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Colombia - Air Force - Modernization

By 1988 the counterinsurgency units were composed of fifteen aging AT-33 and two RT-33 ground attack aircraft and eighteen A-37 Cessna Dragonfly light attack aircraft, most of which were acquired in 1980. Two of the counterinsurgency units made up the Second Air Combat Command and the Third Air Combat Command. The helicopter squadron consisted of ten Hughes 500M OH-6A Cayuse and six Hughes 500-MG Defenders. The reconnaissance squadron was equipped with three RT-33 aircraft and seven Hughes 300C and eight Hughes 500C helicopters.

Aircraft assigned to military air transport included a squadron composed of C-130s, a C-54, C-47s, HS-748s, F-28s, DHC-2s, IAI-201s, and PC-6s. The helicopter squadron was equipped with seventeen Bell UH-1B/Hs, most of which were purchased during the early 1980s, and eleven Bell 205 A-1s. The training command was equipped primarily with twenty-one Cessna T-41D and twenty-one T-34A/B aircraft; its helicopters included eight Bell 47s, seven Hughes 300Cs, and fourteen Hughes 500Cs.

Tactical Aircraft Modernization

In 1984 the FAC acquired an additional fifteen A-37s. The A-37s were intended to reinforce the country's coastal surveillance capabilities and were to be used in patrolling the San Andrs and Providencia archipelago. Colombia's military industry manufactured a number of the FAC's smaller aircraft, many of which reportedly were employed in counterinsurgency.

The defeats suffered by Colombian military forces in 1997 and 1998 convinced the government of the need to strengthen and modernize the military. After Mitu, which was overrun by FARC guerrillas in 1998, in particular, the military learned to integrate air power in support of ground operations. The main constraint on the Rapid Reaction Force was insufficient air transport assets.

The national defense ministry and the company Embraer signed the contract 07 December 2005 to buy 25 tactical combat aircraft for the Colombian Air Force. After three months of negotiation, the minister and vice-minister of defense, the air Force commandant, the Brazil ambassador in Colombia and members of Embraer met to sign the agreement 001-05 CEMDMFAC that will cost 234 million dollars.

During the process that lasted seven years, the national government did the evaluation of the necessities of the country in defense. After many talks the aircrafts choose were the Super Tucanos, due that have the characteristics that perfectly adapt to the geographical conditions of the country and that answer to the necessities of the Force.

The first aircraft arrived to the country in November 2006, while this happened, the Brazil Air Force leased to the Colombian Air Force combat aircraft with similar specifications so that the crews began the training process, with this alliance is guarantee the immediate operation upon the day of the arrival of the new aircrafts.

The tactical combat aircraft will develop control tasks on the air space on mission of counter power and air defense, the application of the force across the interdiction and the close air support. In the same form, these aircrafts will permit to the Air Force to improve the possibilities to participate in joint operations with more versatile aircrafts, with technology of last generation and that adjust to the geography in the country, permitting the support to the surface troops with less costs on operations and more force.

The acquisition of this new fleet will permit a more effective fight against the narco-terrorist threat, as well as an important advance in the modernization of the Air Force.

The new planes will be joined by 15 UH-60L Black Hawks, 5 Russian Mi-17s, 12 Bell 212 Rapaz helicopter gunships, UAVs in unspecified numbers and types, and an array of Cessna Caravan 208B and King Air 350 ISR aircraft that remind one of the new Iraqi Air Forces similarly-constituted reconnaissance fleets. About 25 light aircraft will reportedly be produced in Colombia itself.

By 2014 the Colombian military was looking to replace the their aged Cessna A-37 Dragonfly light strike jets and Rockwell OV-10 Bronco armed Forward Air Control Platforms. Possible candidates include the Czech L-159, BAE Systems Hawk trainer, and the Alenia/Embraer AMX. The Colombian Air Force (FAC) is also looking to modernize EMB 321 Tucano T27 airplanes and was certified by the Brazilian firm Embraer Defense to do so. As part of their agreement with Embraer Defense, Colombias Corporation of the Aeronautics Industry will obtain a certificate that will make it the only company able to modernize Tucano planes with the exception of those belonging to the Brazilian Air Force.

Fighter Modernization

A highlight of the FAC's efforts at modernizing its force came with the announcement in early 1988 of its plans to purchase thirteen C-7 Kfir fighters from Israel. In part, FAC concerns over its capabilities were spurred by Venezuela's acquisition of some two dozen United States-built F-16 fighters in the mid-1980s. The contract for the Kfirs, valued at about US$200 million, included a supply of spare parts and pilot training in addition to the aircraft.

The high end is a $160 million deal for 24 modernized Kfir C10 jet fighters with EL/M-2032 radars and upgraded weapons, plus a $40 million deal for accompanying precision-guided munitions and missiles. Of the 24, 11 are upgraded FAC Kfir C7s, and 13 are lower flight-hours models from Israeli stocks.

As a complement to the program in force for the modernization of the Kfir fleet, on 01 June 2010 three airplanes that are part of this project arrived to Cartagena from Israel. These airplanes were assembled by Israel technicians, who will execute test flights to make the official give of these airplanes to the institution. In this form the Air Force continue its purchase and modernization of airplanes, to accomplish with the constitutional mission to keep the national air space.

The air force is considering a number of modern fighter types, such as the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Sukhoi Su-30 'Flanker', Dassault Rafale, Dassault Mirage 2000, and Saab JAS 39 Gripen. These would probably be surplus aircraft and not new-builds.

There was the intent from the Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon to purchase close to 20 fighter jets, some of the possible candidates may include the F-16 and Boeings F-18 Hornet. Gen. Tito Saul Pinilla Pinilla, the commander of the Colombian Air Force, toured McEntire Joint National Guard Base (JNGB) in Eastover in April 2013 as part of a weeklong visit to the United States. In our future, we are planning to buy F-16s for the Colombian Air Force. But we need to know about maintenance and logistics. We need your people to advise us about these things, Pinilla said. A team of five Colombian Air Force officers toured McEntire Joint National Guard Base in August 2013 as part of a US visit to gather information about F-16 operations and maintenance. However, this intent was put on hold until further notice in 2014.

By 2015 the Colombian Ministry of National Defence (MDN) had began to analyse a broad range of options in the face of of the high attrition rate that its Kfir fighter fleet had suffered. Five Colombian Air Force (Fuerza Area Colombiana - FAC) Kfirs had crashed since the upgraded Kfir C10/12 fleet re-entered service from 2009.

Colombia was considering supplementing and eventually replacing its fleet of 20 Israeli Kfirs by procuring second-hand F-16s, and upgrading them with AESA radars. Officials from BAE Systems and L-3 expressed interest in the F-16 work, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Boeing and maker Lockheed Martin also are following the situation, according to officials from the two countries.

In early 2015 the Colombian government received an offer to acquire Dassault Aviation Mirage 2000-5F multirole aircraft from the countrys air force, the Arme de l'Air. The offer included a total of eighteen units for an approximate cost of $ 500 million. Of this, $350 million was for the cost of the eighteen surplus aircraft, and the remaining $150 million was the cost of their initial logistics package.



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