Colombia’s defense minister Ivan Velasquez said last week on a local radio appearance that the CONPES 4078 budget allocation of $678 million USD expired without any agreement with the two finalists, Sweden’s Saab or France’s Dassault. This means that a new budgeting process would have to be completed and approved before any negotiations could continue.
Created in the 1950s, CONPES is Colombia’s National Council for Economic and Social Policy, and acts as a technical planning body advising the government on long term public investment and major contracts large enough to have a significant effect on the national budget and public credit.
Colombia, limited by available budget, took a “how many planes can we get for $678 million?” approach, while the two European defense contractors were said to insist upon a firm commitment for 16 aircraft.
Colombia currently flies approximately 20 1970s-era Israeli Kfir single engine combat aircraft, which are technologically obsolete, and have reached the end of their service life. While President Gustavo Petro ran on a campaign promise to nix the purchase of new combat aircraft being negotiated by former President Ivan Duque, once elected, he reversed position, saying new aircraft were needed “for the safety of the pilots.”
The United States, Colombia’s closest defense ally and trade partner, has been lobbying Colombia for years to consider its Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter, and has always been sure to send a US Air Force contingent to the biennial F-AIR air show put on by the Colombian Air Force at the José María Córdova International Airport outside of Medellín. During the 2019 event, the US even sent its Thunderbirds demonstration team, that flies the F-16, and conducted a flyover where a US B-52 Stratofortress bomber, which can fly over 14,000km without refueling, flew nonstop from the US and conducted maneuvers (above photo) with the Colombian Kfir jets before returning without landing. The 2021 event was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Analysts, including Finance Colombia, will be observant for clues to progress on negotiations at this year’s F-AIR taking place in July. F-AIR is open to the public, and aviation enthusiasts are encouraged to attend.
Above photo: A USAF B-52 Stratofortress bomber flies in formation with Colombian Kfir fighters, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of Colombia’s Air Force by the creation of a military aviation school for the Colombian Army in 1919 (photo © Loren Moss).