Negotiations between Colombia, France’s Dassault Aviation and Sweden’s Saab to replace part of the aging fleet of Israeli-made Kfir fighter jets of the Colombian Air Force (FAC) have collapsed.

The Colombian government said on Jan. 2, 2023 that initial negotiations between Colombia, France’s Dassault Aviation and Sweden’s Saab to replace part of the aging fleet of Israeli-made Kfir fighter jets of the Colombian Air Force (FAC, Fuerza Aérea Colombiana) have collapsed.

The country said that replacing the 20 Kfir aircraft currently in service with the FAC is a priority so it can continue to defend its territory, fight organized crime and conduct aerial surveillance.

The service Kfir fighter jets have been in use for more than 42 years and have been operating in Colombia for more than 30 years. Since FAC is practically the only operator of the Kfir and given that no spare parts are produced for the aircraft the operation and maintenance of the Israeli-made fighter jet is costly and can be risky.

“The limitations of the Kfir aircraft hinder actions to guarantee aerial surveillance, the fight against organized crime and national security,” the Colombian government said.

“Unfortunately in the pre-negotiations that took place at the end of (last) year, we did not manage to confirm with the French or with the Swedish,” Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez told local radio, adding the $678 million spending approval for the planes has expired.

According to Euro News, the manufacturers were not interested in an initial sale of three to five airplanes using the budget approved by the previous government, he added, but instead wanted to negotiate for a total of 16 planes.

However, Velasquez explained that there will be continued efforts in 2023 to see if a purchase is possible.

As already reported, the Colombian government said on Dec. 21, 2022 that it shortlisted a French bid to sell 16 Rafale fighter planes to the South American nation for up to $3.15 billion.

“The Government shortlisted the proposal submitted by the Government of France, for the acquisition of 16 Rafale aircraft,” the office of Colombia’s president’s said in a statement.

“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,” the statement said.

Colombia also considered two other bids from the US and Sweden, which offered deals for F-16 and Gripen aircraft, respectively.

There have been efforts by various Colombian administrations to replace the Kfirs for at least 12 years, though the change has been stymied by financial limitations.

The country’s internal armed conflict between the government, leftist rebels and crime gangs run by former right-wing paramilitaries has stretched for nearly 60 years and killed at least 450,000 people.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force