Colombia's light strike aircraft procurement has undergone a significant adjustment, with jet-powered designs now under consideration to replace the air force's Cessna A-37B and Rockwell OV-10A fleets.

The more than $230 million programme had previously outlined a requirement for a minimum of 22 turboprop-powered aircraft, with Embraer's EMB-314 Super Tucano, Korea Aerospace Industries' KTO-1 and Raytheon's T-6B Texan II in competition.

However, the shift has potentially cleared the way for new proposals based on aircraft such as the Aermacchi MB-339FD, Aero Vodochody L-159B, Avioane IAR99C Soim, CATIC K-8, Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina AT-63 Pampa and Yakovlev Yak-130.

The air force requires an aircraft capable of operating for 300h a year, with a hands-on-throttle-and-stick and night vision goggle-configured cockpit, multifunction colour display and a wide field-of-view head-up display. The selected aircaft should also have an integrated weapons capability, secure VHF/FM voice communications and forward looking infrared sensor.

Local sources suggest that the air force continues to prefer a turboprop solution for its air-to-ground light strike duties and for intercepting general aviation aircraft employed in drug smuggling.

Some manufacturers are concerned that additional requirements such as internally mounted guns and self-sealing fuel tanks could favour the Super Tucano. Complying with the tight operational and technical evaluation flight schedule is another concern, with aircraft on offer to be ferried to Colombia to perform two air-to-air and four air-to-ground sorties.

The platforms must also show compatibility with current air force weapons, including Mk 81/82 bombs, 70mm rocket launchers and countermeasures equipment.

Source: Flight International