Indonesia Wants F-16 Fighters
BY WENDELL MINNICK
TAIPEI - Indonesia is talking to the U.S. about procuring six F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighter aircraft, upgrading six F-16A/Bs to C/Ds and upgrading 20 C-130B/H Hercules transport planes.
The F-16s would replace 12 aging F-5E/F Tiger IIs.
The announcement was made shortly after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in late February. During a visit to Jakarta, Gates offered Indonesia military support and training and promised to assist in upgrading its aging C-130s.
"Lockheed Martin is supporting government-to-government discussions between the United States and Indonesia regarding the overall support of the existing F-16 fighters in the Indonesian Air Force, as well as the development of options for the IAF's future fighter force," said Joe Stout, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' communications director. "It would be premature for us to comment further as no decisions have been made."
Despite Gates' offer, there is opposition in Indonesian political circles, where some argue there are no assurances that Washington will not impose another arms embargo in the future.
U.S. relations with Indonesia soured in 1992 and worsened in 1999 after the Indonesian military was accused of atrocities in East Timor. The ensuing U.S. arms embargo made it impossible for Indonesia to maintain its American-built aircraft. The embargo was lifted in 2005, but Indonesia had already turned to Russia, buying two Sukhoi Su-27SK Flankers and two Su-30MK Flankers in 2003. In 2007, Jakarta announced plans to procure an additional three Su-27SKs and three Su-30MKs for $300 million, with delivery to begin between 2008 and 2012.
The result of procuring Russian and U.S. platforms has been a potpourri of military aircraft using incongruent systems. On top of the Sukhois, Indonesia has 10 F-16A/B Block 15 OCU fighters, 12 F-5s, 27 BAE Hawk 209s, 11 BAE Hawk 109s and 18 BAE Hawk 53s.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Russia is offering Indonesia generous government loans to procure up to 20 Su-30MKs, an undetermined number of Yak-130 trainer aircraft and 10 Mi-17 transport helicopters. The deal could include 12 Ilyushin Il-76 military transports, eight Beriev Be-103 amphibious aircraft, four Project 636 Kilo-class submarines and two Project 677 Amur-1650 (Lada-class) submarines.
Russia is more flexible on arms sales than the U.S. In the 2003 Su-27/Su-30 fighter deal, Russia accepted $108 million in palm oil - 40,000 tons - as part of the $197 million payment.
China has also been forging closer ties with Indonesia. In January, Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan visited Jakarta to meet Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono.
Discussions involved bolstering military-to-military ties and acting on a framework agreement for strategic partnership signed in Beijing in 2005.
Cao offered to assist Indonesia's two state enterprises, weapons producer PT Pindad and shipbuilder PT PAL.