Colombia’s Kfir Replacement Hits Roadblock over Delays in Choosing between Rafale and Gripen

  • Bureau
  • 07:42 AM, January 3, 2023
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Colombia’s Kfir Replacement Hits Roadblock over Delays in Choosing between Rafale and Gripen
F-21 Kfir fighter jet @via open sources

Colombia reportedly ran out of time before it could take a solid decision on which among the shortlisted fighters – Dassault Aviation’s Rafale or Saab’s Gripen – will replace the Air Force’s old Kfir fleet.

Defense Minister Iván Velásquez told Radio Caracol’s 6AM during an interview two weeks ago that the Government was inclined to choose the French jet. In total, the country intended to purchase 16 Rafale fighters, over a period of 10 years, whose approximate cost would have been about $3.15 billion.

Colombia had received proposals from U.S. company Lockheed Martin (F-16 Block 70/72) and Sweden’s Saab (Gripen E).

Yesterday, Velásquez told the same show that it was not possible to reach an agreement with Dassault or Saab for the purchase of new fighters.

To pay for the first part of the acquisition, the Colombian defense ministry had an available budget of $678 million agreed during the previous administration through a National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES) document. However, the CONPES had an expiration date of December 31, 2022, and as the negotiations with the two preferred bidders could not be closed in time, the FAC’s Kfir replacement program was left without initial funding.

The Colombian Air Force’s (FAC) Israel-made Kfir aircraft will have to remain in service in some form as delays plague the acquisition project, even though the worst condition examples were due to be decommissioned later this year.

Negotiations to continue in 2023

The defense ministry plans to obtain a new CONPES document that guarantees the necessary funds to undertake the purchase. Negotiations with French and Swedish sides will then resume.

This is not an easy task, since Velásquez had previously assured that the purchase would not have an impact on the State’s immediate resources, since the CONPES budget had been previously allocated. A five-year grace period was also being negotiated with the bidders to resume payments.

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