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Indonesian Air Force Modernization - Fighter

When Indonesia could not get spare parts for its F-16 fighter squadrons, which were acquired when the U.S. still supported Indonesia against the Communists, Russia offered their Sukhoi Su-30Ki to replace the F-16s in the Indonesian inventory. Despite the acquisition and training costs associated with transitioning to a new aircraft, the TNI had to accept the change in order to maintain an operational air force.

Indonesian Armed Forces Commander Air Marshal Djoko Suyanto said in 2007 that the country needed at least one squadron equipped with 16 Sukhoi fighters to replace part of the outdated fleet of US F-16 fighters. Under a $300 million contract, signed in 2007, Russia was to supply three Su-30MK2 and three Su-27SKM fighters to Jakarta. Under the contract, two Su-27SK jets must be delivered by the end of 2009. One more fighter was delivered in 2010. Russia delivered the last of six contracted Su fighter jets to Indonesia in 2010. On 17 September 2010 Indonesia's Air Force chief of staff Marshal Imam Sufaat said his country planned to buy six more Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia. He said the purchase would be on the Defense Ministry's long-term agenda, but was not sure when the plan would be implemented. "The existing squadron of Sukhois remains insufficient to give a deterrent effect given our vast territory," Imam told the Antara news agency.

Defense Minister Purnomo stated in 2010 that Indonesia would be interested in buying up to 180 Sukhoi fighters, a somewhat unfeasible number given the fact that it took almost a decade for Indonesia to procure the ten Sukhoi fighters it currently operated.

Asian Military Review reported in 2012 that "Indonesia is targeting some 180 combat aircraft by 2024 as its MEF goal though it is unlikely that such a number will be reached though Indonesia has initiated efforts that will allow it to reach half that target number." However, a review of projected combat aircraft acquisition plans suggest that it might be a close call, with a total of 150 combat aircraft plausibly in service by 2025.

In July 2010 Pakistan Defense Minister Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar offered his Indonesian counterpart the latest jet fighter called the JF-17 during his visit to Jakarta. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro responded to the offer, saying that further discussion would be conducted in October. We will see it first before we decide if we have an interest in purchasing the aircraft, Purnomo said.

T-50 Golden Eagle

In early 2011 it was reported that Indonesia had decided to purchase a squadron of 16 South Korean-made supersonic T-50 Golden Eagle trainer jets (The Jakarta Post, 14 April 2011). The $400 million deal with Indonesia would see Korea sell 16 T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jets, jointly built by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin of the United States. But this deal apparently was not concluded. Indonesia wanted to exchange its medium transport CN-235 airplanes with South Korean T-50 Golden Eagle jet trainers in an attempt to promote local products overseas and boost cooperation between the two countries. The Republic of Koreas Air Force (ROKAF) purchased 20 CN-235 aircraft, 12 of which were built by CASA in Spain and the remaining eight by Dirgantara Indonesia.

On 09 September 2011 Indonesia and South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen defense bilateral cooperation. Indonesia is also exploring possibilities to buy T-50 jet fighters from South Korea, while South Korea to buy CN-235 from Indonesia. South Korean Minister Kim Kwan-jin was scheduled to speak in a seminar on defense industry at the Indonesian defense ministry office. Indonesia was expected to pick South Korea as the preferred negotiator for its planned purchase of an advanced trainer jet. It would mark a major breakthrough in Seoul`s efforts to export the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet.

Two Indonesian pilots of T-50 supersonic trainer jets, which the KAI had built, fell to their death during an airshow in December 2015. T-50i Golden Eagle fell and shattered near the Air Force Academy (AAU) Yogyakarta at 9:53 am, Sunday (20/12) morning. The plane was carrying out aerobatic maneuvers. The Indonesian government said at that time that the aircraft were brand new and the pilots were veterans, claiming that the reason for the fall should be found out along with KAI to be involved in the investigation. The KAI sold 16 T-50 trainer jets to the East Asian country and completed their deployment there in 2014. The trainer jets also crashed two times in South Korea and have killed three pilots, too, since its first deployment in 2005.

KFX / IF-X (Korea/Indonesia Fighter jet Experimental)

Indonesia and South Korea talked about the possibilities of producing KFX / IF-X (Korea/Indonesia Fighter jet Experimental) fighters. The KFX project was forged in 2009 when Purnomo and his South Korean counterparts signed a memorandum of understanding during current South Korean President Lee Myung-baks visit to Indonesia in 2009. Indonesia has taken a huge gamble in a deal with South Korea to manufacture a new type of fighter plane, with a real risk that the project could end in disaster. The initial stage of the deal was estimated to cost $8 billion, with Indonesia required to shoulder 20 percent of the cost, or around $1.6 billion. The rest would be financed by South Korea. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said in July 2011 that the planes were expected to be ready by 2020, with Indonesia set to buy 50 of an estimated 200 units expected to be produced under the KFX project.

The partners agreed to produce approximately 150-200 aircraft, of which Indonesia would get 50, sufficient to equip three combat squadrons. Jakarta expected the first KF-X to be ready by 2018. The government had so far earmarked around Rp 1.35 trillion ($158 million) for the project to be released during the next four years as the project entered its production phase. The first phase would cover 18 months of technical development through 2013, after which five prototypes were expected to be built four on South Korean soil and one in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Air Force had initially indicated it was interested in the Russia-India PAK-FA multirole fighter. Later it joined South Korea as a junior partner to jointly develop the Korean Fighter-Experimental (KFX). But things havent worked out as planned.

Like every ongoing stealth fighter in the world today, the costly KFX project has hit turbulence. According to Forbes magazine, the US doesnt trust the South Koreans with four core technologies needed for the project. It adds: The Koreans have professed bitter disappointment over the refusal of the US to entrust its ally with the highest-tech stuff they say is needed for the KFX not only to have stealth capabilities but to be able to find and track hostile targets with the latest state-of-the-art radar.

Sukhoi Su-30MK2

On 30 December 2011 Indonesia signed a $470 million contract with Russia to buy six Sukhoi Su-30MK2 jet fighters for the Indonesian Air Force, boosting the total to 16. The government was reported to have allocated $470 million to buy the planes even though the price was initially announced at $328.8 million. The Jakarta Post daily reported the deal on 10 January 2011. Deliveries will start after 2013. Indonesian Deputy Minister of Defense Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said his office had handed over the contract to Rosoboronexport. We have another contract still in progress, Sjafrie said.

At that time the Indonesian Air Force had 10 Sukhoi jetfighters - six Sukhoi SU-27SKMs and four Sukhoi SU-30MK2s. The Air Force planned to place one squadron of the jet fighters at Hasanuddin Airbase in Makassar. Russia had recently completed a $300-million contract signed in 2007 on the delivery of three Su-30MK2 and three Su-27SKM fighters to Jakarta in addition to two Su-27SK and two Su-30MK fighters purchased in 2003. The official handover ceremony for the last three Su-30MK fighters, delivered by Russia as part of an agreement from 2007, was held at the Sultan Hasanuddin airbase in the South Sulawesi province of Indonesia on 27 September 2010.

The Indonesian National Air Force (TNI AU) will strive to achieve one of its targets by providing 16 Sukhoi fighter planes for Air Squadron 11 Wing 5 of Sultan Hasanuddin Airbase in 2013, in order to modernize TNI AU defense system primary equipment (alutsista). According to planning, this procurement of fighter planes shall be completed in 2014. However, exclusively for Air Squadron 11, since its defense system primary equipment is Sukhoi fighter planes, we encourage the accelerated completion of Sukhoi procurement processes in 2013. Conclusively, for our preparation, in 2014 the squadron will be fully equipped with 16 units of Sukhoi fighter planes, all of them being ready to fly, Vice Minister of Defense Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said 18 April 2013 while observing Air Squadron 11 Wing 5 of Sultan Hasanuddin Airbase, Makassar, South Sulawesi.

The Vice Minister of Defense explained that with the arrival of 2 units of Sukhoi MU Su-30MK2 fighter planes in February 2013, up to now TNI AU already had 12 units of Sukhoi Su-27 SKM and Su-30 MK2 jet fighter planes manufactured by Russian aircraft industry, Konsomolsk-Na Amure Aircraft Production Association (KNAPO). TNI AU was still awaiting the remaining 4 other fighter planes of the last 6 ones which Indonesia has ordered from Russian manufacturers. The remaining 4 other fighter planes were expected to arrive in June 2013, so that Air Squadron 11 would be fully equipped with 16 units of fighter planes.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Reports in 2011 suggested that Britain and Indonesia were negotiating the sale of 24 Eurofighter Typhoons in a $2 billion deal. When British Prime Minister David Cameron visited Jakarta 11 April 2012, the sale of arms was high on the agenda. The British prime minister, who was seeing sluggish economic growth at home, was traveling with an entourage of 30 business delegates during his five-day trip to Asia. As China increased its defense spending and India emerges as the worlds largest importer of arms, Southeast Asias largest economy is heading in the same direction. Indonesia, the worlds fourth most populous country, has launched an ambitious plan to modernize its under-equipped military and defense industry. Hoping to capitalize on strong economic growth and ballooning defense budgets in the region, Prime Minister David Cameron told local media that Britain produces some of the best defense equipment in the world.

The European consortium making the Typhoon heavy jet fighter proposed on 17 April 2015 the possibility of moving a final assembly line from Spain to Indonesia, should Indonesia pick its jet fighter to modernize the Indonesian Air Force fleet. What we bring to Indonesia is not just reliable protection for the nation, but the opportunity to build and maintain a genuine indigenous capability on the back of a proven partnership and all that goes with it, said Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH export director Joe Parker.

Sukhoi Su-35 (Flanker-E)

The Indonesian militarys weakness was exposed most glaringly during the East Timor crisis. In 1999 it could only watch from the sidelines as a contingent of largely Australian troops prised East Timor from Indonesian control. That it happened under a UN mandate did nothing to lessen Indonesias humiliation.

Continuing economic weakness meant Indonesia was only able to drip feed its military. After American sanctions virtually grounded its fleet of anyhow outdated F-16s, Indonesia ordered two Su-27 single-seat and two Su-30 twin-seat fighters from Russia in a 2003 contract worth $192 million. Four years later, it ordered six more Sukhois. Defence analyst Martin Sieff described the deals as peanuts in the international arms trade.

The upshot: with its existing fleet the Indonesian Air Force cannot take on regional rivals. For instance, the Royal Australian Air Force has 69 F/A-18 Hornets and 24 advanced Super Hornets. Australia also has the EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, which can be a force multiplier in any conflict. Also, the Australian air force, which tends to follow in Americas slipstream, has some combat experience, even if such action involves pretend airstrikes against ISIS.

The Su-35 is a morale booster for the Indonesians as it will considerably even the odds in the South East Asian theatre. The aircraft has a highly advanced avionics suite that can burn through any electronic jamming and can blind enemy aircraft with its own jamming devices. Most western analysts agree the Su-35 is the most potent non-stealth aircraft in the world today and can defeat any contemporary western fighter, except the F-22 stealth fighter. (But then the F-22 costs an astronomical $350 million per plane compared with the Su-35s bargain basement price of $65 million.)

China is the other worry. Jakarta has been involved in a regional scrap with Beijing over disputed islands in the South China Sea. The Indonesians may never be able to match Chinas firepower, but with the Su-35 the Indonesian Air Force will have the ability and confidence to escort Chinese jets over neutral waters.

Indonesian Air Force planned to buy more sophisticated fighter jets to replace its aging US-made Northrop F-5 Tiger II fleet of a dozen aircraft, and was considering Russian Sukhoi Su-35 (Flanker-E) jets, Indonesian Air Force chief Agus Supriatna said 04 February 2015. "We hope the government fulfills our wish to purchase Sukhoi SU-35s. All can place orders, but we, as the operators, want jets over generation 4 to be ordered," Supriatna said. The Indonesian government is still deliberating over whether it should buy new fighter jets to replace the old F-5E Tigers. Indonesian Military Commander Moeldoko listed several options for new fighter jets such as Sukhoi 35, Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB JAS-39 Gripen, and F-16 Block 52+.

Russia was eyeing participation of its Sukhoi-35 fighter jet in a bidding contest in Indonesia where multirole fighters will be selected for that countrys Air Force, Sergei Kornev, the chief of the Air Force department at the Russian state weaponry trading corporation Rosoboronexport said on 18 June 2014. "Were looking forward to a bidding contest and well take part in it," he told reporters on the sidelines of the annual aerospace show at Le Bourget, adding that the Russian manufacturers and exporters should boost the export capabilities of the Sukhoi-35s. The Indonesian Air Force appeared inclined to procure the Sukhoi Su-35 over European or US designs.

Indonesia would not see delivery of their first Su-35 before 2018. Large scale orders for both domestic and foreign exports has created a production backlog. The Russian military will receive 50 of the multi-purpose fighters, while China has ordered 24. With Jakarta expecting ten of their own, manufacturer Sukhoi said that Indonesia could expect their first two jets in 2018 in a best case scenario.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu Ryamizard said 11 May 2016 the government agreed to buy eight Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets this year, but added the price was still being negotiated. Indonesia had initially planned to buy around a dozen of the Russian jets to replace its ageing Northrop F-5 fighters, and supplement a fleet of 16 Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters that form the backbone of its air force.

President of Indonesia Joko Widodo visited Russia in the third week of May 2016 to participate in the Russia-ASEAN Summit and to witness the signing of an agreement to purchase eight 4.5-generation Sukhoi Su-35, a minister stated. Speaking to journalists , Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu affirmed that the plan to purchase eight 4.5-generation Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters was made after Indonesia bought 24 Sukhoi 27/30 aircraft.

The contract with Indonesia on the Su-35 fighter was signed, Vladimir Kozhin, the presidential aide on military-technical cooperation (MTC) said 01 March 2018. "Yes, it is signed," he said. Earlier it was reported that Jakarta wanted to acquire 10 multi-purpose Su-35 fighters. They should replace the obsolete American F-5 Tiger aircraft, which the Indonesian military has been using since 1980. Later, in Rostekh, it was reported that Indonesia had received a commercial offer, which involved 11 aircraft.

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