Israel has offered the procurement of Merkava Mark IV tanks and Merkava Namer APCs to Colombia.
During initial discussions with Colombia, a possible procurement of 25 to 40 tanks were discussed. While the price of the Merkava tank has never been published, as it is produced by the IDF and has thus far been provided only to IDF forces, experts assess that the price of such a tank would reach approximately $6 million.
Colombia is concerned over the accelerated rate in which its neighbor Venezuela, ruled by President Hugo Chavez, has been procuring weapons, and has since considerably increased its military procurement budget. Several years ago, Colombia procured military systems from Israel, which included the Kfir fighter aircraft, ground and naval systems. Colombia is also on the verge of procuring UAVs from Israel.
Additional procurement of Israeli products was also brought up during the visit of Israel’s Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, to Colombia last month.
A large-scale UAV deal with Colombia was cancelled several years ago due to a conflict between Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems. Since then, tension has existed in the defense procurement relations between both countries. Deals with Israel were also an issue of political dispute in Colombia.
It appears that the possibility of returning to negotiations with Colombia over a different form of the UAV deal is being examined as well, even though Israeli sources do not believe that the chances for a deal are high.
There have been reports of Colombian procurement of individual Israeli-produced UAVs over the past year, primarily the Hermes-900 by Elbit Systems. However, Colombia is still seeking wide-scale UAV procurement.
In addition to the attempt to salvage the UAV deal in another form, the Israeli defense establishment is attempting to convince the Colombian government to procure the Merkava Mark IV tank and Namer APCs from Israel.
Israel has exported technologies developed for the various Merkava tank models, primarily as part of programs to upgrade old tanks. One of the leading projects in this field was the upgrade of the Turkish Army’s M-60 tanks, which was carried out by Israel Military Industries. However, the tank has never been exported as a complete system.