Colombia will obtain through CIAC international certification to modernize T27 planes
By Dialogo November 07, 2013
The Brazilian firm Embraer Defense and Security has agreed to certify a Colombian company to modernize the EMB 312 Tucano T27 airplanes used by the Colombian Air Force (FAC).
For 20 years, the FAC has used these airplanes to train military pilots and to fight against international drug traffickers and guerillas with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
“Once the first two planes are modernized, Colombia’s Corporation of the Aeronautics Industry (CIAC, for its acronym in Spanish) will obtain a certificate that will make it the only company able to modernize the Tucano planes, except those belonging to the Brazilian Air Force,” Col. Campo Elías Ruales Morillo, the maintenance advisor for CIAC, said to EFE News in September.
CIAC is part of the Ministry of Defense. CIAC will embark on a three-year program to modernize the 14 T27 airplanes the country purchased for $40 million USD. Colombia purchased the aircraft in 1992. The CIAC outfitted the airplanes with weapons.
As part of the modernization program, the airplanes will get new wings, new landing gear, and a Rockwell Collins navigation and communications system. It will take about four months to modernize each airplane, officials said.
Colombian technicians and engineers will modernize the first T27 airplane in Brazil. The remainder of the airplanes will be modernized at the Justino Mariño Cuesto Air Force Base in the municipality of Madrid. Embraer officials will supervise the airplanes.
Brazil and Colombia signed a treaty to modernize the T27 airplanes in 2011. The CIAC has invested $19 million USD to purchase airplane equipment and blueprints and to train technicians and engineers, Ruales Murillo said.
Gaining experience and knowledge
The modernization program will provide Colombian technicians and engineers with valuable experience, Ruales Murillo said. In the future, when T27 planes from other countries need to be modernized, “they will have to come to” Colombia the colonel said.
The CIAC will be certified to modernize T27 airplanes in January 2014. Other countries will be able to pay the CIAC to modernize their T27 aircraft. The cost will depend on the geographic location where the modernization of the airplane is to take place.
Around 500 T27 airplanes are in service in 13 Air Forces from around the world, including the air fleets of Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, Honduras, and France. Colombia has the highest number of Tucano airplanes, authorities said. Before they are modernized, each Colombian Tucano airplane is worth about $7 million USD.
“The certification will allow Colombia and its Air Force to gain experience and knowledge in the defense and security industry, which at this moment is difficult to account for,” said Iñigo Guevara, a security analyst at the Center for Security with Democracy (CASEDE), which is based in Mexico City.
“The real prize is not to modernize the Tucano planes but to learn how to modernize planes,” Guevara added.
Fighting the FARC and the ELN
The Colombian Air Force has used Tucano airplanes to support land operations by the Army against the FARC and the ELN.
In 2002, Colombian military forces used T27 airplanes during the “Tanatos Operation” to take control of the so-called demilitarized zone in southern Colombia, according to published reports. The region had been controlled by the FARC for more than 30 years.
The Colombian Air Force has relied on T27 airplanes for two decades. “I feel proud to say that our (T27) planes are the ones that have completed the most flight hours. Although they were supposed to be used for training, due to the situation at that moment they had to be used to back up land troops in need of help to combat the guerrillas, which resulted in the success that we all remember,” Ruales Murillo recalled.
By modernizing its fleet of T27 airplanes the Colombian Air Force will save tens of millions of dollars, because it will not have to purchase new aircraft, according to Guevara, the security analyst. The modernized airplanes should last for 20 years after they have been upgraded, Guevara said.
The modernized airplanes will play an important role in the fight against drug traffickers and guerilla rebels. “CIAC is learning from its international experience. In the long term,
CIAC could start offering other types of modernization services and become competitive worldwide, they know it,” Guevara said.
The Colombian government has provided CIAC with great support to improve its air space industry. For example, the Colombian government has a partnership with business people in the United States to produce T90 Calima military planes, according to Aviacion Total. Colombia also has a partnership with the company Indumil to build unmanned planes, or drones, from composite materials.
In November 2013, the Colombian Air Force will start using the “Iris drone,” which is made in Colombia. The drone can be operated from a control station.
“With this new technology, we expect more precision in the weapons and a reduction of the explosive capacity of the bombs launched,” Air Force Commander Guillermo León told El Tiempo.
The Colombian Air Force is also developing a new tank and an “intelligent” bomb.