Colombia fails to reach fighter deal with Dassault or Saab

The negotiations between the Colombian government and manufacturers Dassault Aviation and Saab to purchase new fighter jets have fallen through.

Colombia is attempting to replace its aging fleet of Kfir fighters of the Colombian Air Force (FAC). The IAI Kfir is an Israeli fighter based on the Dassault Mirage 5.

“Colombia is today practically the only operator of Kfir aircraft,” the Colombian presidency explained. “That means that neither aircraft nor spare parts are produced, which means an unsustainable capacity whose operation in these conditions is expensive and risky.”

In December 2022, Colombia announced its intention to procure 16 Rafale fighters from Dassault Aviation to replace the Kfir. The French fighter was preferred over the US-made F-16 Block 70/72 and the Swedish Gripen E.

To do so, the Colombian Ministry of Defense secured a budget of $678 million with the National Council for Economic and Social Policy (CONPES). With this first allotment, the ministry hoped to acquire three to four aircraft as well as support services. More fighters would be purchased at a later date. In total, the program is expected to cost $3 billion.

However, the first order could not be secured before the expiration of the budget, on December 31, 2022, despite negotiating both with the winner of the competition (Dassault Aviation) and the runner-up (Saab).

“Unfortunately, during the pre-negotiations which took place at the end of [last] year, we did not manage to reach a deal with the French or the Swedes,” Iván Velásquez, the Colombian Defense Minister, said before explaining that the manufacturers were not interested in a preliminary order, but rather wanted to negotiate a deal for a total of 16 aircraft.

In order to further negotiate a deal, the government will have to once more secure a budget with the CONPES.

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