BOGOTA (Reuters) – Initial talks between Colombia, France’s Dassault Aviation and Sweden’s Saab AB to replace part of the South American country’s aging air force have failed, the defense minister said on Monday.
Colombia, which operates about 20 Israeli-made Kfir planes bought three decades ago, has said replacing the planes is a priority so it can continue to defend its territory, fight organized crime and conduct aerial surveillance.
“Unfortunately in the pre-negotiations at the end of (last) year, we could not confirm with the French or the Swedish,” Defense Minister Ivan Velázquez told local radio, adding the $678 million spending approval. Flights are overdue.
The manufacturers were not interested in an initial sale of three to five aircraft using the budget approved by the previous government, but instead wanted to negotiate for a total of 16 aircraft.
Efforts will continue this year to see if the purchase is possible, Velasquez said.
Colombia said last month it shortlisted a Dassault bid to sell 16 Rafale fighter jets for $3 billion and was considering two other bids from the United States and Sweden that awarded contracts for F-16s and Gripen aircraft.
Efforts have been made by various Colombian administrations for at least 12 years to replace Kfir aircraft, although the transition has been hampered by financial constraints.
The country’s internal armed conflict between the government, left-wing rebels and criminal gangs run by former right-wing paramilitaries has lasted nearly 60 years and killed at least 450,000 people.
(This story has been redacted as Swedish instead of Swiss to refer to Saab in paragraph 3)