Indonesian defense chief: Talks on F-15 purchase in ‘advanced stages’

Pizaro Gozali Idrus and Dandy Koswaraputra
Indonesian defense chief: Talks on F-15 purchase in ‘advanced stages’ U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) and Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto exit a news conference following their meeting in Jakarta, Nov. 21, 2022.
Willy Kurniawan/pool/AFP

Negotiations by Indonesia to purchase U.S.-made fighter-jets were “in advanced stages,” the country’s defense minister said Monday after he met in Jakarta with his American counterpart.

In February, the U.S. State Department had approved the potential sale of F-15ID aircraft and related equipment for up to $13.9 billion.

“The F-15 negotiations are continuing and we are in advanced stages,” Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto told reporters after his meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“I think now it will be dependent on the government to finally decide,” he said.

Austin expressed support for Indonesia’s efforts to modernize its military, saying the jets would complement the Indonesia’s fleet of F-16 fighters. The Indonesian Air Force has 33 F-16s. 

“We certainly support the minister’s efforts to continue to modernize [the military],” Austin told reporters. “The United States is proud to partner with you as we work together to advance our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) previously said Indonesia had requested purchasing 36 F-15s.

The meeting with Austin follows Prabowo’s visit to China on Friday where he met with Defense Minister Wei Fenghe to thank Beijing for its support during the pandemic and for providing new security technologies, according to a statement released by the Indonesian Defense Ministry.  

China’s Defense Ministry said the two ministers agreed to resume joint exercises suspended during the COVID-19 epidemic.

After meeting with Austin, Prabowo hailed Indonesia’s friendly ties with China and the United States.

“I like to emphasize that Indonesia always takes the position of trying to maintain the best relationships with all nations, especially all the major powers,” he said. “I have openly declared many times that we consider China to be a friendly nation.”

Any misunderstandings, differences in views of opinions and territorial matters will be resolved with “dialogue, a friendly attitude and with a friendly relationship,” Prabowo said.

Still, “Indonesia will defend its sovereignty, will defend our independence,” he said.

While Indonesia is not a territorial claimant in the South China Sea its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) overlaps Beijing’s claims. Chinese fishing boats and Coast Guard ships have encroached on Indonesia’s EEZ, sparking diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

China has demanded that Indonesia stop drilling for oil and gas, alleging in an unprecedented diplomatic note last year that these activities were occurring in South China Sea waters it claims, an Indonesian lawmaker said in December 2021.

Race against time

Khairul Fahmi, a security analyst at the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies, said Indonesia was “racing against time” to secure the F-15 deal as the U.S. offer could expire soon.

“It seems that the Ministry of Finance has yet to give the green light for the acquisition plan to be realized using a foreign loan scheme,” Khairul told BenarNews.

The defense and finance ministries may still need more time to discuss the F-15 purchase plan, he said.

“I am still optimistic that the United States will understand,” said Khairul.

Ramdhan Muhaimin, a defense analyst at Al Azhar University Indonesia, said a stronger Indonesia would contribute to regional stability.

“Because Indonesia is the backbone of the region and ASEAN. This region has seen divisions caused by big power rivalries,” Ramdhan told BenarNews.

In February, Indonesia signed a deal to acquire six of French Rafale fighter-jets. It also signed a preliminary agreement for joint production and assembly of French Scorpene submarines.

In December 2021, Indonesia’s air force commander, Air Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo, announced that Jakarta had abandoned a deal to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-35 jets and instead set its sights on the U.S- and French-made fighters.

Such purchases are in line with a pledge by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to modernize the country’s military. According to a draft presidential decree circulated in June 2021, the Indonesian government planned to spend U.S. $125 billion during the next three years to upgrade and modernize its military arsenal.

The government proposed spending $79.1 billion on military equipment, $13.4 billion in interest on 25-year loans from foreign sources, and $32.5 billion on contingencies and maintenance.

Many Indonesians criticized the plan to spend billions on the military during the pandemic when people had lost their jobs or had seen their salaries slashed. The status of the decree is not known.

Since becoming defense minister in 2019, Prabowo has visited weapons-producing countries including the U.S., Russia, China and France to secure defense deals.

The ministry last year announced plans to acquire 15 C-130J transport aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the U.S., and two French Airbus 330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) planes.

In addition, Indonesia ordered two Airbus A400M transport aircraft in an agreement signed on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow in 2021.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.