Russia is to finance a $1.2 billion arms package for Indonesia supporting the acquisition of new helicopters and air-launched weapons.

The deal was signed during Russian president Vladimir Putin's recent visit to Jakarta. Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said that the agreement is a precursor to greater defence co-operation between the two countries.

The $1 billion credit facility is to be repaid over 15 years. Indonesia will use it to buy 22 transport and assault helicopters, 20 amphibious tanks, two submarines and weapons for its 10 Sukhoi fighters. The exact make of the helicopters has not been specified.

Russia sold Indonesia three Sukhoi Su-27SKM and three Su-30MK2 fighters at the MAKS show in Moscow, with the $335 million deal to be financed by banks. In 2003, Jakarta bought two Su-27SK single-seat and two Su-30MKK twin-seat fighters worth $192 million. It plans a fleet of 16 Sukhoi fighters to replace its Lockheed Martin F-16s.

Juwono Sudarsono, Indonesia's defence minister, says that deals with Russia have fewer strings attached. "Requirements from Western countries are complicated, with conditions such as human rights, accountability, not to mention licensing," he says. The USA was Indonesia's largest arms supplier from the early 1980s until 1999, when it imposed an embargo in response to a military crackdown in East Timor. Indonesia has since had to ground many military aircraft due to spares shortages.

Washington partially lifted the embargo in 2005 to reward Jakarta's support in the fight against terrorists. However Indonesian officials are still wary of the USA, with their country turning to eastern Europe, Russia and South Korea for alternatives in recent years.

Putin also signed agreements for Russia to develop a spaceport on the Indonesian island of Biak, off the coast of Irian Jaya. The joint facility, aiming at the small satellite market, will use Antonov An-124s to lift rockets to altitude for airborne launch.

Source: Flight International