Colombia May Buy Used Eurofighter Typhoons From Spain

Second-hand Eurofighters are yet another possibility for the bid to replace the venerable IAI Kfirs.

Eurofighter Typhoon flies away during Farnborough Airshow 2014.
Sang Tan / AP Images

Second-hand Eurofighters are yet another possibility for the bid to replace the venerable IAI Kfirs.

Last Tuesday, the Spanish-language news website, Defensa, reported that the Colombian Air Force is currently evaluating the procurement of second-hand Eurofighter Typhoons from Spain.

If this acquisition goes through, it will make Bogotá the first client for the type in the Americas. It would also represent a significant qualitative leap for the Colombian Air Force, which uses an updated version of the IAI Kfir as its main fighter type.

This proposal also implies that the Typhoons will belong to the Tranche 2 standard and come equipped with the advanced Meteor missile. For now, only enough aircraft to equip a single fighter wing are being considered.

However, there are still several options on the table regarding the modernization of the Colombian Air Force.

According to Global Security.org, Bogotá has been contemplating the acquisition of a wide range of aircraft, with mostly used units due to cost concerns, which include the Mirage 2000 and the Rafale from the French company, Dassault, the American Lockheed-Martin F-16 and Boeing F/A-18, the Swedish Saab JAS-39 Gripen, and even the Russian Sukhoi Su-30. Even newly-made Typhoons from the UK were contemplated.

As it is, the Spanish Eurofighter deal is just one more in a long series of possibilities, although supported by the extraordinary good relations currently enjoyed by Madrid and Bogotá.

But as the Kfir fleet grows older, the need for a choice to be made becomes more urgent.

Two-seat IAI Kfir of the Colombian Air Force that crashed in 2009.
The Colombian Kfirs have been suffering due to operational attrition during the last decade, having been grounded a few times. El Universal / AP Images

The Kfir is the last development of the Israeli branch of the Mirage fighter family. The Mirage 5 started as a fighter-bomber variant of the French Mirage III interceptor developed for the Israeli Air Force in the 1960s.

However, changes in the political climate thwarted the deal. The Mirage 5 went on to be a successful French export, but Tel Aviv still needed the fighter. Israel managed to get a hold of the blueprints and developed a native version, the Nesher.

Shortly afterward, the Israeli government started to improve on the model, which led to the installation of a powerful American General-Electric J79 engine. The end result of this process was the Kfir.

Optimized as a ground-attack platform, the Kfir entered service with the Israeli Air Force in 1976. It also found a few foreign customers, including the U.S. Navy, which used the type for a few years as an aggressor aircraft in the Top Gun fighter school.

The deal to sell Kfirs to Colombia was announced in 1988, and since then several airframes were delivered and updated. Currently, Bogotá has 19 Kfirs of the C.10 and C.12 models.

These airplanes are showing their age, though, and five aircraft crashed between 2009 and 2015. The option to simply keep upgrading the surviving machines is also being considered, but the fact remains that as time passes, their obsolescence will only accentuate.

This is why the Colombian Air Force is developing efforts to find a new air defense fighter.

The Typhoon is arguably one of the most advanced jet fighters in the world, having been developed by a consortium of companies from Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. At the time, it was conceived as an air superiority fighter but has been since adapted to other roles.

The induction of the type would make it the most advanced fighter in South America, comparable only to the future Brazilian Saab JAS-39E/F fleet. However, the Typhoon is expensive to buy and operate, a fact that may influence Bogotá’s interest in the long run.

Of note is the fact that the Typhoon has been offered to Peru, although the talks are still ongoing. The type was also part of the contest to find a replacement for Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18 fighters.

Moreover, the Typhoon has been gaining contracts in other regions of the world.

Last Monday, Qatar formalized the acquisition of 24 units, to add to the purchase of Dassault Rafales and Boeing F-15s, Flight Global reports.

Furthermore, the German Ministry of Defense is contemplating using the type to replace 85 Panavia Tornado fighter-bombers, once it starts decommissioning the latter in 2025.

According to Reuters, the American Lockheed-Martin F-35 stealth fighter has been deemed the favorite for this role by the Luftwaffe’s chief, but the German government seems to be backpedaling on this intention, given the improved relations with France.

This would be another important deal for the Eurofighter consortium. It would guarantee the survival of the production lines and related jobs, as well as the airplane itself, for years to come.