Kfir fighter aircrafts .
(photo credit: IAI)
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is in talks to upgrade the Kfir fighter aircrafts of the Sri Lankan air force, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Sri Lanka purchased a total of 16 Kfir jets from Israel between 1995 and 2005; at least seven were lost during the 26-year-long Sri Lankan civil war and IAI is in talks with Colombo to upgrade and return to service its five grounded Kfir jets.
According to Sri Lankan news site ColomboPage, the government is considering to buy eight multi-role fighter aircraft to replace its aging fighter jets.
“At the moment, [Sri Lanka has] only one Kfir aircraft – the remaining six aircrafts cannot be used. We have seven MiG aircrafts and eight other aircrafts but none of them can be used. The Government will consider all offers and select a suitable one,” said Parliamentary Reforms and Media Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka, last year.
Manufactured at the Lahav division of the Military Aircraft Group in Israel, the Kfirs are designed as a versatile all-weather multi-role supersonic combat jet. The jets can fly at an altitude of 30,000m. with a maximum speed of 2,285 kph and has a range of 1,300 km. It has a maximum take-off weight of 14,600 kg. and can carry several air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, bombs and other munitions.
While it is an Israeli-built jet, the Kfir had a short operational history with the Israel Air Force, entering service in 1975 and withdrawn from the IAF in the second half of the 1990s, just some twenty years later. Nonetheless, the Kfir has been sold to the air forces of Sri Lanka, Colombia, Ecuador. The jets are also used by ATAC, an American civilian company that provides enemy staging and trials for the US Navy.
Despite not having an Israeli Embassy on the island country, instead being represented by Israel’s ambassador to India, the two countries have substantial military ties with a large part of the Sri Lankan navy using Israeli-made Dvora and Shaldag attack craft.
On Sunday, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stated that US President Donald Trump’s statement on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel would threaten the Middle East peace process.
Wickremesinghe reiterated the position stated earlier by Sri Lankan government spokesman and minister of health Rajitha Senaratne, that the final status of Jerusalem would be determined in accordance with UN resolutions.
“The US had become isolated because of the unilateral declaration by President Donald Trump on Jerusalem, which all European countries have also rejected,” Senaratne said, adding that Sri Lanka’s position is clear: “To keep Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. The Sri Lankan embassy will never transfer its embassy to Jerusalem.”
Meanwhile, IAI marked the completion of the upgrading of Kfir airplanes for the Colombian air force, fitting them with an expanded range of weapons and sensors as well as new model numbers.
The ceremony, which took place at the CACOM1 air base in Palanquero, Colombia was attended by IAI’s management team, representatives of Colombia’s National Defense Ministry, Colombia Air Force commander, and the staff of Israel’s Embassy in Colombia.
According to General Carlos Eduardo Bueno, commander of Colombia’s air force, “This project is of prime importance for Colombia’s air force and is another great example of our long-standing collaboration with IAI including important integrations of key, challenging features. The combination of radar, communication and advanced technologies has made the Kfir squadron the leader that it is.”
Also at the ceremony, IAI CEO Joseph Weiss said that the upgrades to the Colombian Kfir jets with cutting edge avionics, advanced weapon and self-protection systems, air refueling and other features, “make it one of the most efficient aerial war machines in the world.”
“IAI plans to keep the Colombian government and the Air Force as its close ally; we will continue our very successful collaboration, improve the systems and add new capabilities for our shared mission of keeping the Colombian Armed Forces as a force to be reckoned with,” he added.
Colombia first purchased Kfirs from IAI in 1989 and they were widely used during counter-insurgency operations against Colombian militants.
In November 2013, two Colombian Air Force IAI Kfirs intercepted Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-160 bombers that had entered Colombian airspace from Venezuela. The Russian jets had taken off from Simon Bolivar International Airport in Venezuela and were flying to the Nicaraguan capital of Managua when they crossed into Colombia airspace over its Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina in the Caribbean Sea.