MELBOURNE, Australia — Indonesia has admitted defeat in its attempt to buy Russian fighter jets and will now decide between the Boeing F-15EX Eagle II and the Dassault Rafale, according to the country’s Air Force chief of staff.
Speaking to media during a gathering at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base near the Indonesian capital Jakarta, Air Chief Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo said the Southeast Asian nation is seeking a 4.5-generation mediumweight or heavyweight fighter.
He said the narrowing of the choices to the American F-15EX and the French Rafale was made together with the Defense Ministry, adding that Indonesia wants two to three squadrons’ worth of fighter jets, depending on the budget.
Prasetyo also confirmed that it was “with a heavy heart” that Indonesia would abandon its plan to acquire the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E. The country had selected the Russian twin-engine, single-seat fighter in 2015 but never signed a contract for 11 aircraft following negotiations with Russia in 2018.
While Indonesia has not explicitly said so, it’s possible its reticence to conclude the Su-35 acquisition was due to concern the move could trigger U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The law was passed by Congress in 2017 and is meant to discourage governments or entities from acquiring weapons as well as military hardware and parts from American adversaries like Iran, North Korea and Russia.
Prasetyo noted that if Indonesia chooses the F-15EX, deliveries of the multirole fighter could start as early as 2027.
Any new fighter will serve alongside Indonesia’s existing fleet of refurbished Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and Russian Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flankers. The former were previously operated by the U.S. Air Force.
Indonesia is seeking the aircraft to meet its increasingly urgent air defense needs, but budgetary problems and a long list of defense requirements are stymieing efforts to fill the air defense gap of the country, which is made up of more than 17,000 islands that stretch from the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean to Papua New Guinea.
Indonesia previously expressed interest in buying Austria’s fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets, which the European country was withdrawing from service prematurely due to cost and a corruption scandal.
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.