After the AUKUS setback, France is aggressively eyeing the Indo-Pacific region for its arms exports. New reports suggest that France might be pitching its Rafale fighter jets to Indonesia to replace its aging F-5 fighters.
French foreign minister is on a two-day visit to Indonesia, to “reaffirm France’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific … and to intensify the relationship with Indonesia”.
The volatile situation in the Eastern Pacific due to Chinese assertiveness on the 9-dash line and Taiwan, along with North Korean and other regional disputes could be a good opportunity for Paris to get some customers for its defense industry, experts believe.
The Indonesian Air Force had been looking for modernization plans, which made the defense minister Prabowo Subianto visit various countries looking for a good deal to replace the F-5s. In February, the service finally released a big-ticket list of aircraft it is going to procure in the next four years.
This list included 36 Dassault Rafales, 36 Boeing F-15 Eagle IIs, 15 Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules transports, 2 Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, 30 ground-controlled interception radar stations, and three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a procurement wish list known as the ‘Blue Book’.
However, at that time, the acquisition of Rafales was said to have hit a roadblock over price negotiations. During that month, a delegation of Indonesian Ministry of Defense officials reportedly did the last round of negotiations with Dassault Aviation’s vice-president for business development Jean Claude Piccirillo and vice-president for offset Michael Paskoff.
The negotiations covered offset and financing arrangements, according to Janes, and the ministry since then raised a request for the program to be funded by foreign loans.
Rafale has seen success in the international market and has been exported to Egypt, India, Qatar, Greece, and Croatia. Several other countries have shown their interest in aircraft as well, including the UAE, Ukraine, Malaysia, and many others.
The AUKUS resulted in Australia scrapping a submarine deal with Paris worth €56 billion without prior notice, an event called “stab in the back” by the French foreign minister.
Allegedly, the French government received a notice about the cancellation only a few hours before its public announcement. Following the AUKUS, France called its ambassadors back from Australia and the United States. A defense summit with British officials was also canceled by Paris.