In exchange for 11 Su-35 fighter aircraft
, Indonesia's Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita has confirmed
that Jakarta will barter commodities such as coffee, palm oil and tea to Russia in lieu of hard cash. Lukita made the announcement
while visiting Moscow for a bilateral business forum between the two countries, which also saw officials from Indonesian state trading company PT Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia and Russian state conglomerate Rostec sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) ahead of a formal barter deal being announced. Russia is currently facing a new round of US-imposed trade sanctions, while Jakarta is trying to promote its palm oil products amid threats of a cut in consumption by European Union countries. Indonesia, which had a $411 million trade surplus with Russia in 2016, also aims to expand its partnership in tourism, education, energy, technology and aviation among others.
Indonesia’s turn toward Russian fighters stemmed partly from necessity. Its 12 remaining F-16A/Bs and 16 remaining F-5E/F fighters experienced severe maintenance problems in the wake of a US embargo, triggered by the Indonesian military’s widespread human rights abuses in East Timor. Its 30+ single-seat Hawk 209 sub-sonic light combat aircraft, derived from the trainer jets the TNI-AU also operates, were the country’s only fighter alternative.
A $192 million contract began to address that in 2003, by buying 2 SU-27SK single-seat and 2 SU-30MK twin-seat multi-role fighters from Russia. Indonesia submitted a formal request to buy 24 used F-16s in 2011, but it isn’t backing away from its high-end Flanker fleet. In fact, the TNI-AU has steadily added more. Now, they’re reaching out to their neighbors for training and support.