INDONESIA HAS reached agreement with the USA on improvements to be made to nine Lockheed Martin F-16A/Bs, originally earmarked for Pakistan, clearing the way for Indonesia's planned purchase of the fighters to proceed.

The $25 million modification work is needed to meet Indonesian air force mission requirements, as well as provide system commonality with its 11 surviving Block 15 Operational Capabilities Upgrade (OCU)-standard F-16s. The aircraft were due to be delivered to Pakistan before the imposition of a weapons embargo after concerns over the country's nuclear-weapon programme.

Changes will involve fitting the aircraft with hydro-mechanically deployed drag chutes for improved runway performance, installing combined Rockwell-Collins VHF omnidirectional range/instrument-landing systems, updating avionic software and repositioning UHF/VHF radios.

The Pakistan-specification F-16s will also be modified to carry Hughes AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles. A separate $15 million deal covers the supply of Maverick and Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

It is not yet clear how much modification work will be undertaken in Indonesia. State-run manufacturer IPTN has been insisting on industrial offsets to the value of 30% of the $110 million fighter purchase (Flight International, 15-21 May, P18).

Indonesia is understood to have agreed to pay just over $9 million per aircraft, with the remaining funds being spent on training and logistics. The US Government will refund the money to Pakistan to help recoup part of the $658 million originally paid for the 28 embargoed F-16s.

The Indonesian Government finally agreed to pay cash for the nine aircraft, after having failed to secure US Eximbank credit. It had earlier rejected as unacceptable a General Electric Capital substitute offer of commercial credit.

According to diplomatic sources, a major factor in Indonesian president Suharto's decision to approve the deal was a recent letter of support from US President Bill Clinton. US Chief of Staff, Gen John Shalikashvili, has also travelled to Indonesia to push the deal.

Relations between Jakarta and Washington were soured in 1993 by a US veto of the sale of four surplus Jordanian Northrop F-5E/Fs to Indonesia. The F-16 sale has been treated as major test case for improved relations between the two countries.

Indonesia, in the meantime, has taken delivery of its first three British Aerospace Hawk 100/200s at the Pekanbaru AB in Sumatra. Indonesia ordered 24 of the advanced trainer/light-strike fighters in 1993 and is negotiating a further purchase of 20 aircraft.

Source: Flight International