Indonesia reveals surprise Austrian Typhoon interest

Eurofighter Typhoon - Airbus
Eurofighter Typhoon jet.

Indonesia’s ongoing bid to procure new combat aircraft has taken a twist with its apparent interest in acquiring Austria’s fleet of soon-to-be-retired Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

The latest revelation comes amid uncertainty over its earlier plan of acquiring up to 11 Russian-made Su-35 ‘Flanker-E’ multirole combat aircraft, which has reportedly collapsed due to the threat of economic sanctions under the United States’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

Indonesian Defence

In a 10 July letter, Indonesian defence minister Prabowo Subianto addressed his Austrian counterpart, Klaudia Tanner, seeking to initiate negotiations to procure all 15 Typhoons aircraft operated by the Austrian Air Force. The service employs the earlier Tranche 1 Typhoons configured for air defence missions with the Mauser BK27 27 mm cannon and IRIS-T infrared-guided short-range air-to-air missiles.

Prabowo said in his correspondence, which was widely circulated on social media and published by Indonesian news outlets, that the potential purchase will aid his efforts to modernise the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU).

“I am fully informed concerning the Eurofighter topic and the impact it had until today in Austria, and I am entirely aware of the sensitivity of that matter,” he wrote. “Nonetheless, I am sure that my proposal offers a promising change for both sides.”

Austria’s acquisition of the Eurofighter Typhoon in 2002 had been marred by controversy over the cost-effectiveness and capabilities of the aircraft, with allegations of corruption linked to the original contract award emerging more recently. These led to a decision in 2017 to phase out the aircraft from 2020 in favour of a more suitable platform for the country’s air defence requirements.

Indonesian Air Force

The TNI-AU operates a mix of Russian Sukhoi Su-27SK/SMK and Su-30MK2/MKK as well as the US-made Lockheed Martin F-16A/B/C/Ds, with the A/B models now undergoing an enhanced mid-life upgrade (MLU).

Indonesia earlier planned to acquire the Su-35 and entered into a provisional agreement with Russian exporter Rosoboronexport in February 2018 but concerns over potential US sanctions had apparently scuppered the deal, leaving the US$1.14 billion deal mired in uncertainty.

Negotiations for the Russian jets ended in 2018, but Indonesia had been reticent to sign the $1.14 billion contract, reportedly over fears that it may be subject to American sanctions.

The latest development follows a 6 July announcement by the US State Department that cleared Indonesia to acquire up to eight Bell-Boeing MV-22 Block-C Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft worth US$2 billion, although the Indonesian defence ministry has since reportedly denied making such a request.

by Jr Ng