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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Israel sells reconditioned fighter-jets to Colombia

TEL AVIV — Israel has delivered surplus combat aircraft to Colombia.

The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries has delivered its first batch of indigenous Kfir fighter-jets to the Colombian Air Force, Middle East Newsline reported. The delivery, which took place on June 22, was that of upgraded Kfirs, deployed by Israel in the 1970s and retired 20 years later.   

"The Israeli Defense Ministry is proud of IAI and its great achievement and cooperation with the Colombian Air Force," Israeli Defense Ministry deputy export director Meir Shalit said. "The Defense Ministry sees IAI as a genuine partner that promotes Israel's quality defense export."

In 2007, IAI was awarded a Kfir contract by Colombia that was worth more than $150 million. Under the multi-year contract, IAI's Lahav division would upgrade the Kfir jets in the Colombian Air Force and supply additional platforms from Israel Air Force surplus.

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"IAI's new technologies were integrated in the new Kfir jets to better their capabilities and allow longer operational service," IAI president Itzhak Nissan said. "The short delivery schedule and high quality of the aircraft were feasible thanks to IAI's integration capability, and the knowledge and experience of Lahav and other IAI divisions."

IAI, manufacturer of the jet, has upgraded two variants of the Kfir, the C-10 and C-12 for Colombia. The enhancement included avionics that would enable the platform to carry modern air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles.

Over the last 15 years, Israel has sought to unload its retired fleet 140 Kfirs, acquired in 1976. Israel has sold Kfirs to Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka.

The U.S. Navy has used Kfirs to simulate Soviet-origin fighters in air combat training. The Kfirs were leased to the navy by a U.S. firm, Airborne Tactical Advantage Co.

"We feel immense happiness, satisfaction, and pride for this addition to the Colombian Air Force," Colombian Air Force Col. Diego Sepulveda Alzate said. "We are grateful to the workers at Lahav and at IAI in general for all their hard work."

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