MELBOURNE, Australia — Indonesia will acquire Lockheed Martin's Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod to equip its Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets as part of a $10 billion trade and investment agreement signed between the United States and Indonesia.
The agreement was signed April 21 by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to the Southeast Asian country, according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
There was no mention of how many pods Indonesia will acquire, although procurement plans from 2014 indicated Indonesia was seeking 16 pods. Lockheed declined to disclose the number of pods and contract value, and both the U.S. State and Defense departments did not respond to a Defense News inquiry.
The original 2011 Foreign Military Sales request for the regeneration and upgrade of surplus F-16C/Ds (formerly owned by the U.S. Air Force) for Indonesia also did not include the number of pods Indonesia was seeking.
The embassy's statement also said the pods "will enhance Indonesia's maritime and territorial defenses while operating seamlessly with the United States and other regional partners," adding that they are for the Indonesian F-16A/B fighters stationed at Iswahyudi Air Base in the eastern part of the main Indonesian island of Java. However, Indonesian sources have told Defense News that the base is now home to the newer F-16C/D Block 52ID version.
It is also unlikely that Indonesia's F-16A/Bs, which are older Block 15 models acquired in the 1980s and have not received any upgrades, will be able to utilize the sniper pods, which will be produced by Lockheed at its Missiles and Fire Control facility in Orlando, Florida.
The Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod provides improved, long-range target detection, identification and continuous stabilized surveillance for all missions, including close-air support of ground forces and visually identifying airborne targets at long range. The pod can also be used to support the employment of a wide range of precision-guided munitions, using its laser marker and spot tracker as well as providing weapons-quality coordinates for laser- and GPS-guided weapons.
Indonesia is in the process of receiving 24 Block 25 F-16C/Ds, granted by the United States as excess defense articles in 2011 and upgraded to Block 52ID standard by the 309th Maintenance Wing of Hill Air Force Base, Utah. As of March 2017, 19 aircraft have been handed over with deliveries expected to be completed at the end of this year, although one was written off in January following an accident.
Other than F-16s, the Indonesian Air Force is operating a fleet of 16 Russian-built Su-27SK and Su-30MK2 jets as its front-line fighters. It is currently locked in discussions with Russia for the more advanced Su-35 Flanker-E jet, but is likely to need even more fighters in the future for its vast territory.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.