Indonesia has decided to buy four squadrons of 12 high-performance fighter bombers each from Russia over the next several years. The country would purchase an initial batch of two long-range Su-27 and two Su-30 jets to be delivered this year, while at least 44 other planes will be delivered over the next four years. The long term plan is for one Sukhoi squadron to be deployed at an airbase outside Java, but for the time being the four aircraft would be based in Madiun, East Java (to facilitate training and maintenance).
The deal is reportedly worth $500 million and involves a trade offset agreement of palm oil products and natural rubber. American defense companies lost these potential sales because Indonesia has become frustrated by Washington's 12-year embargo over arms sales because of human rights concerns - even though the old dictator is gone, the media has been freed, democratic elections were held, East Timor freed and Indonesia was quick to sign onto President Bush's global war on terror.
Indonesia has been supplied with United States hardware since the 1960s and annual arms purchases peaked at $400 million in the 1980s, but in 1991 the U.S. Congress banned exports after Indonesian troops killed hundreds of civilians in East Timor. An entire squadron of 12 Skyhawk A-4 jets had to be grounded and only half of the 10 F-16s and 24 F-5E Tigers are considered airworthy. Two Indonesian F-16s crashed recently, because of accidents or engine trouble.
Indonesian Air Force commanders would have preferred Western-planes compatible with the U.S.-made F-16 fighter-bombers already in the Indonesian inventory, but changed their mind after Malaysia's success integrating MiG-29s with F/A-18 Hornets. The Indonesian Sukhois will replace all of the U.S.-made jets, save for the F-16s.
With those Malaysian assets in mind, Indonesian air defense planners want to augment short-range Rapier missiles with Russian long-range S-300 missiles, shorter-range SA-15 Gauntlets and shoulder-fired Iglas. Indonesia uses the 30-year-old Rapiers to protect vital oil and natural gas fields in Sumatra, Borneo and Papua from air attack. - Adam Geibel