Indonesian Ministry of Defense is in negotiation with French aviation company Dassault Aviation in the purchase of Rafale jet fighters. Logistic Assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff, First Marshal Oky Yanuar, said the ministry was in negotiation on the price, specification and note agreement with the company.
“The process is still ongoing at the defense ministry,” he told Indonesia Business Post on the sideline of Indo Defense Expo and Forum in Jakarta on November 3, 2022.
Yanuar said Indonesia has planned to buy 36 units of Rafale in the next two to three years. A Rafale jet fighter is worth IDR 1 trillion. The first shipment of the Rafale will arrive in 2023.
Rafale is the fifth generation of stealth jet fighters that is difficult to be detected by radar. Rafale, Yanuar said, also has sophisticated weapon system and sophisticated cockpit system as well as extraordinary avionic equipment.
Anticipating regional threats
Yanuar said Indonesia needed to buy Rafale jet fighters due to the possible presence of threats in its strategic environment.
“We cannot ignore the threats from other countries although the threats are invisible,” he said. He added that Indonesia needed the 36 jet fighters due to its vast territory to safeguard the country’s air borders.
Defense ministry’s secretary general Vice Marshal Donny Ermawan Taufanto had said in February 2022 that Indonesia has only relied on 33 F-16 AM, BM, C and D aircrafts, which are more than 30 years old. Indonesia also has 16 Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 aircrafts which are almost 20 years old.
Yanuar explained that the 36 Rafale jet fighters would be deployed equally in the central part and eastern part of Indonesia. “In the Western part, we already have F-16 jet fighters. In the central part, we will deploy the jet fighters for the country’s new capital in Kalimantan. And in the eastern part will be in Biak [Papua] facing to the North,” he said.
Indonesia also has to anticipate an open conflict in the South China Sea.
“There are people fighting against each other in front of our fence. If they throw stones and break our glasses, we have to protect ourselves. We have to be ready if there is an open conflict,” Yanuar said.
Indonesia also plans to buy one squadron of French mirage 2000, consists of 12 to 16 unit of the jet fighters in the next two years. “But I do not know the price of one unit of Mirage. Maybe the price is the same with one unit of F-16,” he added.
Closer to Western Block
Defense analyst Connie Rahakundini Bakrie said purchasing French jet fighters showed that Indonesia was supporting the US and AUKUS (Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States). By aligning its weaponry system with the US and NATO, Indonesia has taken a position as part of the US block alliance in rivalry with China in the Indo Pacific and South China Sea issue.
“The purchase of F-16 and Rafale clearly shows that in foreign policy we support US and NATO policy,” she said.
Bakrie said it was better for Indonesia to stick to its non alignment position so it can exercise strategy based on the national interest. If Indonesia joined the Western alliance, it would only followed what has been dictated by the US and Western countries.
China as one of the biggest trading partners and investors in Indonesia will question Indonesia’s non alignment position. “Our positioning related to South China Sea issue will be questioned,” she said.
However, Yanuar denied the indication that Indonesia had a tendency to get closer to the West in the defense sector as the country still has Russian Sukhois. “There is still a foreign politic issue between the US and Russia that influence our decision making in weapon procurement,” he explained.