DURING A visit to Israel on February 7, Colombia’s Minister of Defence, Juan Manuel Santos, announced that a further 13 refurbished and upgraded former Israeli IAI Kfirs will be purchased for the Fuerza Aerea Colombiana (FAC — Colombian Air Force). All eleven of the FAC’s surviving Kfirs will also be upgraded.
Commencing in 1985, the FAC took delivery of 12 Kfir C2s and one twin-seat Kfir TC2. The C2s were later updated to C7 standard, but two have since been lost in accidents. The FAC will begin taking delivery of the upgraded aircraft in early 2009. It is reported that both the existing fleet and the additional aircraft will all be modified to the Kfir CIO export standard. This includes Elta EL/M-2032 radar, helmet-mounted displays and new cockpit equipment with 5in x 6in (12.7cm x 17.7cm) multi-function displays. New avionics and armament will also be included.
The modernised Kfirs are expected to remain in FAC service for a further 20 years. Lack of funding to buy brand-new fighters was the primary reason behind the decision to acquire second-hand aircraft. The contract is understood to have been signed between the Defence Departments of the two countries last year, but not previously made public, according to Israel’s Ambassador to Colombia, Meron Reuben.
Contract completion is anticipated within two to three years. The upgraded Kfirs will replace the remaining Mirage 5COA/D/Rs in service with Escuadron de Combate 112 at Base Aerea Militar 2-PaIanquero.
Separately, on February 28 the FAC announced that it is implementing a programme to fit a command, control, communication, intelligence and information (C3I2) system in its aircraft. Initially, 40 aircraft will gain a C3I2 radar installation, but it is hoped that 200 or more FAC aircraft will soon be equipped with the system, enabling their location to be determined anywhere in the country and at any time.