French Defense Minister Florence Parly has confirmed that Indonesia is indeed interested in purchasing Rafale fighter jets from her country and that the deal was in a very “advanced” stage, Reuters reported citing French website La Tribune
With this, Indonesia’s hunt for a new fighter aircraft, for which its Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has been traveling around the world, would come to an end.
Among the various options, Indonesia has explored so far are Austria’s retiring Eurofighter Typhoons, the American F-16 Vipers, and Russian Su-35s. These jets are intended to be a replacement for the retiring F-5 Tigers of the Indonesian Air Force.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Subianto had reinstated his interest in the Rafales during his visit to France in October, for 48 such aircraft. However, the recent confirmations on the progress of the deal by the French defense minister put the number at 36. “It is not yet quite signed, we have worked a lot on it,” the minister said.
However, with the Covid 19 pandemic battering Indonesia’s economy, the proposed acquisition of the Rafales is likely to be challenging for the country’s air force.
Despite a boost in the defense budget, the Defense Ministry would still require to spend all of its resources to purchase a sizeable number of fighter jets to complete its demand.
The Indonesian Air Force currently operates 23 Hawk light fighters as its mainstay force, along with about 33 F-16s. Some of these are old A/B airframes, nevertheless upgraded for extended service.
The service also operates the Russian Su-27s and Su-30s, and also a few 15 EMB-314 light attack aircraft. The Hawks are poised to be replaced with the newly-acquired T-50 light attack jets.
However, the Russian jets are the only heavyweight twin-engine fighters in service, and the need for more such fighters is obvious. Indonesia was on the verge of finalizing a deal with Moscow for their new Su-35s, which was reportedly canceled due to American pressure.
The Su-35s could have been the best deal for Indonesia, as about half the payment had to be made via exports of palm oil, rubber, and other commodities.
Rafale — An ‘Omnirole’ Aircraft
Designed and manufactured by the French company Dassault, Rafales have been an important tool for France to compete with the American F-16 sales worldwide. It is a canard delta wing, twin-engine, multirole fighter jet which can perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence missions.
The recent customers of the aircraft include India and Greece. India had signed an order for 36 Rafales back in 2016 in a government-to-government deal for an estimated cost of €7.8 billion, with deliveries starting in July 2020.
The Rafales are combat-proven and have been used extensively in Afghanistan and Libya The aircraft are also being used in combating Jihadist Terrorists in Mali and against the Islamic State in Syria.