Indonesia’s purchases of Russian SU-27SK and SU-30MKK Flanker-family fighters in 2003 and 2007 got a lot of attention. Now, the country is augmenting those high-end fighters with more advanced models of an older aircraft within its fleet: 24 refurbished F-16s from the USAF.
The F-16 has a checkered history in Indonesia’s TNI-AU. The Indonesian military’s widespread murders and abuses in East Timor led to a 1999 US arms embargo, which created severe maintenance problems with its 12 remaining F-16A/B Block 15s, and its 16 remaining F-5E/F fighters. The US embargo lifted in November 2005, as lingering concerns about human rights accountability were trumped by the needs of a global campaign against Islamic terrorism. Which left Indonesia wondering what to do about its fighter fleet, as its economy picked up speed.
Who Will Flank the Flankers?
The TNI-AU appreciates its Flanker-family fighters, but 10 of them aren’t enough to cover its huge territory. Other platforms in the TNI-AU inventory can help, but they don’t fully solve the problem. Some of its F-16s are back in service, and have been participating in Ausindo exercises with Australia, but they’re very old designs. Keeping the older F-5s running is even more difficult and expensive. The sub-sonic Hawk 209 jets that form the backbone of its fleet are capable light fighters in basic policing roles, but the TNI-AU wanted more.
Indonesia might have moved to solve that problem by adding more Russian Flankers, and it may yet do so. The air force also wanted a less expensive option to bulks up its numbers.
Korean options also fell short. South Korea’s comparable T-50 family was also a low-end fighter option, and a TA-50 variant eventually became Indonesia’s advanced trainer buy. The TA-50 wasn’t quite up to the capability level Indonesia wanted for higher-end missions, while the more advanced FA-50 would have had trouble meeting the TNI-AU’s desired 2014 delivery date. Strike three was the cooperative KF-X, a development program with South Korea was supposed to deliver a future F-16 class fighter, which will reportedly be based on the FA-50. A fighter that won’t be delivered until 2025 at best doesn’t solve Indonesia’s short-term problem, and the program’s long-term status has since become uncertain. The TNI-AU didn’t see any of these as the answer to their problem.
What did solve Indonesia’s problem was an offer from the Americans to augment their remaining F-16s with 24 used and refurbished USAF planes.
F-16C/D block 25 aircraft with AN/APG-68 radars and the MIL-STD-1760 databus offer big improvements over the current F-16A/B Block 15 Air Defense Fighter’s AN/APG-66 radar. The APG-68 radar has better aerial performance, and many more ground and maritime surveillance options. The radar & databus combination also allow the fighters to carry a much wider range of weapons, including AIM-7P or AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, and a wider set of ground attack weapons. At the 2011 East Asia Summit, Indonesia accepted.
Once the second-hand F-16s arrive, Indonesia’s 6 remaining F-16 Block 15s (3 F-16A, 3 F-16B) will be put through a Falcon-UP program in order to refurbish their airframes, and bring the entire fleet of 30 to the same standard.
Contracts & Key Events
Sept 7/14: Open Source IMINT offers pictures of changes to the air base in Pekanbaru, near the strategic Strait of Malacca. They add:
“Last month, the USAF sent out a four man Mobile Training Team to support six Indonesian Air Force instructors. The instructors will reportedly provide training to Squadron 3 at Madiun and Squadron 16 at Pekanbaru, the two squadrons splitting the 24 aircraft.
Partly in confirmation, satellite imagery from July 2014 shows a new support area on the south side of Pekanbaru Airbase, a location in western Indonesia near the Malacca Strait. New aircraft shelters and a maintenance hangar were confirmed.”
The new construction is a compact arrangement, and convenient rather than hardened. Once upon a time, this sort of thing would have required clearances and a briefing. Sources: OS IMINT, “F-16 Support Area Confirmed in Pekanbaru”.
July 14/14: Delivery. The USAF’s Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, UT delivers the first 3 F-16 Block 52IDs (1 F-16C and 2 F-16Ds) to Indonesia, under a $670 million, 24-plane refurbishment program.
Aircraft began delivery from storage at the 309th AMARG in Tucson, AZ to the Hill AFB depot in May 2013. Each plane requires 15,000 man-hours to upgrade the avionics, while overhauling the wings, landing gear, and other components on each aircraft. Ogden ALC is scheduled to deliver the other 21 planes by the end of 2015. Sources: USAF, “Hill AFB plays key role in delivering F-16s to Indonesia”.
July 11/14: TNI-AU update. The Indonesia Air Force offers an update regarding its new F-16s, which it says are being upgraded to an F-16C/D “Block 52ID” standard. The F100-PW-200E engines are being refurbished, airframes are being refurbished and strengthened, and new electronics are being inserted that include a Mission Computer MMC- 7000A variant of the M-5 used in Block 52+ planes, plus the items noted in the DSCA request. The jets will be fully compatible with AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The piece also confirms that the F-16s will complement Air Squadron 3’s existing F-16s at Iswahjudi AFB, while 16 Squadron at Pekanbaru complements sub-sonic Hawk 109/209 light attack and air policing fighters. Sources: Indonesian AF, “Wajah Baru Pesawat F-16 C/D 52ID TNI AU”.
Feb 26/14: Infrastructure. The TNI-AU commander of the Roesmin Nurjadin Air Base in Pekanbaru, next to the Strait of Malacca, is looking forward to adding F-16 alongside the base’s Hawk 109/209 light fighters. The infrastructure build-out is reportedly in its final phase. Col. Andyawan:
“The construction of facilities at the air base is currently 90 percent complete. Hopefully, it can start operating in June this year…. So far, F16 air superiority fighters have been stationed… in Madiun [Iswahyudi Airbase, central Java]. In the future, a squadron of F16s will be stationed in Pekanbaru as air superiority fighters…”
Sources: Open Source IMINT, “Indonesia: F-16 Squadron in Pekanbaru in 2014” | Antara News, “Squadron of F16 jets in Pekanbaru to operate in June”.
Feb 7/14: AIN offers an update re: Indonesia’s F-16 purchase:
“The contract comprises 19 single-seaters and five dual-seaters, with the first four aircraft due in mid-2014, followed by four every three months. Work on the jets is under way at Ogden Air Logistics Center, Utah, where a TNI-AU Project Office comprising six people has been set up. The aircraft will be delivered initially to SkU 16, based at Madiun-Iswahyudi, until the infrastructure at Pekanbaru is ready. Their arrival will allow the aging fleet of six F-16As and three F-16B Block 15s to go through a Falcon Up upgrade. The F-16s have suffered spares shortages in recent years, but these issues have not been limited to F-16s.”
Sources: AIN, “Indonesian Air Force Draws Up Shopping List”.
January 2012. The Indonesian government accepts the grant of aircraft. Soon after, they finalize a $670 million program to refurbish the 24 F-16s and prep them for delivery. Sources: USAF, “Hill AFB plays key role in delivering F-16s to Indonesia”.
Nov 17/11: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Indonesia’s official request for 24 ex-USAF F-16C/D Block 25 fighters with 28 F100-PW-200 or F100-PW-220E engines (F100 eventually picked). American F-16C/D block 25 aircraft with AN/APG-68 radars and the MIL-STD-1760 databus offer big improvements over the current TNI-AU F-16A/B Block 15’s AN/APG-66 radar. The APG-68 radar has better aerial performance, and many more ground and maritime surveillance options. The radar & databus combination also allows the fighters to carry a much wider range of weapons, including medium-range air-to-air missiles and a wider set of ground attack weapons.
All F-16s and engines are being granted from US stocks, along with refurbishment, and:
* Expanded Enhanced Fire Control (EEFC) or Commercial Fire Control, or Modular Mission Computers
* Raytheon Enhance Position Location Reporting Systems (EPLRS)
* Raytheon Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL), for cooperative operations. Works with EPLRS.
* Northrop Grumman LN-260 GPS/INS navigation system (SPS version, non-PPS)
* LAU-129A/A Launchers that can fire AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, something its current F-16s can’t do.
* AN/AAQ-33 Sniper or AN/AAQ-28 LITENING advanced surveillance and targeting pods. Northrop Grumman’s LITENING was invented in Israel, and Islamic countries have all picked Lockheed Martin’s Sniper pod so far.
* ARC-164/186 Radios
* Terma’s AN/ALQ-213 Electronic Warfare Management Systems
* Raytheon’s AN/ALR-69 Radar Warning Receivers
* BAE’s AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispenser Systems
* Cartridge Actuated Devices/Propellant Actuated Devices (CAD/PAD)
* Plus tools, support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training and training equipment, and other U.S. Government and contractor support. At least 30 Indonesian pilots will receive F-16 training in the United States, and mobile training teams from the United States will train Indonesian aircraft maintainers.
A DSCA request is not a contract, and the Pentagon is currently working with the Indonesian Ministry of Defense to develop a letter of offer and acceptance. That’s expected to be done by early 2012, unless Congress actively moves to block the sale. The intent is to begin delivery of aircraft by July 2014, as requested by the government of Indonesia.
The estimated cost is up to $750 million. The USAF’s 309th Maintenance Wing at Hill AFB, UT will refurbish the planes and add any required upgrades, and Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, CT will handle the engine overhauls. Implementation of this proposed sale will not require the assignment of any additional U.S. Government or contractor representatives to Indonesia. US DSCA [PDF] | Pentagon.
DSCA request: 24 F-16s
Background: Indonesia’s Air Force
* Indonesia – Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU)
* F-16.net – Indonesia
* DID – Indonesia Looking for Trainer/Attack Aircraft. It bought EMB-2314 Super Tucanos, then bought KAI TA-50s.
News & Views
* Aviation Week (Feb 3/14) – Fast-Changing Trends In Asia Fighter Market
* Human Rights Watch (July 22/10) – Indonesia: US Resumes Military Assistance to Abusive Force. They mean Indonesia’s Kopassus special forces.
* DID (Nov 24/05) – State Dept. Issues Waiver, Resumes US Military Sales to Indonesia