Indonesia signed a letter of intent to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

Egypt's French-made Rafale fighter jets. Photo by Egyptian Air Force

Since the visit of the Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto to Paris in January 2020, rumors emerged of a potential acquisition of Dassault fighter jets to renew the Indonesian Air Force fleet.

In February 2021, the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force, Fadjar Prasetyo, confirmed a plan to purchase 36 units of the French fighters and 8 F-15EXs by 2024 ‒ probably so as not to upset their U.S. ally who is supporting them establishing military base and training facility near South China Sea.

French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly confirmed that her Indonesian counterpart was eager to acquire 36 Dassault Rafale jets as soon as possible.

The order now seems to move forward, as a letter of intent was reportedly signed during a visit to Jakarta by Florence Parly, the French Ministry of Armed Forces, on June 7, 2021. The financing of the acquisition would be similar to that proposed by France to Egypt, namely a loan guaranteed for 80% of the total amount of the contract.

Currently, the Indonesian Air Force flies a mix of around 50 F-16 A/Bs and C/Ds, along with about 10 Russian Su-27SKM and Su-30 fighters.

In November 2020, the United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper turned down the prospect of Indonesia acquiring a number of F-35As and made a counteroffer by proposing a number of F-16 “Viper” fighters, the last version of Lockheed-Martin’s best-seller, instead.

On January 2020, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto held a bilateral meeting with his French counterpart Florence Parly besides discussions with French defence firms such as Dassault Aviation, Thales, Naval Group and Nexter. Prabowo expressed hope that the French defense industry could help Indonesia to improve its defense capacity through technology transfers.

“As a country with advanced defense industry, France can be a strategic partner in Indonesia’s efforts to modernize its weaponry defense system and accelerate the development of our national defense industry. This will support efforts to make the national defense industry a part of the ‘global production chain’. In this context, our defense minister placed special attention on the development of the defense industry when discussing defense cooperation,” a press statement from the Indonesian embassy in Paris said.

Jakarta is interested in acquiring 36 Rafale jets, including weapon package, maintenance and Spare Parts of aircraft; up to 4 Scorpene submarines armed with Exocet SM39 missile, and two 2,500-ton Gowind corvettes, French publication LATribune said, quoting informed sources. The potential purchases are worth an estimated $10 billion.

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