Eleven bidders set to compete for $235m contract to replace air force's Cessna A-37Bs and Rockwell OV-10As

Eleven companies competing to equip the Colombian air force with a fleet of light strike aircraft will submit bids by 20 December, after the release of a request for proposals late last month. The responses will be followed by an evaluation period including in-country flight demonstrations next February. The defence ministry will announce a preferred solution on 21 March.

Worth $235 million, the programme seeks 24 aircraft to replace the air force's surviving CessnaA-37Bs and Rockwell OV-10A Broncos. Six of Colombia's eight remaining A-37s are available for use, while its OV-10 fleet has been reduced to a single operational aircraft. Afurther six are undergoing overhaul and modernisation to extend their service lives until 2009.

The air force has requested a two-seat turboprop-powered aircraft with air-to-air and air-to-ground strike capabilities, a combat radius of at least 555km (300nm) and a 200kt (370km/h) cruising speed at 16,100ft (4,910m). Other key requirements include a night vision goggle-compatible cockpit with hands on throttle and stick controls, multifunction displays, secure communications and advanced navigation equipment.

The aircraft should also have a forward-looking infrared sensor and an integrated self-protection system. Its armaments will include free-fall bombs, rockets and an onboard or podded gun, and it should be able to operate from a 1,300m (4,260ft) unprepared strip.

Leading contenders include Embraer's EMB-314 Super Tucano, Korea Aerospace Industries' KTO-1 and the Pilatus PC-21, offered with Raytheon. Despite Colombia's request for a turboprop, the CATIC-promoted K-8 and Lockheed Martin Aircraft Argentina AT-63 Pampa jet trainers are also on offer. Also in the hunt are Garper Group, Global Aerotech, Hindustan Aeronautics, Sun Lake Aircraft, Tysa SA/Radom and Russia's Rosoboronexport, possibly offering Yakovlev's Yak-130.

Source: Flight International