MELBOURNE, Australia — Indonesia has reaffirmed its commitment to develop a fighter jet with South Korea, as questions about long-overdue payments for Jakarta’s share of the development remain unanswered.
Muhammad Herindra, Indonesian deputy minister of defense, said in remarks carried on the agency’s social media channels that the Korea Aerospace Industries or KAI KF-21 Boramae fighter program remains of strategic value to the Southeast Asian country.
He argued that the KF-21 can meet the needs of Indonesia’s need for a fighter aircraft from 2025 onwards. With both countries having signed an agreement on technology transfer, the hope is that the program would support Jakarta’s aspirations to develop its own indigenous defense industry.
Herindra was speaking at a ceremony on Wednesday to mark the KF-21′s maiden flight, which took place at KAI’s facilities at Saechon in July.
The deputy defense minister also visited the 37 Indonesian engineering personnel stationed at KAI as part of the joint development program during his visit and expressed hope that the number of Indonesians involved in the program will grow to 100 by the end of this year.
However, he did not offer any more clarity on Indonesia’s arrears in paying its share of the program’s development costs. Indonesia agreed to contribute 20% of the costs when it joined the program in 2010 but started falling behind on payments since 2017.
According to South Korean media reports, Indonesia has failed to stick to a repayment schedule both countries agreed upon in November 2021 despite multiple promises to resolve the issue from various officials, including its president, Joko Widodo. As of July, the country was reportedly behind to the tune of $557 million.
Indonesia seeks to buy up to 50 KF-21s and is keen for local industry to take part in the manufacturing process. The country is additionally seeking more developmentally mature fighter types to meet its air-defense requirements and has signed a contract with France’s Dassault for six out of a potential 42 Rafale multirole fighters.
Indonesia is also considering the Boeing F-15 Eagle multirole fighter as part of its ambitious plans to modernize its armed forces, despite budget shortfalls exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the issues with Indonesia’s contributions, South Korea continues to press on with the development of the KF-21, which it plans to put into production from 2026 to replace older F-4 and F-5 fighter jets.
KAI has also unveiled a model of a carrier-borne version of the KF-21, with South Korea considering the development of an aircraft carrier.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.