• Image: Roketsan
    Image: Roketsan

Indonesia has signed several Memorandums of Understanding with various defence providers at the recently concluded Indodefence defence exposition, but confirmed contracts are hard to come by as its defence budgets struggle to meet its ambitions.

Among the agreements signed was one with Turkey’s Roketsan for the potential purchase of the HISAR surface-to-air missile system. The MoU signed at the show, which ran from 2-5 November at Indonesia’s capital Jakarta also covers the sale of the Khan tactical ballistic missile.

The Khan is a truck-mounted short range ballistic missile that is guided by GPS/GLONASS that has a range of up to 280 km (175 miles) and a warhead weight of 140 kg (310 lbs). If the acquisition is followed through, Indonesia will become the first known operator of such a system in Southeast Asia.

Another MoU was signed with Boeing for the potential acquisition of the Boeing F-15. Indonesia is seeking to replace its Russian-built Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flanker fleet and further expand its fighter force and is keen on a variant of the F-15EX Eagle II that is being introduced into the US Air Force.

However, Bloomberg is reporting that a potential deal for 36 jets has stalled over financing for the program, despite the US State Department approving the sale under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program earlier this year.

Indonesia’s defence budget is set at US$13.6 billion (A$21.06 billion) for the upcoming year. Although this is the highest it has been, it is under half of what was requested by the country’s defence minister and will still leave the country far short of what is required under its Minimum Essential Force plan.

The plan called for a force that included 274-ship “green water” Navy, 10 fighter squadrons as part of a major upgrade to its air combat capability and 12 new diesel–electric submarines. It is currently halfway in the last of three five-year planning stages but has been buffeted by several funding challenges, not least the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, one contract that did get signed at IndoDefence was for the refurbishment of the integrated mission systems for four Diponegoro-class guided missile corvettes by Thales. The contract, signed with Indonesian state-owned company PT Len Industri, will see the ships fitted with an Integrated Missions System including the TACTICOS Combat Management System,

The ships will also be incorporated with software-driven radar technology, and follows a similar programme undertaken by the French company for the Indonesia’s Usman-Harun multi-role frigates in 2020.

Australia’s northern neighbour has also made advances in recapitalising its military in recent years, signing a contract with France Dassault for six Rafale Omnirole fighters earlier this year.

Indonesia is seeking an eventual 42 French jets, while it has also resumed paying its agreed-upon 20 per cent share of development costs for the South Korean-led KAI KF-21 Boramae fighter, for which it had been lagging for some years.

The country is also buying new airlifters, which is a sorely needed capability for the archipelago of 17,500 islands that are often beset by natural disasters. The first of five Lockheed-Martin C-130J Super Hercules ordered by Indonesia has made its first flight in recent weeks, while the country also has two Airbus A400Ms on order with an option for four more.

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