Fighting the drugs trade fueling Latin America’s oldest guerrilla war and relying heavily on U.S. military assistance, Colombia has the second-largest armed forces in Latin America, after Brazil. Unlike Brazil’s peaceful situation, Colombia has an ongoing internal armed conflict spilling also over its border with Venezuela.
In 2011, Colombia is expected to spend 20 percent of its national budget on defense, representing 3.9 percent its entire economy. At this level, Bogota is spending the highest percentage of its GDP on defense in the region.
Among the top programs in Colombia are the acquisition of Airborne Early Warning aircraft to augment the Israeli Kfir C7/C10 fighters already operated by the Colombian Air Force, modernization of UH-60 A-L assault helicopters and C-312 systems AT/27 light attack aircraft (Tucano).
The Colombian Army has several ongoing arms procurement programs, including the acquisition of hundreds of new or upgraded main battle tanks and light reconnaissance vehicles. In 2010 Colombia considered the acquisition of ex IDF Merkava but plans are likely shifting toward the upgrading M-60 or Leopard II tanks which have already been introduced in the region (Chile).
The Colombian Navy has also embarked on several modernization programs, including investing about US$650 million in the modernization of FS1550 missile frigates, U209/1200 submarines and Fassmer 80 vessels, establishing mobile river-support stations along the main inland waterways, acquisition of CN235 Maritime Patrol aircraft and life extension for the Bell 212 naval helicopters.