September 27, 2018 / 8:27 PM / 3 months ago

Colombia may purchase new anti-aircraft missiles -sources

BOGOTA, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Colombia is looking into possibly buying a new system of anti-aircraft missiles as part of a bid to modernize its aerial defense, military sources said on Thursday.

Three armed forces sources told Reuters that manufacturers from the United States, France and Israel were in the running to provide the system, which could cost more than $300 million.

President Ivan Duque has pledged to devote most government investment to education, healthcare and food and housing help for the poorest Colombians, but said this week that defense systems must meet the country’s needs.

“The country, without getting into any kind of arms race, must have the resources that its national security requires. Colombia has historically made acquisitions of equipment and we want to make them within the needs of the country, without any bellicose motivations,” Duque told journalists during a trip to New York.

The purchase would be part of a renewal program for Air Force equipment and arms. Despite a 2016 peace agreement with the longtime FARC rebels, Colombia’s military remains at war with the National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels, drug-trafficking crime gangs and dissident FARC who refused to demobilize under the peace deal.

In 2005 Colombia bought 25 Super Tucano A-29B planes from Brazil’s Embraer for $234.5 million, its largest-ever military purchase. At the beginning of 2015 the Andean country added 32 Canadian-made armored vehicles to a unit close to the border with Venezuela, at a cost of $84 million. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by David Gregorio)

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