Colombians Attend Red Flag for the first time ever!!

Red Flag 12-4 is in the books and from all reports it was an overwhelming success.

Planning for each Red Flag exercise starts many months in advance. In the case of the visiting Colombian Air Force that process started over three years ago, when they were recognized for their ability to perform in complex environments.

The Colombian Air Force deployed to Red Flag 12-4 under the Air Expeditionary Force concept, participating as blue force players, utilizing their advanced Kfir C2 aircraft. The advanced Kifr C2 performed admirably, albeit keeping the 57th Operations Support Squadron busy clearing drag chutes from the active runway between landings.

Media day for 12-4 was scheduled for July 18th and the weather forecast for the day indicated the high desert temperatures approaching 114 deg.  We arrived at Area 2 to find a busload of friends and fellow photographers, which despite the heat were ready to go out and capture another Red Flag.

Shortly after taking my seat on the bus, the PAO staff boarded the bus and asked if any one in the group wanted the Colombian option, thoughts of who knows what went through my mind? After instinctively raising my hand, still wondering what the hell I was in for?  The PAO informed us half the group would forego the normal between the runway launch and take part in a visit to the ramp.

After a quick stop at the Red Flag operations center to purchase any Red Flag souvenirs, more shirts and swag, “I love this place”.  I handed Dave the long prime lens, as he was going to be shooting the launch. Dave has always brought back stellar images when using this combo.

After a short drive to the east ramp area we were briefed on what we could shoot and what was off limits.  This was to prove a bit tough as the Colombian aircraft were parked in the center of two types of aircraft  we could not take photos of.  A bit of creative shooting angles and some selective post edit cropping took care of the photos being approved.

The first thing I noticed was how clean the aircraft were, as if they had just came off the assembly line. The other thing I observed was the professionalism of the young Colombian maintainers; they were all about the same age as our young USAF enlisted maintainers. The only notable difference was the uniform type. In a nutshell these guys looked sharp and performed their duties with the utmost professionalism.

Our access on the ramp was spectacular! The maintainers had no issue with us getting up-close and personal with the aircraft. The pilots soon joined us out on the ramp, again the image and attitude presented by the Colombian pilots was nothing short of professional.

As the pilots began to strap in to the aircraft, I observed a pilot approach each aircraft, snap a salute and stretch out his arm shaking the hand of each pilot in the line up.  After a brief pause he made his way toward us. Turns out this pilot is the commander of the 1st Fighter Wing of the Colombian Air Force – Brigadier General Carlos Bueno. The general answered questions and briefed us on the role the Colombians will play in Red Flag 12-4. After a few more photos we were escorted back to the van for the short trip to rejoin the group of photographers between the runways.

This visit to Red Flag was unique with the PAO staff allowing ramp access; we can only hope it will continue with future Nellis events. The staff here at Photorecon would like to thank the Nellis PAO staff, the Colombian air force, and all the behind the scene people that made this visit possible.

The Israeli built Kfir, Hebrew for young lion is a multi-role fighter that entered IAF service in 1976. The aircraft evolved from the French Mirage family of aircraft. The Mirage 5 grew out of a request to Dassault from the Israeli Air Force. In September 1966, the Israelis placed an order for 50 Mirage 5 aircraft. Tensions in the Middle East led to a French embargo of the Israeli Mirage 5s. Cooperation with France resumed outside the public’s eye and Israel received 50 Mirage 5s in crates. The aircraft were delivered between May 1971 and February 1974 and assembled by Israeli technicians. In 1968 the Israeli government decided to develop an improved version of the Mirage 5. One issue was the French Atar 9 engine being low on power and high on fuel consumption.  This along with other issues found with the Mirage 5 aircraft and a need for a dedicated Israeli fighter, spawned the development of the Kfir.

The Kfir entered service with the IAF in 1975, the first units being assigned to the 101st “First Fighter” Squadron. Over the following years, several other squadrons were also equipped with the new aircraft. The role of the Kfir as the IAF’s primary air superiority asset was short-lived, as the first F-15 Eagle fighters from the United States were delivered to Israel in 1976.

The Kfir’s first recorded combat action took place on November 9, 1977, during an Israeli air strike on a training camp at Tel Azia, in Lebanon. The only air victory claimed by a Kfir during its service with the IAF occurred on June 27, 1979 when a Kfir C.2 shot down a Syrian MiG-21.

As a result of a trade agreement between Colombia and Israel in 1989 the Colombian government bought a batch of twelve ex-IAF Kfir C.2s and one TC.2, which were delivered to the Colombian Air Force (FAC) in 1989-1990. Since then, all the C.2s have been upgraded to the C.7 variant. The FAC Kfirs have been widely used in ground-attack missions during counter-insurgency operations against Colombian terrorists. Colombian Kfirs are armed with Python 3 IR-homing AAMs. As of 2004 two aircraft had been lost in accidents.

In February 2008 Colombia signed a deal with the Israeli government for additional 24 ex-IAF Kfir aircraft. It was estimated that these aircraft will most probably be upgraded by Israel Aerospace Industries to C.10 standards.

In June 2009, IAI delivered the first batch of upgraded Kfir fighter jets to the Colombian Air Force in a ceremony held at IAI’s facilities in Israel. In attendance at the ceremony was Juan Hurtado Cano, the Colombian Ambassador to Israel, high-ranking officers from the Colombian Air Force, and executives from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD-SIBAT). This was a part of a multi-year contract awarded in late 2007 and worth over $150 million to upgrade the existing Colombian Air Force Kfir jets, and to supply additional jets. The additional Kfir jets, models C.10-C.12, have been upgraded and improved to include IAI’s latest technologies and products.


KFIR general Specifications

Crew: One

Length: 15.65 m (51 ft 4¼ in)

Wingspan: 8.22 m (26 ft 11½ in)

Height: 4.55 m (14 ft 11¼ in)

Wing area: 34.8 m² (374.6 sq ft)

Empty weight: 7,285 kg (16,060 lb)

Loaded weight: 11,603 kg (25,580 lb) two 500 L drop tanks, two AAMs

Max. takeoff weight: 16,200 kg (35,715 lb)

Powerplant: 1 × IAl Bedek-built General Electric J-79-J1E turbojet

Dry thrust: 52.9 kN (11,890 lb st)

Thrust with afterburner: 79.62 kN (17,900 lb st)


Maximum speed: 2,440 km/h (1,317 knots, 1,516 mph) above 11,000 m (36,000 ft)

Combat radius: 768 km (415 nmi, 477 mi) (ground attack, hi-lo-hi profile, seven 500 lb bombs, two AAMs, two 1,300 L drop tanks)

Service ceiling: 17,680 m (58,000 ft)

Rate of climb: 233 m/s (45,950 ft/min)


Guns: 2× Rafael-built 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 553 cannons, 140 rounds/gun

Rockets: assortment of unguided air-to-ground rockets including the Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack, each with 19× SNEB 68 mm rockets and 66 US gallons (250 liters) of fuel

Missiles: 2× AIM-9 Sidewinders or Shafrir or Python-series AAMs; 2× Shrike ARMs; 2× AGM-65 Maverick ASMs

Bombs: 5,775 kg (12,730 lb) of payload on nine external hardpoints, including bombs such as the Mark 80 series, Paveway series of LGBs, Griffin LGBs, TAL-1 OR TAL-2 CBUs, BLU-107 Matra Durandal, reconnaissance pods or Drop tanks.


Photos by Joe Kates

Joe Kates

Joe Kates is the founder of Photorecon. Joe has been into aviation since he was a child and has a incredible amount of knowledge to do with planes or aviation in general. Today Joe is the owner and Managing Editor of Photorecon.

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