Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Government confirms purchase of used fighter jets from Qatar

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Audina Nur

Journalist

Mahinda Arkyasa

Editor

Interview

Indonesia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday (14/6) confirmed a purchase of 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets used by Qatar, saying that the purchase is needed to boost the Indonesian air force capabilities amid a shortage of combat-ready aircraft.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said that Indonesia signed a US$792 million deal with Excalibur International a.s., a unit of the Czech defense company Czechoslovak Group back in January 2023. The company is acting as an agent for the secondhand jets, Reuters reported.

The planes would be delivered within 24 month of the signing date – i.e., by January 2025, and will be stationed at Air Squadron 1, Supadio Air Base, Pontianak, West Kalimantan. 

Addressing security needs as a stopgap measure

The government has defended the purchase as a stopgap measure to fill the country’s security needs. There is also a decline in combat readiness of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) that is attributed to the expiration of service life for a significant number of its fighter jets, numerous aircraft undergoing upgrades, overhauls/repairs, and the prolonged delivery time for newly ordered aircraft.

“Indonesia needs fighter jets that could be delivered quickly to cover for the decline of combat readiness in the Indonesian Air Force’s fleet,” Defense Ministry spokesperson Edwin Adrian Sumantha said in a statement that was quoted by Reuters.

This decision also aims to help prepare the air force for a batch of 42 new Rafale jet fighters, also manufactured by Dassault, which was announced in February 2022. The initial batch of three jets from the US$8.1 billion procurement is scheduled for delivery in January 2026.

The ministry, though, said the contract includes not only the aircraft, but also engines, spare parts, support services, training for pilots and technicians, infrastructure, and weaponry. 

Controversy and concerns about performance and cost

The Mirage 2000-5 is a multirole fighter jet that can perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. It has a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 and a range of about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles), defense officials said.

The Mirage 2000-5 is also an air superiority variant of the fighter manufactured by the French company Dassault Aviation. The fighter jets were originally procured by the Qatar Emiri Air Force in the late 1990; however, they have reportedly had limited utilization, prompting the Qatari government to explore potential buyers in the international market.

The purchase, which will be financed through foreign loans, has been a subject of speculation for a while. However, like many large defense acquisitions, it has sparked controversy within Indonesia. 

Members of parliament have raised concerns regarding the age of the fighters, which have largely remained in storage since the mid-2000s, as well as the potential violation of the 2012 Defense Industry Law, which seeks to promote the local defense industry.

Nevertheless, according to co-founder of the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS) Khairul Fahmi, the purchase of the used Mirage aircraft could potentially be the government’s final endeavour to fulfil the ambitious target of attaining the minimum essential force (MEF) by 2024. This deadline marks the conclusion of President Jokowi’s second and final term in office.

“In addition to the concerns about performance and cost, the limited budget will also hamper the upkeep, repair and operational readiness of both Mirage and other aircraft,” Khairul said.

It is known that the MEF is a concept that defines the minimum level of defense capabilities that Indonesia, an archipelago and Southeast Asia’s largest nation, needs to protect its sovereignty and interests.

As per data from the Defense Industry, only around 65 percent of the MEF objective has been achieved this far, with the Indonesian Air Force lagging behind other two branches of the military, as highlighted by Khairul.

Audina Nur

Journalist

Mahinda Arkyasa

Editor

 

Interview

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