SANTIAGO, Chile – Colombia has asked the United States to buy second-hand M1A2 Abrams tanks to boost the armored capacity of its ground forces, local military sources told Defense News.
Colombia is currently on track to become a major US ally outside NATO, with President Joe Biden announcing in March that the process has begun.
Currently, the Colombian army does not have major battle tanks. The main armored vehicle in its inventory is the Brazilian-made Engesa EE-9 Cascavel, an armored truck with six wheels, equipped with a 90 mm cannon, of which 123 were purchased in the 1980s.
Plans to acquire at least 50 major battle tanks were unveiled about 20 years ago. The country’s focus on upgrading and diversifying its conventional capabilities comes after decades of prioritizing equipment and training to combat terrorism, riots and drug trafficking.
One of the factors driving these efforts is tensions with neighboring Venezuela, a country that has invested heavily in buying modern military equipment from Russia and China over the past two decades, including major T-72B1B battle tanks and Su-30 fighter-bomber.
Colombia is also looking for a new advanced fighter-bomber to replace Israeli-made Kfir aircraft, which are reaching the end of their service life. The Lockheed Martin F-16 – both second-hand and newly built advanced versions of the Block 70 – are under consideration.
The Colombian Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for comment, and military sources spoke to Defense News on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The status of a major US ally outside NATO will entitle Colombia to special treatment when it comes to US financial aid and access to surplus materials. It will also help Colombian President Ivan Duque fulfill the promise he made in 2018 to modernize the armed forces.
Closely linked to the United States since the 1940s, Colombia received $ 10 billion in US military aid between 2001 and 2016 to fight insurgency and drug trafficking, according to the US State Department. In 2017, Colombia became NATO’s first global partner in Latin America, and in 2021 signed a new agreement to deepen and expand cooperation with the alliance.
Colombia is the second largest consumer of defense in South America, after Brazil, aided by the growth of its gross domestic product increase by 36% since 2012, according to Robin Brooks, chief economist at the Institute of International Finance.
Still in the ground