Procurement: Colombia Gets An Aerial Tanker


March 6,2008: The recently announced Colombian purchase of 24 Israeli Kfir fighters deliberately left out another part of the deal, the sale of a aerial tanker. Israel will also be providing a B767 aircraft converted to provide aerial refueling of the Kfirs. This is a big deal in light of recent warlike announcements from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez (who is upset that Colombia killed a Colombian leftist rebel leader, of FARC, just across the border in Ecuador, and captured a laptop containing emails exposing the long, and close, relationship between Chavez and FARC.)

The second hand B767 tanker will cost $60 million. Each of the second hand Kfirs will cost about $8 million. These are 1980s vintage, 16 ton aircraft based on the French Mirage III, but much upgraded from the original 1970s design. Kfirs can carry six tons of weapons, fly as high as 75,000 feet, has a max speed of 2,400 kilometers an hour and a normal operating radius of 700 kilometers. Sorties normally last 2-3 hours, but with aerial refueling, the Kfirs can take off with a full bomb load, and reach anywhere inside, say, Venezuela.

Israel built 185 Kfirs, and still has 120 in storage. Israel has been trying to sell them as an inexpensive alternative to jets of more recent vintage. Kfirs have two 30mm cannon built in. The aircraft is only equipped to use short range, heat seeking air-to-air missiles, but can also deliver laser and GPS guided smart bombs as well as Maverick and anti-radiation missiles. Apparently, Colombia will equip the Kfirs with electronic monitoring pods, to track the movements of leftist rebels and drug gangs, and then use smart bombs to attack targets in remote areas. The tanker will enable Kfirs on this kind of duty to stay in the air for eight hours or more . Delivery of the Kfirs will begin in about a year. Colombia bought 12 Kfirs C7s in 1989 (for about $15 million each), and still has 11 in service. The new ones will be Kfir C10s, with a new radar, that has a range of 140 kilometers (for air or ground targets.)


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