Colombian Minister of Defense Iván Velásquez informed during an interview to Radio Caracol’s 6AM that it was not possible to reach an agreement with Dassault or Saab for the purchase of the fighters that should begin to replace the IAI Kfir of the Colombian Air Force (FAC) starting this year.
Two weeks ago, Velásquez gave an interview to the same show in which he assured that the Government was inclined to choose the French fighter as a replacement for the Kfir, over the proposals of the American F-16 Block 70/72 and the Swedish Gripen E.
To pay for the first part of the acquisition, the Colombian Ministry of Defense had an available budget of USD 678 million agreed during the previous administration through a CONPES (National Council for Economic and Social Policy) document. In total, Colombia intended to purchase 16 Dassault Rafale fighters, over a period of 10 years, whose approximate cost would have been about USD 3.15 billion.
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.
Negotiations will continue this year, either with Dassault and the French government, or with Saab and Sweden, but the first obstacle that the Colombian Ministry of Defense will have to overcome is to discuss and obtain a new CONPES document that guarantees the necessary funds to undertake the purchase.
This is not an easy task, since Minister 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, and a five-year grace period was being negotiated with the bidders to resume payments.
Meanwhile, the selection of a replacement for the FAC’s aging IAI Kfir fleet continues to be delayed, and the aircraft will have to remain in service in some form, even though the worst condition examples were due to be decommissioned later this year.