered early. In 2017, the Air Force completed the process of modernizing the fighters, which received more advanced flight systems that allow the use of weapons of greater range and precision. The process, carried out by Israel Aircraft Industries, also involved replacing the aircraft’s engines.
A possible re-equipment program for the Colombian Air Force has been under consideration for some years. Among the possibilities would be an order for second-hand Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from Denmark.
Another option would be to acquire new Saab Gripen E/F fighters, including aircraft produced in Brazil, which is a partner of the Swedish manufacturer in the two-seat variant.
In addition to Colombia, other countries that use Kfir and its derivatives are Sri Lanka and Ecuador, which operates the version of the aircraft known as the Cheetah – developed by the South African company Atlas (currently Denel). In Israel, the model was retired in the late 1990s.
Kfir was developed because of the embargo imposed by France after Israel bombed Lebanon in 1968, shortly after the Six-Day War.
Unable to acquire new fighter jets, the country commissioned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to develop a fighter based on the Mirage 5, and from there the Nesher aircraft emerged, whose main differences were the Israeli avionics and Martin-Baker ejection seats.
Then the IAI proposed the Kfir, a fighter with greater power thanks to the replacement of the French Atar engine by the GE J79, used by the F-4 Phantom.
The Israeli fighter was also equipped with canards to improve its maneuverability in addition to having new avionics and increased armament capacity. The first Kfir flew in June 1973 and entered service in 1976 with the Israeli Air Force.