BOGOTA, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Colombia is aiming to regenerate and develop its defense industries as a potential new revenue base and has clinched new collaboration with South Korea in one of its latest deals toward that goal, official data show.
Colombia is already seen by defense exporters as a major market, expected to spend $99.9 billion on defense equipment in a 2011-16 program to counter both internal and external threats, Australian government data indicates.
However, Colombia's new focus is on becoming a manufacturer and exporter rather than remaining a net importer of defense and security equipment, a constant drain on its national budget resources.
A local defense industry that is viewed abroad as rather low-tech is up for transformation as the government of President Juan Manuel Santos considers new strategies for foreign direct investment and offset programs.
The Colombian government has taken initial steps to develop its domestic defense industry by encouraging direct offsets and technology transfers, an ICD Research report on the sector said.
"The Colombian Defense Sector: Market Opportunity and Entry Strategy, Analyses and Forecasts to 2015" cited instances of developments in the sector.
Amid stiff competition from exporters and limited investment, Colombia's three major defense suppliers have struggled to grow, in sharp contrast to defense industry regeneration programs under way in neighboring Brazil.
Of Colombia's emerging players, Industria Militar makes footwear, uniforms and accessories, Cotecmar maintains and repairs ships and Sudamin A&D S.A. works with the Colombian air force on logistical support.
Close defense ties with U.S. forces have been a constant in the country's military development over the past several decades.
With political stability and economic progress has come increased emphasis on developing the defense sector.
South Korean defense company Lig Nex 1 said it will help Colombia's armed forces develop sonars and radars for the country's defense sector, El Espectador newspaper said.
Lig Nex 1 will work with the Colombian defense industry installations in Villavicencio, central Colombia, to develop projects to design, develop, manufacture, assemble, integrate and test the operation of sensors.
Lig Nex 1 says it is keen to be part of the defense industry growth in Colombia, El Espectador reported.
Colombia recently purchased 16 missiles from Lig Nex 1 for deployment on four of the Colombian navy vessels.
An Australian defense brief for exporters said the Colombian military's extensive modernization would lead to the increased procurement of military hardware, including aircraft, armored vehicles and small arms.
Defense and security training and counter measures against cyber warfare are among areas ripe for development in Colombia, the brief indicated.