The modernization of the Indonesian air force is a complex issue, rich in twists and turns. While Washington has just refused the sale of F35A to Jakarta, instead offering it the latest version of the F16, the Block 70 Viper, the Indonesian authorities turned to Vienna for negotiate the purchase of the Austrian Eurofighter Typhoon block 1 fleet, which the country is eager to get rid of. At the same time, Moscow hoped the order for 13 Su-35s could be put back in the saddle, after being arrested in 2018 by Jakarta for fear of being subjected to US sanctions under CATSAA. At the same time, the country was supposed to participate in South Korea's KFX next-generation aircraft program. But tensions have arisen between Jakarta and Seoul, notably linked to Indonesia's defaults on the FA50 Golden Eagle program.
However, France is also in negotiations with the Indonesian authorities on this issue, and has been since the visit of Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto in Paris in January 2020, visit during which he had made known the interest of Jakarta to acquire 48 Rafale planes, but also 4 Scorpene submarines and 2 Gowind 2500 corvettes. The subject did not however give rise to more details, nor of media treatment , in large part due to the volatility of the Indonesian authorities in this matter. However, and despite the delicate context surrounding the negotiations with Jakarta, the Team Rafale and the Quai d'Orsay teams have obviously patiently and discreetly developed their arguments.
Following this, on the occasion of Prabowo Subianto's new visit to Paris on October 21 to meet his counterpart Florence Parly at the Hotel de Brienne, the Indonesian minister reportedly said he wanted to formalize the order for the 48 Rafale "before the end of the year ”, reports the economic news site La Tribune. The site also announces that the information has been confirmed by several sources, even if the teams of Dassault Aviation and its partners consider this time a little short for such an important and complex file. No other information was filtered, neither in terms of contract value, nor industrial and technological or economic compensation. Recall that Moscow had agreed to settle part of the amounts relating to the order for the Su-35s in palm oil, at the request of the Indonesian authorities.
However, the collaboration between Indonesia and France in defense equipment has never encountered any particular difficulties in recent years, while the country has imported more than € 1,6 billion in French military equipment on the past decade. Thus, the Indonesian armies are allowed the most important customers of the French Defense industry, in particular concerning the CAESAR self-propelled artillery system with 55 units ordered, or its helicopters with 8 Caracal and 12 Fennec. She is also involved in equipment of Indonesian navy frigates.
A fleet of 48 Rafale planes would undoubtedly enable the Indonesian air forces to make a very significant good capability. They now use a heterogeneous fleet of aircraft made up of 33 American F16s, as well as 5 Russian Su-27s and 11 Su-30s. This fleet is supplemented by 23 British Hawk light fighters, 15 T-50i co-produced with South Korea, as well as around fifteen Brazilian Super Tucano. These devices must ensure the protection of some 16.000 islands constituting the Indonesian archipelago of which more than 900 are inhabited. In this context, the length and flexibility of use of the Rafale, capable of simultaneously carrying out several types of missions during the same long-term mission, would allow the Indonesian air forces to considerably strengthen their overall defensive capabilities.
This need is all the more pressing as Indonesia, with Malaysia and the Philippines, constitute a natural lock allowing to pass from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, a route at the very least strategic for Beijing and its News of Silk Roads. Because if China is now Indonesia's main trading partner, as well as its main importer and its main customer, Jakarta intends to keep its independence vis-à-vis its ambitious neighbor. Reason why the president Jocko Widodo had increased the country's defense budget by 16% in 2020, while representing only 0,9% of the country's GDP, and 5% of the state budget, without giving in to the sirens of the Chinese defense industry.
In fact, where many countries have little room for maneuver in terms of defense budgets, the Indonesian authorities potentially have significant reserves if they were to rapidly increase the financial resources devoted to the country's defense, and this d '' as much as growth is very strong there, above 5% since 2004 (excluding the Covid crisis). The country's GDP thus rose from $ 165 billion in 2000 to more than $ 1.100 billion in 2019, now reaching the 16th rank of the richest countries on the planet. At the same time, the population has grown from 211 million to 268 million, growing by more than 1% per year.
If the file materializes, it will undoubtedly be a great success, both for the French defense industry and for its diplomacy, in this region today so strategic. Moreover, the two countries must also sign a Defense agreement, a sign of a significant rapprochement between this Asian power and Paris. It would also be a success for the Rafale, an aircraft unjustly criticized a few years ago, which has recorded several major export successes over the past 6 years, in Egypt, Qatar, India and recently in Greece. Interestingly, still in the same hypothesis, Indonesia would be the first country to acquire the Rafale without having previously acquired the Mirage 2000.
Finally, it would very probably be another success to be credited to Jean-Yves Le Drian, the discreet but very effective French foreign minister, who had already negotiated the first 3 Rafale export contracts when he was Minister of Defense of President Hollande. Whatever the case, it will now be necessary to be careful and probably patient. As we said at the start of this article, Indonesia is not at a ready turnaround on this issue. As for the two other requests addressed during Prabowo Subianto's visit to Paris in January, concerning the Scorpene submarines and the Naval Group corvettes, if they are not abandoned, they appear however more complex than initially presented.