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Australia gives Indonesia $365M this year while Indonesia is buying Russian fighter jets. Why?

I don't think many Australians will be impressed by Julie Bishop handing over $365M to Indonesia this year while Indonesia is buying Russian SU 35 fighter jets.

Why are we doing that Julie?

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There's an excellent synopsis of developments at Defense Industry Daily here.

Indonesia’s AF Expresses Continued Interest in SU-35s

TNI-AU Su-27SK
TNI-AU SU-27SK
(click to view full)

Indonesia’s turn toward Russian fighters stemmed partly from necessity. Its 12 remaining F-16A/Bs and 16 remaining F-5E/F fighters experienced severe maintenance problems external link in the wake of a US embargo, triggered by the Indonesian military’s widespread human rights abuses in East Timor. Its 30+ single-seat Hawk 209 sub-sonic light combat aircraft, derived from the trainer jets the TNI-AU also operates, were the country’s only fighter alternative.

A $192 million contract began to address that in 2003, by buying 2 SU-27SK single-seat and 2 SU-30MK twin-seat multi-role fighters from Russia. Indonesia submitted a formal request to buy 24 used F-16s in 2011, but it isn’t backing away from its high-end Flanker fleet. In fact, the TNI-AU has steadily added more. Now, they’re reaching out to their neighbors for training and support.

Flankers for Indonesia’s Fighter Force

Sukhoi Flanker Family Customers
Flanker customers
(click to view full)

Indonesia’s TNI-AU has now ordered 16 SU-27 family fighters: 2 SU-27SK, 3 SU-27SKM, 2 SU-30MK, and 9 SU-30MK2.

The SU-27SKM and SU-30MK2 export variants are the result of parallel upgrade programs. They share many modifications, including the addition of digital cockpits with updated avionics, additional wing hardpoints, carrying capacity upgrades to 8,000 kg of weapons, a wider variety of weapon options, upgraded radars and ECM (Electronic CounterMeasures to jam enemy radars etc.), and in-flight refueling capability. 

These modifications change the SU-27SK from a dedicated air superiority fighter to a multi-role fighter and attack aircraft. The SU-30, which has always been multi-role, is simply improved. Both of the new variants share the Sukhoi Flanker family’s combination of long range, large payloads, and air to air performance that can match any American fighter except the F-22A Raptor. 

Those capabilities, and Russia’s policy of avoiding political conditions on its weapon sales, nudged Indonesia into a tilt toward Russia as a weapons supplier. A $192 million contract began to address the problems created by the US embargo in 2003, by buying 2 SU-27SK single-seat air superiority fighters and 2 SU-30MK twin-seat multi-role fighters through Rosoboronexport. 

The TNI-AU’s tily toward Russia continued, despite the lifting of the US embargo in November 2005Russia’s MAKS air show external link doesn’t have quite the international clout of Farnborough or Le Bourget, but the price and quality of modern Russian fighters ensures its place on the international circuit. For MAKS 2007, its top military contract came on opening day. Rosoboronexport State Corporation and the Republic of Indonesia signed a $355 million Memorandum of Understanding for 3 SU-27SKM and 3 SU-30MK2 Flanker family fighters, building on the 2003 deal, and taking the country’s ordered fleet to 10 planes. 

A month later, that purchase was followed by a $1.2 billion wish list of Russian submarines, armored vehicles, and armed helicopters. That wish list didn’t fully materialize, but the end of 2011 saw another 6 SU-30MK2s bought from Russia, bringing the fighter deals’ totals to 16 fighters and about $1.02 billion. 

Simulator training is currently a co-operative venture with the Chinese, but by 2014, Indonesia expects to have its own virtual training infrastructure.

It’s all part of an oil-fueled modernization drive, backed by increased military spending. For more on the strategic and procurement issues tied up in this purchase, see the Additional Readings section, below, for UPI analyst Martin Sieff’s “Jets for Jakarta: A Whole New Strategic Game For Australasia”, and Air Power Australia’s “Sukhoi Flankers: The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power”.

Contracts & Key Events

FY 2016 – 2017

 

TNI-AU F-5E/Fs, USAF RF-5E
TNI-AU F-5s
(click to view full)

February 19/17: An official from the Russian state-owned Rostec said that he believes that contracts for the Su-35 with the government of Indonesia will be signed external link “in the coming months.” Jakarta is in the midst of an investigation into their procurement of the Leonardo AW101 helicopter, with the first delivered unit currently being stored in a hangar external link at the Indonesian capital’s Halim Perdanakusuma air base pending the completion of the investigation. Photos of the plane have shown the helicopter surrounded by police tape.

 

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