Indonesia inches closer to potential Rafale acquisition, reiterates interest in F-15EX

A positive court decision in December 2018 looks set to open the way for the Indian Air Force's to get its 36 Dassault Rafale fighters.

The Indonesian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has advanced plans to acquire up to 36 French-made Dassault Aviation Rafale multirole combat aircrafts, defence minister Prabowo Subianto told reporters at the MoD’s 2022 annual leadership meeting held on 20 January.

“The Rafale is a bit advanced, our [plans for] F-15 (F-15EX) is still in the negotiation stage,” said Prabowo, noting that negotiations for the Rafale – which are intended to address the capability gap by the retirement of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU)’s Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fleet – have been completed, and that the programme is now “awaiting activation”.

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

France had in 2015 pledged to transfer technologies to Indonesia to enable local involvement in the production of the Rafale if selected for the 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. However, the lack of funding arrangements at that time meant that the ambition did not come to fruition.

Besides the longstanding interest to acquire the Rafale fighters, Prabowo also told reporters that the MoD is still in negotiations for a possible procurement of the latest Boeing F-15EX strike fighters.

Indonesia is also the only foreign partner in South Korea’s Korean Fighter eXperimental (KF-X) twin-engine 4.5-generation fight development programme and had earlier committed to paying 20 percent of total development costs, although it had reportedly fallen behind on payments and had to renegotiate its position to include paying some of its contributions in ‘non-monetary’ form such as natural resources or other types of commodities.

Now officially named KF-21 Boramae (Hawk), a prototype was unveiled in a ceremony held at Korea Aerospace Industries facility on 9 April 2021. The event was attended by Prabowo and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

The TNI-AU currently operates a mix of aircraft types, including the 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 having undergone an enhanced mid-life upgrade (MLU).

by Jr Ng