Indonesia to rely on upgraded F-16s and K-FX fighters

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Indonesia has ruled out further buys of Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia, instead bolstering its fleet with upgraded ex-US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16s and, in the longer term, aircraft jointly developed with South Korea through the K-FX programme.

The Indonesian air force has 10 Su-30 and Su-27s, with six additional fighters on the way, enough to form one fighter squadron.

But budget constraints mean that Jakarta's priority is its cargo and transport fleets, which have been plagued by fatal accidents in recent years.

Money is being made available to accelerate the refurbishment of some of its existing fleet of 15 Lockheed Martin C-130s, to buy four C-130Hs from Australia and upgrade them, and purchase more Indonesia Aerospace CN-295 transports, says Air Marshal Eris Herryanto, secretary general of the Indonesian defence ministry. According to Flightglobal's MiliCAS database, Indonesia has four active B-model and nine H-model C-130s in its fleet.

"We are waiting for 24 F-16s from the USA. With those, we will have enough aircraft in our fighter inventory for the next 20 years. And that means we have enough Sukhoi fighters for now," he says.

"Indonesia has also invested in South Korea's K-FX programme, which will produce fighters to replace aircraft like the [Northrop] F-5s and F-16s. We aim to buy enough K-FX fighters for three squadrons of 16-22 aircraft each. That will cover our long-term requirements."

Indonesia has also formally received its first four Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft, which it will deploy on counterinsurgency and surveillance and reconnaissance missions. These are the first of two batches of aircraft, for a total of 16, that it has ordered from the Brazilian airframer to replace its North American Rockwell OV-10 Broncos as part of its fleet modernisation programme.

The country is also in the market for more helicopters to replace its Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma fleet, while more manned and unmanned maritime patrol aircraft could be required to keep an eye on the large archipelago.

The armed forces and civil servants are lobbying the government to increase the budget allocated for the purchase of new aircraft in the next five-year plan, which will cover 2015-2019. Jakarta, however, is also planning to introduce a bill that will require around 20% of the value of the new contracts to be pumped back into the country through offsets.

"The policy of the defence ministry is that every procurement must have offsets or joint production. This should also include the support the aircraft will receive after purchase. So while we might get more money for the peaceful refurbishment of our armed forces, it is important both for the military and the country that the new contracts create jobs and train our people," says Herryanto.