More and more foreign operators are transitioning to the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II, for good reasons. It is the standard basic pilot training aircraft in the U.S. military, being adopted for Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) by the U.S. Air Force and Naval Flight School by the Navy (which also serves as primary flight training for the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard). This amounts to several hundred units spread across several bases and air stations.
It makes sense that foreign operators would follow suit. The U.S. is the largest exporter of military arms. We supply combat aircraft to dozens of countries, but we provide pilot training to citizens of most of our allies. They use our training and the aircraft we train in. Our allies can use the aircraft we use for pilot training and will have a robust supply of parts and established maintenance practices and procedures.
At Greenwood Aerospace, we know what it takes to keep flight programs operating smoothly and on time at all times. From parts procurement to ground support equipment, our more than 40 years of experience in the aerospace industry have made us a trusted supplier to major defense contractors, the majority of government agencies, and all branches of the U.S. military. We offer all of our customers such expert services as:
- Aviation logistics
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- Aircraft sustainment
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Now, let’s take a closer look at what it means for the Colombian Air Force to be buying more T-6 Texan IIs, as we cover:
- A brief history of the Colombian Air Force
- The Colombian fleet of Texan IIs
- Basic specs of the T-6 Texan II
- Supply chain concerns for foreign military sales
- What Greenwood Aerospace offers through expert aircraft sustainment
First, a bit of background on the Colombian Air Force:
A Brief History of the Colombian Air Force
Shortly after World War I, Colombia organized a military aviation school to begin training an air force for the Colombian Army. In order to ascertain the knowledge and skills of world class air forces, two factions of Colombian Army officers were sent overseas to study and train in the new school of combat aircraft technology and tactics.
By December 31, 1919, the Colombian National Army Aviation was officially authorized by then President, Marco Fidel Suarez.
Primary aircraft operated throughout the history of the Colombian Air Force range from the earliest days of the Caudron G.3 E-2 to modern iterations of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks. The Colombian National Army Aviation has just begun shifting from its reliance on A-29s to more mission-ready craft for training and combat purposes in the Texan II (as discussed later), but these are only a small part of the Colombian Air Force inventory. Other craft include:
- Cessna A-37 Tweet
- IAI Kfir
- Beechcraft Super King Air
- Cessna Citation V (S-560)
- Lockheed C-130 Hercules
- Bell 212 Twin Huey
- Bell UH-1 Iroquois
The evolution of aircraft flown by the Colombian Air Force illustrates their history of partnerships with nations such as the U.S. and Britain. During World War II, German forces sank a Colombian schooner, Resolute, a ship that had been instrumental in the rescue of capsized Marine and British Royal Navy soldiers just days earlier. In response, Allied forces provided resources to patrol the coast of Colombia with the help of fighter and reconnaissance squadrons, namely, the F-8 Falcon.
Other key dates in the launch and growth of the Colombian Air Force include:
- 1924: Colombia’s School of Military Aviation reopens after a brief closure due to financial hardships
- 1932: War with Peru breaks out after the invasion of Leticia, a town in the Colombian Amazon; Colombia’s Congress bolsters financial support to the Air Force to purchase more aircraft
- 1941: President Eduardo Santos declares a diplomatic breach with the Axis powers of WWII following the attack on Pearl Harbor, aligning Colombia with the U.S. during the war
- 1954: The first helicopters arrive in Colombia for military use, leading to the creation of its first helicopter base, Base Aerea “Capitan Luis F. Gomez Nino”
- 1979: Colombian Air Force expansion begins, with the purchase and delivery of A-37 Tweets and IAI Kfir fighters, enabling aviation missions and patrol to extend further across the country
- 1999: “Plan Colombia” is enacted to shift focus away from aircraft procurement to technological enhancements
- 2015: The Colombian Air Force becomes a key factor in drug trafficking deterrence, most notably in an incident involving a Hawker 800 transporting over one ton of cocaine being shot down
A crucial step in the advancements of the Colombian Air Force is its evolving inventory of aircraft, an inventory that is still in the procurement process. Let’s explore the current status of the Colombian Air Force, along with where it’s headed in the near future.
The Colombian Fleet of Texans
The Colombian military has been a firm ally of the United States in South America for several decades, probably never at a higher point than during the capture of Pablo Escobar through a coalition of the Colombian National Police and the DEA. The U.S. has long been a major supplier of military assets to Colombia. And, Colombia spent a considerable portion of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defense spending, 3.7% in 2008 (the last reported figure).
The Colombian Air Force has dedicated much of their activity towards drug trafficking deterrence, with a robust fleet of Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos. This is actually a shrewd logistical move by the Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (Colombian Air Force) because the Super Tucano uses the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68 engine, which is the same engine as the T-6 Texan II. The airframe components may differ, but the engine is identical, slashing logistical headaches; a common supply of parts eases many hassles.
Operationally, pilots will find the transition far simpler, moving from the T-6 to the A-29 because all the engine parameters are identical. Emergency procedures involving the engine will be common; moreover, maintainers can work seamlessly between the two aircraft.
In this section, we take a closer look at the logistics and operations of the Colombian Air Force, covering:
- The most up-to-date count of Colombia’s T-6 Fleet
- Upgrades over the outdated fleet of T-37 Tweets
- Eventual transitions from the Texan II to the A-29
- The next generation of fighter jet in the Colombian Air Force
Let’s explore the current roster of T-6s in Colombia.
Colombian Air Force T-6s: Total Count of 24
The Colombian military has thus far received six T-6 trainers, according to Defense News. The total order has 18 remaining aircraft, which will be delivered in the following years, although the timeline is not known for the full delivery. A total of 24 trainers is a substantial investment for a country with about 300,000 total military personnel, although it is fairly large at over 50 million people. They are posturing for a powerful presence in the region, although there is more to the story than this.
The Texans on order are the Charlie models, a dual-purpose trainer who can perform light attack. They will probably press the Texans into ground-attack roles during their time in the Colombian Air Force.
These aircraft are equipped with the necessary specifications to carry out military action as well as drug deterrence efforts. These specs include:
- 586 km/h Max Speed
- 1,667 km Max Range
- 6,950 lb Max Weight
- 1,200 lb Max Fuel
- 33’5” Wingspan
- 33’4” Length
- 4-blade Hartzell Propeller
- Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-68 Turboprop Engine
Replacing an Ancient Fleet of Tweets
Like the U.S. Air Force, the Colombian Air Force is updating its fleet of primary trainers. The Colombian Air Force has been operating a fleet of Cessna T-37 Tweets since 1969, which makes 54 years of continuous use. Half a century of service by any airplane in any service is impressive, but 54 years as a primary trainer, subjected to constant spins, acrobatics, and high humidity? That is an incredible testament to the heartiness of the Tweet.
But, the Tweet also had a common thread with the Texan: ground attack. The Colombian Air Force has also operated a fleet of A-37 Dragonflies, the up-armored, armed, close air support (CAS) version of the Tweet. Colombia still operates a handful of the airframes, with the last count being around seven, although they have been working to acquire other aircraft from neighboring nations.
But, the signs are clear: the Dragonfly’s days are numbered. Like the Tweet, it is getting old. Beyond age, a turboprop single can do the same job with a better avionic suite while using half the fuel. And, more than that, parts for the aging and inefficient J85 turbojet engines will eventually dry up. Conversely, PT6 parts are not likely to be in short supply, with over fifty thousand units produced.
A Great Transition to the A-29
We already covered the bright future of the T-6 Texan II, but the Texan does present a natural pathway from primary training into the pilot’s seat of an A-29. The aircraft are remarkably similar and have comparable performance envelopes and identical engines. This similar transition leaves more time and mental space on the table for learning ground attack tactics instead of learning a whole new aircraft and aircraft type. Logistically speaking, the T-6 is a good transition point for the A-29 because of its common engine. Logisticians can then focus on procuring a reliable supply chain of parts for only one power plant, and repairers only need to learn one engine.
Colombia Is Also In The Market For A New Fighter Jet
Colombia’s entire fleet of military aircraft is getting old, which is why they are investing millions into modern upgrades. Obviously, they are set for several decades if they get the same longevity out of their T-6 Texans and A-29 Super Tucanos. Their current multi-role fighter is the Israeli-made Kfir jets, which are over four decades old. Since they have retired from service over most of the world, there are few reliable sources of military aircraft parts for them. The best course of action remains to retire the Kfirs and replace them with modern aircraft with a robust supply chain.
Right now, the best options on the table for Colombia are:
- French Rafale dual-role fighters
- Lockheed-Martin Block 70 F-16s
- Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripens
Supply Chain Concerns In Foreign Military Sales
Supply chain woes are the fastest way to choke an entire flight operation. Nothing makes your MC rates drop like a stone faster than log-jammed parts. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Government Procurement, operated by Greenwood Aerospace, is your one-stop shop for reliable and timely parts procurement. Whether you manage a U.S. government or military fleet or buy parts for a foreign military sales program, we will source your parts so you don’t have to.
Also, we offer storage solutions for parts.
So you can order parts you don’t have storage capacity for but know you’ll need, and we will issue them upon request. We also provide kitting services for part kits when multiple vendors are involved. Instead of waiting for the parts to trickle in, we will buy them, package them, and ship them as a kit to you. We streamline your maintenance process so you can stay focused on serving the fleet instead of getting stuck trying to source parts. Call us to see what services are the right fit for your fleet!
Contact Greenwood Aerospace Today for Your Aircraft Parts Needs
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