Procurement: Colombia Catches Up


May 7, 2009: For the last three years, Columbia has been collecting a special tax so that the armed forces can upgrade some of the older, or worn out (by years of heavy action against leftist rebels and drug gangs) weapons and equipment. The $4 billion raised has been spent on a lot of low cost, often second-hand, gear. The Colombians are certainly getting their money's worth. The annual military budget is $11 billion (about 6.5 percent of GDP).

The United States has provided the needed high tech gear (electronic eavesdropping systems, often operated by American military personnel, as part of the deal). But for the actual fighting, the Colombians go with what works, at the lowest price. Thus they build, under license, the Israeli Galil assault rifles (similar to M-16s). They also obtained second hand Kfir het fighter-bombers from Israel. From Brazil, they obtained 25 Super Tucano propeller driven ground attack aircraft. For reconnaissance, they use commercial light aviation aircraft (Caravan 208B and King Air 350). Helicopters are usually commercial models, in addition to several dozen UH-60s, or variants of that model.

A lot of heavy weapons were manufactured over half a century ago. These include the 105mm howitzers. Thus the purchase of 20 new LG1 105mm howitzers from France. Many of the armored vehicles are elderly. Colombia has 80 more recent Russian BTR-80 wheeled armored vehicles, which have performed well. Thus there are negotiations to obtain up to 92 more BTR-80s from Russia.


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