Indonesia will be looking to add two squadrons of new F-16 Block 72 Viper jet fighters to go with plans for an acquisition of Russian-built Sukhoi Su-35s. When the head of the Indonesian Air Force, Air Marshall Yuyu Sutisna, spoke with state-owned national news agency Antara on October 28, he declared the service’s intention to submit a formal request for the purchase of two squadrons of F-16Vs by January 1, 2020.
The aim, Sutisna stated, was for the F-16V acquisition to form part of the country’s upcoming five-year strategic plan, spanning from 2020 to 2024.
The Indonesian Air Force currently operates some 36 older-variant F-16s, including 24 F-16C/D Block 25s transferred to Indonesia as Excess Defense Articles (EDA) after first undergoing an upgrade to Block 52 status (upon which they were designated F-16ID by the Air Force) under a $670 million U.S. government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement. This sale – which the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced on November 17, 2011 – included six additional F-16s that are used solely for spare parts.
In the meantime, plans for the procurement of SU-35s that the Indonesian Air Force announced earlier are still in place. As far back as September 2015, the twin-engine Sukhoi Su-35 was seen as the favored replacement option for the now-retired fleet of Northrop F-5E/Fs. The Air Force has operated a mixed Sukhoi fleet of Su-27s and Su-30s since 2003, when Indonesia turned to Russia for new combat aircraft in exchange for local palm oil and other commodities.
Despite earlier announcements of an agreement to procure the 11 Su-35s at the cost of $1.14 billion under a cash and commodity deal (Indonesia offered up items such as palm oil, coffee, tea, and rubber), no firm contract is in place as of yet. This is largely due to Indonesian concerns about U.S. CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) legislation regarding defense and/or intelligence-related transactions with Russia. Nonetheless, Indonesia – which prefers to diversify its sources of defense supply – appears intent on moving ahead with this procurement.
Under the Air Force’s “Minimum Essential Force” road map, the service is to field 180 fighter jets by 2024.
However, that target is unlikely to be met. The current force level is nowhere near the desired level, and near-term plans – and finances – currently only involve the aforementioned small-batch purchases.
Besides the planned F-16V and Su-35 buys, Indonesia is also involved in the South Korean-led Korean Fighter Xperiment (KFX) program involving development and production of a new “4.5-generation” combat aircraft.
Under the cooperative arrangement with South Korea, Indonesia is providing around 20 percent of the project funding. Indonesia plans purchase 50 of the aircraft, or enough to equip three fighter squadrons of 16-22 aircraft apiece. However, serial production of this aircraft is unlikely to commence before the end of the 2020-2024 five-year strategic plan.