Sunday, December 10, 2023

F16V, Su35: Indonesia wants both, but probably won't get them

During a trip to the Roesmin Nurjadin air base in Pekanbaru, regional capital of Riau province, the Chief of Staff of the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal Yuyu Sutisna, declared that Indonesia would acquire 2 squadrons of F16 block 72 Vipers during the 2020-2024 equipment plan, with a 16% increase in the army budget for the year 2020 . These aircraft will be intended to reinforce the 33 F16s already in service, acquired during the program called Peace Bima Sena I during the 1990s and supplemented by a donation of 24 used aircraft by the United States last year . At the same time, he indicated that the country would also provide Su35s within 5 years, an order that has been under negotiation for almost 4 years now with Moscow, to replace its Su27s.

Since its independence in 1949, Indonesia, under the influence of its President Soekarno, had been one of the pillars of the non-aligned third world movement. He notably hosted the Bandung conference in 1955, where with Nehri's India, Zhu Enlai's China and Nasser's Egypt, he declared the country's non-alignment with the two Cold War blocs. . Alternatively closer to the Soviet Union and the United States, Jakarta has always tried to maintain a certain balance in the suppliers of defense equipment to its armed forces. This is how in the 60s and 70s, American A4 Skyhawks and British Vampires rubbed shoulders with Soviet Mig 17s, 19s and 21s on the country's bases.

F16 Indonesia
The new F16 Block 72s will reinforce the 33 aircraft already in service with the Indonesian Air Force

But today, with a different political situation, there is no guarantee that Jakarta can achieve its goals. It is in fact unlikely, in the state of CAATSA legislation, that Washington will authorize the sale of 2 squadrons of F16 block72 Vipe r, the most advanced of the F16s having in particular an AESA radar and very on-board electronics. modern, while the country plans to simultaneously acquire 11 Russian Su-35s. In April 2019, the announcement made by Cairo of its intention to acquire Su-35 provoked a strong reaction from the American authorities, who threatened reprisals against Egypt and its armed forces. Likewise, the reversals in the declarations of the Turkish authorities concerning the acquisition of the device from Moscow in recent days are the direct consequence of American threats in the field. Only India, and its immense market of more than 110 light fighters, for which Lockheed-Martin offers the F21, a version of the F16 block72 specific to Indian needs, today seems immune to CAATSA, despite the acquisition of 5 regiments of S400 .

However, this unnuanced strategy of the United States is starting to turn against its own industry and its own interests. Thus, certain countries are beginning to join forces to overcome the possible embargo of equipment and spare parts for American weapons systems. This is the case, for example, of Turkey and Pakistan, together operating a fleet of nearly 400 F16s, which are collaborating more and more intensively in these areas for the maintenance and upgradeability of aircraft. Russia, for its part, has started to implement alternative payment protocols making it possible to do without the use of the American Dollar and SWIFT international transfers to fulfill its orders. In fact, the intransigence of CAATSA is producing more negative effects than positive effects, and it is possible that fairly quickly, this legislation will be amended, or simply removed, on occasion, for example , of the next American presidential term which will begin in 2020.

Russian Air Force Su35 taking off with Kh35 and Kh38 ground-guided air missiles during state tests in 2017
Indonesia is also negotiating with Russia to acquire 11 Su35s to replace its Su27s

In any case, it is likely that communications concerning the acquisition of Su35 by Jakarta will now be much rarer, without this affecting the progress of discussions with Moscow. However, it remains to be seen how the US administration will respond to Jakarta's request under current conditions. The choice of a less politically constrained aircraft, such as the French Rafale or the Swedish JAS 39 Gripen, would probably have simplified the Indonesian procedures.

Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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