The Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU)’s equipment purchase plan until 2024 does not include the Russian Su-35 for which a contract had been signed in 2018.
TNI AU revealed that it is planning to buy sophisticated 4.5 generation fighter jets, including French Dassault Rafale and/or used U.S.-made F-15s, by 2024, as part of a strategic plan to boost Indonesia’s air defense capability.
“Starting from 2021 to 2024, we will soon realize the acquisition of various modern primary weapon defense systems in stages,” Marshal Fajar Prasetyo, chief of staff of the Indonesian Air Force, said at the annual Air Force Leadership Meeting of TNI AU held at the TNI AU Headquarters here on Thursday (February 18, 2021).
Lack of mention of the Su-35 is seen as a sign of Jakarta abandoning the deal with the Russians mostly of fear of attracting American sanctions. The U.S. has offered to sell it used but upgraded F-15s when Jakarta went shopping for first generation Eurofighter jets from Austria.
Another reason for maintaining a distance from the Su-35s could be a looming confrontation with China in the South China Sea. Indonesia sees value in having fighter jets interoperable with the U.S. and its western allies such as France and Australia to counter the Chinese dragon.
“The plan to procure primary weapon defense systems has been subjected to frequent changes due to global condition, and state capacity,” Marshal Fajar Prasety remarked.
“Although we have guidance for posture, a strategic plan, and minimum essential force, the implementation hinges on various factors and conditions, which continue to change dynamically,” he added.
All stakeholders, including the Defense Ministry and TNI AU, have analyzed and discussed a plan to settle issues related to the procurement of the primary weapon defense systems, he said.
“We will also modernize various TNI AU jet fighters, starting this year,” he informed.
The procurement of primary weapon defense systems is aimed at strengthening TNI’s power in the air to protect state sovereignty, he said.
In addition, it will contribute to defense diplomacy with other countries, as it has strategic value to constellations of global politics, he added.
TNI AU is also considering buying multi-role tanker transport and Hercules C-130J transport planes, Air Force Chief of Staff, Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo, said in a press statement released on February 22. It is also planning to buy GC13 radars, planes with airborne early warning capability, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAV) with medium altitude long endurance (MALE) capability, and other primary weaponry defense systems, he said.