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Kfir fighters will be operated by Colombia until 2024

Colombian Air Force IAI Kfir fighters fly over the country during Exercise Relampago VI. Photo: Airman Duncan C. Bevan/USAF.
Colombian Air Force IAI Kfir fighters fly over the country during Exercise Relampago VI. Photo: Airman Duncan C. Bevan/USAF.

The Israeli IAI Kfir fighters will be operated by the Colombian Air Force (FAC) until the end of 2024. The manufacturer will carry out maintenance services, contracted by Colombia itself through the Ministry of Defense. 

The signing of the contract between the FAC and Israel Aerospace Industries took place at the end of last December, days after Bogota revealed to have pre-selected Frenchman Dassault Rafale as Kfir's replacement, the country's main combat aircraft.

The contract valued at US$ 5.8 million provides that IAI will perform scheduled and unscheduled Type I and II maintenance on the 19 Kfir AOCs, including weekly, monthly and special inspections of 25, 70 and 425 flight hours, as well as overhaul on General Electric J79-GE-J1EQD engines. Also included is the resolution of problems that arise in the flight line itself. 

Colombia FAC IAI Kfir fighter jets

IAI Kfir fighters form the front line of the Colombian Air Force. Although modernized, they are old platforms. Photo: FAC.

The document also stipulates a minimum of 487 annual flight hours for the FAC Kfir fleet, with a possible addition of 105 hours if necessary. The work will be carried out at the headquarters of the Colombian Kfir, the Base Aérea Germán Olano, in Puerto Salgar, in the central region of the country. 

The most recent agreement is, in fact, a renewal of the contract with IAI, which has been carrying out periodic maintenance of the Kfir since 2016. Before that, FAC lost four planes in various accidents and opted to hire the manufacturer for these services. Since then, no other accidents have been recorded.

The Colombian Air Force is in a long process of replacing the IAI Kfir, which has already lasted ten years. The Israeli model, based on the French Mirage 5, underwent an extensive modernization completed in 2017, which included the integration of newer weapons in the form of the Python V and I-Derby ER missiles and the Spice smart bombs.

A Boeing 737, in the middle, is escorted by four IAI Kfir fighters, in an image seen from the bottom up with sky and clouds in the background. The aircraft belong to Colombia. Photo: Brazilian Air Force/EDA

FAC Boeing 737 is escorted by Kfir. Photo: Brazilian Air Force/EDA

The Kfir also received the active electronically scanned array (AESA) ELTA EL/M-2052 radar, making them the first fighter aircraft in South America to be equipped with this type of sensor, followed by the F-39 Gripen of the Brazilian Air Force.  Despite the update, Colombian Kfir are already at the end of their useful life and will need to be written off soon. The Air Force still considered decommissioning the jets in late 2022. However, without a replacement for the model, the FAC was left with no option but to keep the planes. 

In December, the Colombian government surprised by announcing that it had chosen the Rafale, going against all expectations that pointed to the Saab Gripen E and the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70 as favorites. However, in a new twist, Bogotá claimed that it did not reach any agreement, either with Dassault or Saab, and that the decision was again postponed to 2023. 

With information Infobae


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Journalism student at UFRGS, spotter and military aviation enthusiast.