In the forthcoming February issue of AFM, Yissachar Ruas reports from Palanquero air base and flies with the upgraded Kfir fighters of the Colombian Air Force’s Escuadrón de Combate 111.
Deep in the heart of Colombia, on the banks of the Magdalena River, the pride of the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (FAC, Colombian Air Force) is found at Palanquero air base. This is home to Comando Aéreo de Combate No 1 (Combat Air Command No 1) and named after aviator Captain Germán Olano Moreno. Situated among the Cordillera Mountain ranges, the airfield’s rich aviation history dates back to the 1930s when seaplanes used to operate from the Magdalena. Today, the FAC’s Escuadrón de Combate 111 is the base’s most significant resident with its Kfir (lion cub) fighters. It’s also home to the AC-47T Fantasma gunships as well as T-37B Tweet trainers (see ‘Tango’ Tweets, June 2018).
Along with the significant improvement in national security, the FAC has become more open to showcasing its combat assets. Its premier fighter is the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Kfir C10, with around 21 aircraft currently assigned to Escuadrón de Combate 111.
Despite their age, Colombia’s Kfirs are at the top of their game and the Colombian military holds a lofty reputation in Latin America. The FAC foresees the Kfir in its current state as a viable platform until at least 2025. While Venezuela to the east holds little real threat in terms of current capabilities, an increasing Russian relationship is troubling. Indeed, in recent months this has actively tested Colombia’s air defences. Back in 2013, Russian Tu-160 Blackjacks were intercepted by FAC Kfirs near Colombian airspace. It means the FAC must not only tackle domestic uncertainly, but also international threats to its borders.
The full report appears in the February issue of AFM, on sale from January 17.
The author wishes to thank commander of the Colombian Air Force, General Carlos Eduardo Bueno Vargas, for his assistance in preparing the feature.