Cash-Strapped Indonesia OKs Third & Final Batch Of Rafale Fighters After Struggling To Buy Mirage-2000s

The Indonesian government has officially finalized the third and final phase of its planned acquisition of 42 Rafale fighter jets, Dassault Aviation announced.

The final tranche of 18 Rafales was officially approved on January 8, marking a significant milestone in Jakarta’s pursuit of bolstering its Air Force capabilities.

The French airframer, Dassault Aviation, confirmed the activation of the last phase, with Jakarta previously sealing agreements in September 2022 and August 2023 for six and 18 Rafale fighters, respectively. The total value of the procurement is estimated at US$8.1 billion.

Dassault CEO Eric Trappier underscored the strategic significance of Indonesia’s decision, stating that by choosing the Rafale, the country is opting for a “unique tool for sovereignty and operational independence.” 

Trappier said that the Rafale acquisition enhances Indonesia’s regional influence and fosters ambitious industrial and academic collaborations, signaling a relentless commitment to a long-term partnership.

Rafale Fighter Jets. Credits: Armée française – Opérations

Indonesia’s Rafale acquisition plan was announced in February 2022, which forms a crucial part of the country’s broader air force modernization strategy. 

Alongside the Rafales, Indonesia is set to acquire Korea Aerospace Industries’ KF-21 and is also considering the purchase of up to 24 Boeing F-15EXs.

Meanwhile, the procurement of Rafales has positioned Indonesia as Southeast Asia’s largest purchaser of French arms.

This also signals strengthening diplomatic and defense ties between France and Indonesia. The first delivery of three Rafales from the $8.1 billion deal is anticipated in January 2026. 

According to Dassault Aviation, Indonesia’s collaboration with Dassault Aviation goes beyond a mere aircraft acquisition, embracing a comprehensive “turnkey” approach. 

This joint effort extends to an industrial return that will contribute to the expansion and development of the Indonesian aeronautical industry.

Financial Challenges Plague Indonesia’s Procurement Endeavors

The latest development follows the Indonesian government’s recent decision to postpone acquiring 12 used Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets, previously utilized by Qatar’s air force. 

The delay comes from budgetary limitations, as confirmed by Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, spokesperson for Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.

Simanjuntak cited insufficient fiscal capacity as the primary reason, and the decision was a collaborative effort between the defense and finance ministries.

Indonesia has long pursued modernizing its aging air fleet, including US-made F-16s and Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 jets. 

The initial plan, signed in January 2023, involved a 733 million euro (US$801 million) deal to purchase Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets manufactured by the French company Dassault Aviation. 

However, concerns were raised at the time by Indonesian parliamentarians regarding the age of the Mirage fighters and the logistical challenges associated with sourcing spare parts for a discontinued model. 

Some critics also argued that the purchase might run afoul of the 2012 Defense Industry Law, designed to promote the local defense industry.

The Mirage acquisition was intended to bridge the capability gap in the Air Force until the delivery of 42 new Rafale jet fighters. The Ministry of Defense defended the decision last year, citing it as a quick and effective solution.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Air Force has opted for an alternative strategy to address the current setback. Instead of acquiring the Mirage jets, the focus will shift to retrofitting existing Sukhoi and F-16 aircraft to maintain operational capabilities until the arrival of the Rafale jet fighters in two years. 

Local reports also indicate that difficulties in securing a foreign loan, despite a government-backed guarantee, played a significant role in the Defense Ministry’s decision to cancel the Mirage acquisition.  

Mirage 2000

Additionally, the archipelagic nation of Indonesia is already grappling with challenges in meeting its financial commitments for its participation in the development project of the KF-21 fighter jet. In partnership with South Korea, this project aims to build a stealth aircraft. 

Coincidentally, this move comes shortly after President Jokowi approved a 20 percent increase in defense spending until the end of 2024, aimed at upgrading the country’s military hardware.

Yet, the nation’s plans to acquire various aircraft models, costing billions of dollars, raise concerns about its ability to manage the whole procurement process efficiently.

Even if these fighters are integrated into the Air Force fleet, uncertainties persist regarding how effectively the country will tackle logistical and maintenance challenges.