BOGOTA, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Colombia is ratcheting up its war on sea-faring drug traffickers and has invested in German submarines and marine craft in a boost to its navy.
Sea-borne narcotics cargo bound for North America is a growing problem in Central and South America as organized and well-resourced drug gangs deploy submersible craft and other sea-borne vessels to transport contraband.
Mexico's crackdown on drug cartels led to organized drug gangs spilling over in the Caribbean, Central and South America, a threat Colombia wants to confront head-on.
New Colombian defense purchases include vessels for a gradual modernization of the navy, increasingly in the frontline of attack on drug cartels. A wide variety of equipment is on order from France, Germany, Israel and Russia in addition to U.S. defense aid under bilateral anti-drug support programs.
Several lines of new expenditure are aimed at modernizing the military, El Tiempo newspaper reported.
Two existing U209/1200 Class submarines, ARC Pijao and ARC Tayrona, are being modernized at the state-owned ship at Cartagena. These will be joined by another two German U206A submarines that generated interest in Thailand and other countries that originally planned to buy them.
The U206s are critical to Colombia's fight against the drug gangs' semi-submersible vessels.
There was industry speculation that Colombia is exploring supplies from former Soviet bloc shipbuilders including Poland, Romania and the Ukraine, mostly out of the need to secure compatible equipment at competitive prices.
An estimated 60 fast patrol boats are on order from France and Germany and the local manufacture of the Israeli-designed Galil rifles is set to continue to equip all three armed forces, Defense Industry Daily said.
The pattern adopted by Colombia in its naval acquisition program isn't much different from the diversity of sources accessed by Bogota for modernizing the air force, which ordered 25 Brazil-made Super Tucano counterinsurgency aircraft followed by 15 UH-60L Black Hawks, five Russian Mi-17s, 12 Bell 212 Rapaz helicopter gunships, plus various unmanned aircraft from different sources.
Israel Aerospace Industries earlier supplied Colombia with upgraded C10-C12 Kfir fighter jets and is also helping Colombian armed forces with conversion of various aircraft airborne fuel tankers.
A Boeing KC-767 aircraft was targeted for conversion by the IAI for Colombia's air force. The KC-767 is a military aerial refueling and strategic transport aircraft developed from the Boeing 767-200ER.