Su-35 Fighter Deal With Russia Very Much Intact, Despite F-15EX & Rafale Pacts, Indonesian Ambassador Says

Indonesia’s position regarding the Su-35 fighter jet deal with Russia appears to be experiencing a change, with the Indonesian Ambassador to Russia, Jose Tavares, stating that the agreement has not been terminated. Tavares told Russian media outlet TASS that Indonesia was currently awaiting a “more accommodating” environment before proceeding with the implementation of the contract. 

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Tavares explained, “Indeed, at some point, Russia and Indonesia signed this treaty. Indonesia has never terminated it, but it was put on hold to avoid certain potential inconveniences.”

He expressed Indonesia’s intention to reassess the situation when conditions become more accommodating. The ambassador highlighted that approximately 30% of Indonesia’s armed forces’ weaponry comprises Russian-made equipment.

However, Tavares’s statement diverges from past remarks by Indonesian military officials. Former Indonesian Air Force chief, Air Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo, had earlier declared the deal’s abandonment, citing prolonged acquisition processes and apprehensions over potential US sanctions.

Prasetyo had stated, “Regarding the Sukhoi Su-35, with a heavy heart, yes, we have abandoned that plan. We can’t just keep talking about it.”

The Su-35 deal, initially announced in August 2017, entailed Indonesia purchasing 11 Su-35s from Russia for $1.14 billion, with Moscow obligated to accept 50% of the contract value in local commodities, alongside a 35% offset requirement. It was understood that Indonesia ultimately desired up to 16 Su-35s.

The implementation of the contract faced numerous delays. In 2019, Former Indonesian Ambassador to Russia, Mohamad Wahid Supriyadi, attributed the delays to the complexity of the trade scheme involving government agencies and companies.

However, the deal ultimately failed to materialize due to budgetary constraints exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and apprehensions surrounding potential US sanctions.

The enactment of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions (CAATSA) by former US President Donald Trump in 2017 intensified Indonesia’s concerns.

File Image: Su-35

The legislation targeted countries engaging in significant transactions with adversarial nations, including Russia, thereby threatening repercussions for Indonesia’s defense procurement from Moscow.

Indonesia’s Procurement Of Modern Fighter Jets 

Indonesia’s quest for advanced fighter jets has been marked by twists and turns, with shifting alliances, procurement plans, and financial hurdles defining the nation’s defense acquisition strategy.

After abandoning plans to procure Russian fighter jets due to acquisition complexities and potential US sanctions, Indonesia embarked on a search for alternatives.

In 2020, Indonesia expressed interest in Austria’s Eurofighter Typhoon fleet, but the deal failed to materialize. Subsequent attempts to acquire the F-35 were thwarted by US authorities’ concerns over Indonesia’s readiness for fifth-generation aircraft.

Ultimately, Indonesia’s fighter jet selection crystallized into a combination of French and American aircraft. In a landmark decision in February 2022, Indonesia announced the procurement of 42 Rafale fighter jets, becoming the second Asian nation after India to acquire the cutting-edge French aircraft.

However, the nation’s aspirations extended beyond Rafales. In August 2023, Indonesia unveiled plans to procure F-15 Eagle fighter jets from US defense giant Boeing, signaling a diversification of its air force capabilities.

These F-15 jets, designated as F-15IDN, were to be modeled after the advanced F-15EX variant, promising enhanced operational capabilities. In addition to state-of-the-art American heavy-weight fighters, Indonesia also sought to bolster its air force with battle-proven yet older French aircraft, including the Mirage 2000-5.

File Image: F-15EX

Early this year, Indonesia announced the withdrawal from a contract to procure Mirage 2000-5s from the Qatar Emiri Air Force. Jakarta said, “The purchase plan for the Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets is temporarily postponed due to fiscal limitations in Indonesia.”

Indonesia also partnered with South Korea to develop the next-generation supersonic combat aircraft, KF-21. However, financial challenges have emerged as a significant hurdle in fulfilling Indonesia’s commitments to the project.

Indonesia has struggled to meet payment deadlines despite agreeing to fund 20% of the development costs in exchange for technology transfers and prototype models.

Reportedly, Indonesia has sought to renegotiate cost-sharing terms with South Korea, proposing a reduced financial commitment of 600 billion won, down from the initial 1.6 trillion won. This move underscores Indonesia’s efforts to balance its defense modernization ambitions with fiscal constraints.