Colombia’s new president chooses Rafale as replacement for Kfir fighters

Gustavo Petro discarded the US F-16 fighter and the Swedish Gripen, but guaranteed that the resources to pay for the French aircraft will not come from the tax reform launched to finance social spending

Colombia’s first left-wing president, Gustavo Petro changed his initial speech of not spending financial resources on combat aircraft to announce the choice of the Dassault Rafale to replace the old Kfir fighters.

The preference for the French aircraft had already been predicted for months since the new government has a distant speech from the United States, which made the choice of the F-16 unlikely.

The announcement of the selection of the Rafale was made by the Minister of National Defense Iván Velásquez, who predicted that the Colombian Air Force intends to acquire 16 fighters.

However, according to him, the Dassault jet will undergo a pre-negotiation to establish acquisition conditions that should include the transfer of technology to the local industry.

For now, there is a budget of $678 million provided for in a recently passed law, but the cost of the settlement is expected to reach more than $3 billion.

“So far, the Rafale aircraft proposal is the best option for the country in relation to price, efficiency and operability. One hour of flight time in a Rafale aircraft is approximately 30% cheaper than one hour of flight time in a Kfir,” said the government in a statement.

Colombian´s IAI Kfir (S.C. Air National Guard)

Purchase postponed for several years

Velásquez stated that payment for the aircraft should only begin within five years, so as not to sacrifice the social actions of the current government.

Colombia’s acquisition of more modern fighter jets has been going on for more than a decade. Since then, the Air Force has received offers from Airbus (Eurofighter), Saab, Dassault and Lockheed Martin.

In service since the 1980s, the Kfir were purchased secondhand from Israel and underwent an update between 2015 and 2017. The expectation is that the fighters will begin to be retired at the end of 2023.