Indonesia continues spending spree with French-made jets, military radars


Members of the Indonesian Air Force prepare to take off in Sukhoi fighter aircraft on Sept 29, 2020 from Iswahjudi Air Base in Magetan, East Java, in this file photo from Antara.

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): While controversy around Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto’s decision to purchase used Mirage fighter jets still rages on, state-owned electronics manufacturer PT Len Industri announced on Sunday (June 18) that the company has ordered military radars from French manufacturer Thales, signifying a growing partnership between Indonesia and France.

Thales said in a statement on Monday that the 13 Ground Master 400 Alpha (GM400a) long-range radars will confer the Indonesian Military (TNI) the advantage of “a single air picture integrating the detection of all types of threats, from jets and missiles to hovering helicopters and unmanned air vehicles."

The purchase of the radars "shows this country's concern for monitoring the surrounding airspace, which is directly linked to the situation in the Indo-Pacific," where China is asserting its ambitions, Thales International president Pascale Sourisse told AFP.

Len Industri is part of DEFEND ID, a holding company consisting of five state-owned enterprises (SOEs) focusing on the defence industry.

While the nominal value of the contract remains under wraps, the announcement came less than a week after the Defence Ministry’s purchase of 12 used Mirage 2000-5 jets totalling US$792 million (Rp 11.8 trillion) from Qatari armed forces raised eyebrows.

While lawmakers questioned the wisdom behind the decision, Defence Minister Prabowo argued that the Mirage jets will merely act as a stop-gap measure to prepare for the arrival of brand-new Rafale fighter aircraft that the Indonesian government expects to join the Air Force squadron in 2026.

"Our pilots will first be trained with these Mirage jets so when Rafale arrives, they will be transitioned to Rafale," Prabowo said last week.

French aerospace and defense company Dassault Aviation manufactures both the Mirage and its successor, the Rafale, with Prabowo claiming that the two models have a number of technological similarities.

Doubling down on his decision, Prabowo also announced that he’s negotiating with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to purchase their used Mirage 2000-9 jets, a newer variant of the Mirage. Since assuming the defence minister position in 2019, Prabowo has made it his mission to modernise the country’s ageing primary weapon system (Alutsista).

In trying to achieve this goal, Prabowo has undertaken a defence diplomacy approach with a number of foreign countries, with France being one of the most prominent partners through the Rafale deal made in February 2022.

While the initial contract is for the purchase of six jets to be delivered in 2026, Indonesia plans to eventually acquire a total of 42 Rafale jets in a contract worth $8.1 billion.

Aside from the jets, the two countries have also signed several agreements, including the deal between Len Industri and Thales and a bilateral partnership in submarine development.

In May, state-owned naval manufacturer PT PAL Indonesia announced that the company has reached an agreement with its French counterpart the Naval Group to build Scorpene-class submarines out of PAL’s own shipyard.

Naval Group originally designed the submarines, and the company is currently providing professional assistance to PAL Indonesia.

The goal is to use the technical know-how provided by Naval Group and eventually “independently manufacture submarines out of our own shipyard by 2050,” PAL senior executive vice president Satriyo Bintoro said in May, as quoted by kompas.id.

The Naval Group was at the centre of a diplomatic row between Australia and France in September 2021.

After signing the trilateral Aukus security pact with the United States and the United Kingdom, Australia scrapped a US$90 billion submarine deal with the Naval Group signed in 2016 in favour of a new deal involving nuclear-powered submarines with its partners in Aukus.

France reacted with fury over the scrapped deal, even after Australia agreed to pay Naval Group a $830 million compensation fee for unilaterally terminating the contract.

Amid France’s anger and Indonesia being similarly caught off-guard by the Aukus pact, the defense cooperation between the countries have since grown considerably.

Praising the two countries’ strengthening relationship, French Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said in 2022 in Jakarta that France intends to play a multilateral role in the Indo-Pacific region.

France has several overseas territories within the area, including New Caledonia located off the eastern coast of Australia. Other procurement Besides France, Prabowo has visited the US, Germany, Italy and the UK to negotiate arms procurement.

In March, Indonesia welcomed the delivery of a Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules from the US.

The aircraft, now used by the Indonesian Air Force, is the first of five Super Hercules aircraft the Defense Ministry ordered in 2022 from the US, with each of the remaining aircraft to arrive in June, July and October this year and in January 2024.

Jakarta is also planning to purchase McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle heavyweight fighter jets from the US as it seeks to replace its aging fleet, mainly consisting of General Dynamics F-16s from the US and Sukhoi aircraft from Russia.

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Indonesia , French-made , jets , defence , military , radars

   

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