LONDON – The Colombian defence minister Iván Velásquez, confirmed in a local radio interview that the country is now leaning towards the French-made Dassault Rafale jets to replace its aging aircraft.
The move comes amidst stiff competition from the United States with the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 and the Swedish Saab Gripen E.
Moreover, the country is reportedly looking to procure 16 Dassault Rafale jets worth up to $3.5 billion, having shortlisted the French proposal.
Making way for the younger generation
The South American country wants to replace the ageing aircraft, the Kfir, which joined the Colombian Air Force in the late 1980s, to secure and safeguard Colombian air space, and also to fight organised crime; namely the drug war.
The Israeli-made machine was the backbone of Colombian aerial surveillance. The Colombian Air Force, aside from the offer from France, has received proposals for the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the Saab Gripen respectively.
As of next year, the current Colombian fleet of the IAI (Israeli Aerospace Industries) will begin its retirement. Colombia as of date is the only active and current operator of the model, which makes sourcing the spare parts very difficult and costly.
The Colombian president’s office made a statement: “The Government shortlisted the proposal submitted by the Government of France, for the acquisition of 16 Rafale aircraft.”
The statement furthered: “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.”
Still hot air
As of now, no agreements nor contracts have been inked. A left-leaning President, Gustavo Petro has confirmed that his country will be needing immediate replacement of its nation’s air force fleet, due to its high operating costs.
The renewal is deemed inevitable and more than ever necessary as the IAI Kfir has been proudly serving the Colombian nation for more than 3 decades.
30% more cost-effective than Kfir, this makes the Rafale the heir apparent. The Rafale has 30% less flight hour cost than the current IAI machine, and also an affordable acquisition price than the American-made F-16 Block 70.
The Colombian government is eager to replace the Kfir due to its expensive operational costs and is also risky to fly.
The government said: “The limitations of the Kfir aircraft hinder actions to guarantee aerial surveillance, the fight against organized crime and national security.”
Should the Colombian government ink for this deal, the South American nation will purchase within five years.
None of the money will be funnelled through a series of tax reforms, which the Colombian congress is allocating for the purposes of tackling social and economic inequalities and combating poverty.
The Dassault Rafale
The French-made Rafale is a twin-engine fighter aircraft, designed and manufactured by Dassault Aviation. It is a proven fighter aircraft with operations in France, India and Qatar.
Recently it has won contracts in Croatia and Greece, which makes the selection of the Rafale seems fundamental as it can quickly secure the first fighter jet as early as 2023.