Indonesia closes in on possible Rafale acquisition

Dassault Rafale -- Dassault Aviation

Indonesia is “very well advanced” in its effort to secure a deal for 36 Dassault Rafale multirole combat aircraft, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said on televised news following a visit by her Indonesian counterpart Prabowo Subianto.

Local media earlier reported that Prabowo, then on a trip to Europe and the US to shore up defence relations and western suppliers, had expressed interest in a firm deal by the end of 2020. Indonesia also indicated an interest in procuring Scorpène-class submarines.

The latest revelation follows a July memo from Prabowo that sought to initiate negotiations with Austria to procure all 15 Tranche 1 Typhoon combat aircraft operated by the Austrian Air Force. Indonesian media has since reported that technical discussions are underway between the two countries.

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

The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) had planned to deploy the Su-35s to replace its fleet of ageing Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighter aircraft. The TNI-AU also 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).

France had in 2015 pledged to transfer technologies to Indonesia to enable local involvement in the production of the Rafale if selected for Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU).

Then French ambassador to Indonesia Corinne Breuzé promised collaboration between Rafale manufacturer Dassault and Indonesia’s state-owned aerospace company PT Dirgantara (PTDI) following two days of Rafale demonstrations at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in east Jakarta in March 2015.

Indonesia has also been linked to an offer for up to eight Bell-Boeing MV-22 Block-C Osprey aircraft worth US$2 billion, with the US State Department announcing in July 2020 that Jakarta had been cleared for a potential acquisition of the tilt-rotor platforms. However, the Indonesian defence ministry reportedly denied making such a request.

by Jr Ng