According to budgetary documentation published by Colombian government, the Defence Budget for 2016 was some 28.92 trillion Colombian Pesos (COP) (approximately 9.95 billion US dollars), while in contrast the 2000 defence expenditure amounted to merely 12.7 trillion COP (approximately 4.37 billion US dollars).

Throughout particularly the last decade, the Colombian defence industry has worked hard to develop new competitive products and innovative technology and has managed to quite effectively cater for the low level (or complexity) defence needs of the country’s armed forces. However, when it comes to the procurement of advanced technology defence equipment, the country is largely dependent on foreign suppliers.  

Colombia in recent years is attempting to further enhance local defence capabilities, through the implementation of a targeted offset policy, the main goals of which are the strengthening of strategic sectors, the self-sufficiency in the life cycle of purchased equipment and the acquisition of new technologies and knowledge that will subsequently be an essential component for the growth of the local aerospace and defence industry.   

One of the pillars Colombia relies on for the development of the local defence industry, is the Grupo Social Empresarial de Defensa – GSED (i.e. the Defense Business and Social Group). GSED, is formed by 18 entities some of which are the most prestigious and recognized defence entities in Colombia and a part of the Ministry of National Defence. These entities provide among others, a wide range of educational, logistical and recreation services, while they also develop equipment and components for military and civilian use. Four of the GSED companies, namely INDUMIL, CODALTEC, CIAC and COTECMAR, generated in 2015 revenues of approximately 2.9 billion COP (about 1 million US dollars). Further, these companies in the same year achieved exports of defence equipment, of the order of 9.8 million US dollars.

The Colombian Aerospace and Defence (A&D) industry has demonstrated the existence of substantial capabilities, in several related domains. One predominant such is that of aerospace, as currently there are several indigenous companies active in this field. Two such companies are CALDAS AERONAUTICA and AERODYNOS DE COLOMBIA S.A., that design and develop complete aircraft, related parts and accessories, for general aviation use. Other companies, such as AEROCONTROL LTDA. offer inspection services, including by Non Destructive Testing (NDT) techniques, while companies such as INTEGRATED ENGINEERING SERVICES (IES), AEROESTRUCTURAS DE COLOMBIA LTDA. and AEROELECTRONICA LTDA. specialise in aircraft customisation works and the maintenance, repair and inspection of aircraft mixed structures and composite materials.
Further, there are important aerospace associations in the country, such as the Cauca Valley Aerospace Cluster (CVAC), which exhibits strength and potential, the Association of Aerospace Industries of Colombia (ANAIRE), which consists of the five main general aviation aircraft manufacturers of the country and the Colombian Association of Aerospace Producers (ACOPAER), which was founded in June 2011.

On the other hand, several Colombian companies provide services and/or products for the naval sector. The Corporación de Ciencia y Tecnología para el Desarrollo de la Industria Naval Marítima y Fluvial (COTECMAR), the main shipyard of the country, mainly focuses on the design, construction, maintenance and repair of naval ships and artifacts. COTECMAR’s philosophy is to build upon relationships with local universities, in order to prioritise the investigation, development, and application of new/innovative technologies in its products.

Another Colombian company active in this sector, is AB INFLATABLES that is renowned as a high quality rigid inflatable boat brand, which exports its products to the US and various countries in the Caribbean and in Europe. GUSTAVO MARQUEZ A Y CIA - DOBLACO, is a Colombian company with over 32 years of experience in the design, manufacture and assembly of all types of metal structures, designed to meet the needs of sectors such as: Naval, Industrial, Commercial, Electrical, Telecommunications, Oil, Agricultural, Construction, Agro-industry and others. The company develops and manufactures several types of special-purpose boats and vessels, specializing in fluvial applications.

Moreover, the Colombian A&D industry has demonstrated significant capabilities in the domain of Modelling, Training and Simulation. It is indicative that several companies of this sector, such as KIRVIT LTDA and MULTIMEDIA SERVICE S.A. have delivered related integrated products or solutions, in high-tech areas such as civil/military aviation, banking, public transportation systems, defence, industry and education. Furthermore, the Corporación De Alta Tecnología (CODALTEC), a public entity founded in 2012 by the Ministry of National Defence, the Provincial Government of Meta and the Municipality of Villavicencio, develops advanced simulators (e.g. for weapons firing, armoured vehicles driving, UAV/aircraft navigation, etc) and radars/sensors for the nation’s armed forces, as a mean to ensure comprehensive training and technological independence, in many cases through the participation in joint projects with major multinational defence companies.

The Colombian A&D industry also has the capacity to provide solutions for the communications domain. It is indicative that a variety of new and innovative products/applications and services in this direction have been or are currently being developed by a number of Colombian companies. For example, DITELCOM LTDA. is developing a Digital Trunk Radio System, the main characteristic of which is that all available radio channels are dynamically “pooled”, so that all radio user groups have access to all available channels. The radio user simply calls a group of radios and the Trunk System automatically assigns any free channel on which the conversation can take place. When the conversation ends, the channel is released for other users.

Another sector in which the Colombian A&D industry is particularly strong, is that of ballistic protection, supplying a large range of products and related services, from helmets, shields and body armour, to ballistic protection services for vehicles (including cars, vans and trucks, both military and civilian), aircraft/helicopters, trains and even ships/vessels. Characteristically, the company MIGUEL CABALLERO, exports some 85% of its annual production, to 64 different countries around the world, through its 21 official distributors and corporate offices, strategically located in Central America, South America, the United States, Africa, Asia and Europe. Further in this domain, the company CASHERY has performed successful field scientific tests for advanced anti-mine boots, with the support of the Escuela de Ingenieros Militares del Ejército Nacional de Colombia (School of Military Engineers of the National Army of Colombia), the Hospital Militar Central - Dirección de Cirugía Vascular y Angiología (Central Military Hospital – Directorate of Vascular Surgery and Angiology) and the Colombian Air Force. After the end of each destructive test, the Hospital Militar issued a report and their respective recommendations were taken into account in the iterative process of improving their anti-mine boots’ design.

Finally, when it comes to the space sector, a special reference should be made to SEQUOIA SPACE, one of the few companies in Colombia dedicated to developing, producing and commercializing technology for space missions, involving small satellites. In recent times, the company has been working on a related mission of the space programme of Peru and three different ones for the space programme of Colombia. Additionally, SEQUOIA SPACE has provided in the past an integrated telecommunications platform, comprising of a UHF-VHF transceiver, a complete kit of solar panels, a set of antennas, a passive Attitude and Control System, and an antenna-deployable system, for a satellite launched into orbit by the US space agency NASA.