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.
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an Israeli-built jet, the Kfir had a short operational history with the Israel Air Force, entering service in 1975 and withdrawn from the IAF in the second half of the 1990s, just some twenty years later.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 and 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.
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.” (Colombo Gazette)