Indonesia balances acquisition of Russian Su-35s to get US F-35s

Finally, it would seem that Indonesia is much less the victim of American pressure than it seems concerning the acquisition of Russian Su-35 fighters. Indeed, Jakarta denied information published by Bloomberg a few days ago on an Indonesian renunciation of the purchase of the 11 Russian Su-35s to replace its Su-27s for the benefit of American F-16Vs. On the contrary, the country's authorities seem to want to use this order signed in 2018 , and the terms of which are still being discussed with Moscow, in particular with regard to payment, for force his hand in Washington to authorize the export of F35 to Indonesia.

Indeed, the F-35A would meet the needs of Jakarta in order to have a versatile aircraft capable of carrying out both combat missions, and coordination missions with the country's air, land and naval forces, particularly in the case of a confrontation with China. The Indonesian air forces do not have devices dedicated to this mission, like the E3 Sentry, and the F35A offers limited but real capabilities in this area, thanks to its numerous sensors and data fusion.

F35's data fusion capabilities seem to be of particular interest to Indonesian air forces that do not have an early warning aircraft

If the Russian authorities deny any suspension of negotiations around the execution of the order for Su-35, the Indonesian authorities have declared that they are aware thatthey will have to make a choice between the Russian apparatus and the acquisition of American equipment . But what may seem like a constraint, through the application of CAATSA legislation, has been skillfully transformed into an asset in the negotiations with Washington, by rejecting the hypothesis of F16V proposed by the United States to replace the Russian aircrafts, and by putting the acquisition of F35, which has so far been refused by the United States, as the only alternative. In addition, Jakarta is betting on the need to find new markets for the F35 in order to alleviate the sanctions against Turkey following the acquisition of Russian S400s, starting the production schedule for American aircraft of almost ten units. per year, or 8% of planned industrial capacity.

But the Indonesian strategy seems to go further. Indeed, during his visit to Paris last January, the Indonesian Minister of Defense, Prabowo Subianto, would have been interested in an order for 48 Rafale aircrafts . However, the Rafale, in its F4 version, precisely offers data detection and fusion capabilities comparable to F35A. And such an order would replace the squadrons currently equipped with 33 American F16s, knowing that Paris sees no objection to making French and Russian aircraft collaborate in the same air force, and obviously does not apply sanctions comparable to CAATSA.

The Indonesian air force implements 33 F16 today, constituting the backbone of its hunting fleet.

In fact, it seems that Jakarta wants to put in competition two models of air forces, a first based on Russian Su-35 and potentially French Rafale, a second based on F35A and potentially F16 modernized to standard block 70 viper. In the first case, Indonesia would maintain a neutral international position as it had since 1956, when with India, Egypt and Yugoslavia, the country joined the non-aligned movement. On the other hand, by choosing American aircraft, Jakarta could benefit from increased protection and better interoperability with the American forces, especially against China, the main concern of the Indonesian authorities today.

The F35 could have the support of the Indian Navy, one of the most powerful in the South Pacific theater with 6 attack submarines, 7 frigates, 26 corvettes and 4 assault ships. Indeed, faced with the resurgence of the number of aircraft carriers in the region, whether in China, Japan, South Korea or India, Jakarta could be tempted to equip itself with this type of ship, even if the subject has not yet been officially raised. In which case, the use of a ship without catapults would seem likely, and the F35B is a plane perfectly suited to this use. In addition, having regard to the specific geography of the country, composed of 18.000 islands of which 6000 are inhabited, the use of an ADAC / V aircraft like the F35B can prove to be particularly effective in increasing military resilience in the face of possible assault.

Indonesia could be interested in the short and vertical take-off and landing version F-35B to equip a possible aircraft carrier as well as to have a greater capacity to distribute its air forces on the 18.000 islands which form the country

Be that as it may, the case concerning the modernization of the Indonesian air force is obviously far from being closed today. With a budget increased by 16% for 2020 alone , Jakarta is the subject of much covetousness on the part of the major exporting countries of Defense equipment, and seems determined to make use of this renewed interest to obtain the equipment required at the desired conditions. It remains to be seen how each of the capitals concerned will react. It is indeed possible that, faced with this reversal of the situation, Moscow offers to Jakarta to export its Su-57 in the case of an initial order of Su-35 with, as a result, industrial compensations that the United States United will find it difficult to provide, given the commitments already made around the F35 program.

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