The final tranche of 18 Rafale fighters for the Republic of Indonesia officially entered into force on January 8, 2024, after the first payment for the last batch was made.
This marks the culmination of a multi-stage acquisition, with a contract signed in February 2022 between Indonesia and Dassault Aviation for the acquisition of 42 Rafale fighters in total. The initial tranches of the fighter jets, comprising six and 18 units, entered into force in September 2022 and August 2023, respectively.
“In choosing the Rafale, Indonesia has opted for a unique tool for sovereignty and operational independence that will help consolidate its role as a major regional power,” said Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. “This choice also consolidates ambitious industrial and academic cooperations. We are fully committed to making this partnership a success, with a resolutely long-term vision.”
Shifting diplomatic balance in Southeast Asia?
The decision to order French aircraft followed the failed acquisition of 11 Russian Su-35 Flanker E fighters. Initiated in 2018, negotiations with Russia fell through over financing conditions. The acquisition of Russian fighter jets could have also muddied the relationship with the United States, an important trade partner for Indonesia.
Initially considering Lockheed Martin’s F-35A fifth-generation stealth fighter as an alternative, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto faced another setback when the United States declined the proposal on November 2, 2020. The rejection was based on the extended timeline required to fulfill the order, pushing Subianto to explore other options. The F-16 Viper and the F/A-18 Super Hornet were offered as alternatives, but Indonesia reportedly turned down the counteroffer.
This turn of events led Indonesia to forge a new path, ultimately deciding to invest in the French Rafale. This ‘third-way’ acquisition reinforced Indonesia’s declared neutral stance in the ongoing contest for influence between China and the United States in Southeast Asia.
However, this professed position of neutrality took an abrupt deviation on August 21, 2023, when Boeing announced that it had reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Indonesia for the purchase of up to 24 F-15EX fighter jets. The deal is currently awaiting approval from the US government.
Indonesia postpones acquisition of interim Mirage fleet from Qatar
In November 2022, the Indonesian Ministry of Finance approved plans to seek up to $3.9 billion in foreign loans to procure 12 Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets from Qatar as an interim measure while awaiting the delivery of the Rafale jets ordered directly from Dassault Aviation. The 2000-5 is an air superiority variant of the aircraft developed by Dassault Aviation in the 1970s.
According to the Indonesian Minister of Defense, Prabowo Subianto, the Qatari Mirage fleet still possessed approximately 70% of their total flight hours. However, the plan was criticized by the country’s opposition, highlighting the lack of long-term availability of spare parts, maintenance, and repairs for the Mirage 2000, with a support service guarantee only limited to three years according to the agreed contract.
On January 5, 2024, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, spokesperson for the country’s defense minister, revealed that the plan had been delayed by the government due to fiscal limitations.
“The Ministry of Defense’s intended acquisition of the Mirage 2000, originally slated for immediate purchase as per the government’s plan, has been postponed for the time being,” Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak told local channel TV One. “What are we doing to fill the interim vacancy? We are retrofitting the existing fleet, such as the F-16 and Sukhoi.”
The Indonesian Air Force currently maintains a fleet comprising roughly 50 F-16 A/Bs and C/Ds, alongside approximately 10 Russian Su-27SKM and Su-30 fighters.
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