Colombia's defence ministry is believed to have revived plans to buy a dedicated signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft for the Colombian air force, reversing a decision from earlier this year to defer the procurement. The increased sophistication of Colombia's cocaine-producing cartels, paramilitary groups and FARC and ELN rebel groups are behind the change, say Colombian sources.

Budgeted at almost $20 million, the programme will seek one twin-engined pressurised turboprop aircraft equipped with a synthetic aperture radar and a SIGINT suite capable of performing high, very high and ultra-high frequency communications interception, analysis and direction finding tasks. Prime contenders include Israel Aircraft Industries, Raytheon and Saab, with a system selection potentially due in early 2005 for delivery in mid-2006. Local observers believe Raytheon's proposal will be favoured, as the air force already operates three Beechcraft King Air transports.

Source: Flight International