Indonesia says it is again considering the purchase of a squadron of Sukhoi fighters, and President Megawati Sukarnoputri is set to visit Moscow this week to discuss a possible arms deal.

Indonesia wants to increase its ties with Russia to bolster investment in its oil and gas industry and strengthen its military despite a US embargo on arms sales.

In 1998 budget constraints forced Indonesia to cancel an order for eight Su-30s,but it is now again interested in the multirole fighter. It is also eyeing Russian helicopters to supplement the squadron of Mil Mi-2s recently introduced by the navy.

The embargo, in place because of alleged human-rights violations, prevents US companies offering new fighters. US firms are now limited to providing Indonesia with safety-related equipment, such as spares for its Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules transports and ejector seats for its Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters.

Officials in Jakarta say the US government, which some believe helped dissuade Indonesia from buying Sukhois in 1998, is closely monitoring the new negotiations with Russia. Indonesia is looking to acquire up to 18 Su-30s in a cash-barter deal that could be tied in with Malaysia's Su-30 purchase. Malaysia has reduced its expected Su-30 order from 18 to 12 fighters and a simultaneous order from Indonesia could get a better price for both countries (Flight International, 15-21 April).

Source: Flight International