Indonesia’s AF Expresses Continued Interest in SU-35s
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.
Flankers for Indonesia’s Fighter Force
Indonesia’s TNI-AU has now ordered 16 SU-27 family fighters: 2 SU-27SK, 3 SU-27SKM, 2 SU-30MK, and 9 SU-30MK2.
The SU-27SKM and SU-30MK2 export variants are the result of parallel upgrade programs. They share many modifications, including the addition of digital cockpits with updated avionics, additional wing hardpoints, carrying capacity upgrades to 8,000 kg of weapons, a wider variety of weapon options, upgraded radars and ECM (Electronic CounterMeasures to jam enemy radars etc.), and in-flight refueling capability.
These modifications change the SU-27SK from a dedicated air superiority fighter to a multi-role fighter and attack aircraft. The SU-30, which has always been multi-role, is simply improved. Both of the new variants share the Sukhoi Flanker family’s combination of long range, large payloads, and air to air performance that can match any American fighter except the F-22A Raptor.
Those capabilities, and Russia’s policy of avoiding political conditions on its weapon sales, nudged Indonesia into a tilt toward Russia as a weapons supplier. A $192 million contract began to address the problems created by the US embargo in 2003, by buying 2 SU-27SK single-seat air superiority fighters and 2 SU-30MK twin-seat multi-role fighters through Rosoboronexport.
The TNI-AU’s tily toward Russia continued, despite the lifting of the US embargo in November 2005. Russia’s MAKS air show doesn’t have quite the international clout of Farnborough or Le Bourget, but the price and quality of modern Russian fighters ensures its place on the international circuit. For MAKS 2007, its top military contract came on opening day. Rosoboronexport State Corporation and the Republic of Indonesia signed a $355 million Memorandum of Understanding for 3 SU-27SKM and 3 SU-30MK2 Flanker family fighters, building on the 2003 deal, and taking the country’s ordered fleet to 10 planes.
A month later, that purchase was followed by a $1.2 billion wish list of Russian submarines, armored vehicles, and armed helicopters. That wish list didn’t fully materialize, but the end of 2011 saw another 6 SU-30MK2s bought from Russia, bringing the fighter deals’ totals to 16 fighters and about $1.02 billion.
Simulator training is currently a co-operative venture with the Chinese, but by 2014, Indonesia expects to have its own virtual training infrastructure.
It’s all part of an oil-fueled modernization drive, backed by increased military spending. For more on the strategic and procurement issues tied up in this purchase, see the Additional Readings section, below, for UPI analyst Martin Sieff’s “Jets for Jakarta: A Whole New Strategic Game For Australasia”, and Air Power Australia’s “Sukhoi Flankers: The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power”.
Contracts & Key Events
FY 2016 – 2018
February 19/18: Contracts Inked! Russia’s Interfax news agency reports that Indonesia has finally inked contracts for the purchase of 11 Su-35 fighter aircraft. The agreement comes after two years of negotiations and will involve Jakarta supplying goods such as rubber and palm oil to help fund part of the acquisition, and it is believed Moscow will also provide a loan. While Russia’s defense ministry didn’t mention the total price tag for the sale, the Indonesian defense ministry have budgeted a total of $1.5 billion for the purchase of up to 16 new fighter jets. It’s unclear whether the deal includes options for a further five. The first two jets are scheduled to arrive in October.
September 26/17: Indonesia’s Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told media that the government will sign contracts solidifying the purchase of eleven Su-35 fighter aircraft in November. Ryacudu added that the aircraft will be delivered within two years but did not confirm plans to acquire a further 5 Su-35s in order to have a full squadron. Jakarta’s deal to buy the fighters includes a substantial barter deal with Russia for Indonesian commodities including rubber and palm oil.
August 24/17: In a joint press conference led by its Defense and Trade Ministers, Indonesia has announced the $1.14 billion purchase of eleven Su-35 fighters from Russia. Under the terms of the agreement, Jakarta will transfer $570 million worth of commodities, such as coffee and palm oil, in addition to cash to pay for the aircraft. The deal is expected to be finalised soon between Indonesian state trading company PT Perusahaan Perdangangan Indonesia and Russian state conglomerate Rostec. Delivery is expected to take place in two batches commencing in 2019.
August 07/17: 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.
July 28/17: After two years of talks and negotiations, Indonesia has confirmed that it will purchase 11 Su-35 fighter aircraft from Russia. The fighters will replace its F5 E/F Tiger II warplanes, which have been in service with the Indonesian Air Forces since 1980s, and deliveries could commence from as early as next year. Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu made the statement to media outlets following a recent cabinet meeting, adding that the government is also looking into purchasing Chinese UAVs that will have an attack capability as well as the ability to be customized to Jakarta’s specifications.
February 19/17: An official from the Russian state-owned Rostec said that he believes that contracts for the Su-35 with the government of Indonesia will be signed “in the coming months.” Jakarta is in the midst of an investigation into their procurement of the Leonardo AW101 helicopter, with the first delivered unit currently being stored in a hangar at the Indonesian capital’s Halim Perdanakusuma air base pending the completion of the investigation. Photos of the plane have shown the helicopter surrounded by police tape.
October 9/15: Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin is marketing the company’s F-16V to Indonesia as the country plans to replace its fleet of aging F-5E fighters. The company dispatched a cockpit demonstrator to the country this week in an effort to swoon the country’s Air Force chiefs, who appear particularly set on acquiring the Sukhoi Su-35. The Indonesian Air Force already operates 24 F-16s, with deliveries of these beginning last July.
September 8/15: Indonesia again indicated continued interest in purchasing Su-35s to replace its long-in-the-tooth F-5Es. Indonesia already has some earlier models, the Su-27, which appears to have been a positive influence over others being considered, such as the F-15 and F-16, of which the country already owns eight.
Oct 7/14: Su-35 favorite? Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko tells Republika Online that they’re leaning toward the Su-35 as their F-5 replacement, with the JAS-39 in 2nd place and the F-16 a distant 3rd:
“Menurut dia, jet tempur buatan negeri Paman Sam itu sudah tidak layak pakai lantaran teknologinya sudah ketinggalan zaman…. “Untuk udara, ada pengajuan penggantian F-5. Sukhoi Su-35 menjadi pilihan pertama, Saab JAS 39 Gripen pilihan kedua, dan pesawat F-16 pilihan ketiga,”…”
This isn’t the end, because negotiations, budgets and other considerations will still come into play. If that pick does stand, it would keep the Flanker family as the backbone of the TNI-AU, but the fleet would also be fragmented among 3+ types with partial commonality at best: 5 Su27SKM, 11 Su-30 (2 MKs, 9 MK2s), and 16 Su-35SK. The Su-27SKM and Su-30MK fighters will retire first, which will simplify matters, but that’s unlikely to happen before 2025 or so. Sources: ROL, “Helikopter Apache dan Sukhoi Su-35 Segera Perkuat TNI”.
Jan 7/14: Competition. Indonesia wants to replace its 11 remaining F-5E/F Tiger II light fighters with 16 modern aircraft. Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed that they “have received proposals from several jet fighter manufacturers,” and are evaluating them. Indonesian Military Commander General Moeldoko added that the TNI-AU has studied the SU-35, F-16, F-15, and JAS-39 Gripen.
Moeldoko wants the requisition plan included in Indonesia’s Strategic Plan II for the 2015 – 2020, but the air force’s choice will also depend on available funds. The F-15 is significantly more expensive than other options, and if the air force wants 16 fighters, the state of Indonesia’s economy will influence what they can buy.
There are always extraneous considerations in Indonesia. Still, if commonality matters, the F-16 is the only fighter currently in Indonesia’s inventory. The F-15 and JAS-39 are used by its neighbors, and have Asian support networks in place. Picking the SU-35 seems odd, as it would leave Indonesia vulnerable to becoming the 1st export customer, while worsening the fragmentation within an already-split Flanker fleet. Still, the existing SU-30MK fleet is a known quantity, which means the SU-35 is the only variant would require study for a full consideration of their options. Sources: Antara News, “Defense Ministry looking to replace aging F-5 tiger fighter aircraft”.
2011 – 2013
6 more SU-30s bought, financed, delivered. US DSCA request for 24 used F-16s.
Sept 5/13: Delivery. The final 2 of 6 Su-30MK2s ordered in 2011 have been delivered at Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base, along with 13 technicians to help with assembly. This brings the fleet to 16, once they’re re-assembled and tested. Xinhua reports that:
“Indonesia’s Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who witnessed the last delivery of Sukhoi Su-30 Mk2 at the air forces’ base, said that the nation has spent a total of 1.17 billion U.S. dollars to buy all of those 16 planes as well as on ammunitions, pilot training programs and logistic.”
Sources: Jakarta Post | Xinhua, “Indonesia receives last delivery of Sukhoi Flanker fighter jets, completing full squadron”.
All ordered Su-30MK2s delivered
May 17/13: Delivery. Su-30MK2 fighters #3-4 arrive at Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base, aboard an An-124 and in disassembled condition. They’re actually a bit early, and had been expected in June.
March 20/13: 12-16 more wanted. The Jakarta Globe quotes Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who says that Indonesia’s $15 billion, 5-year military modernization plan will add another squadron of Sukhoi fighters. Other officials placed the number of additional Sukhois at 16 planes, which would double the TNI-AU’s Flanker force.
This purchase would be undertaken in addition to planned F-16 fleet buys and upgrades.
March 1/13: KFX/IFX. Indonesian Defense Ministry official Pos Hutabarat confirms that the KF-X joint fighter project with South Korea has been delayed by 18 months, while South Korea decides whether or not to continue. A decision is expected by June 2014, but Korean studies indicate that a 1st flight is unlikely before 2020, which means fielding rather later than 2022.
Worse, UPI says that the KFX/IFX fighter’s purchase price has already risen to $50-$60 million per aircraft, and this is before a prototype even exists. That sum is already comparable to ordering SU-30MK2s, which provide similar capabilities right now. That price, and the IFX’s delays, are good news for Sukhoi. Read “KF-X Fighter: Pushing Paper, or Peer Program?” for full coverage.
Feb 22/13: Delivery. Two out of the 6 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 jet fighters ordered in December 2011 arrive at Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base in Makassar, on the isle of Sulawesi. Volga-Dnepr’s AN-124-100 delivered the planes in standard condition: wings, tails, nose, etc. all removed, and no engines.
A shipment of 12 engines will arrive on Feb 27/13, and the 17 KnAAPO technicians that arrived with the planes will take about 2 weeks to assemble the first 2 fighters into flyable condition and test them. Another 2 batches of 2 fighters each are expected in June and July 2013. Jakarta Post, incl. updates on other aircraft plans.
Dec 21/12: Financing. Russia’s Vnesheconombank (VEB) won a tender from the Indonesian government, and will provide $399.5 million in financing over a 7-year term. The loan will finance 6 SU-30MK fighters and related equipment (vid. Dec 31/11 entry). BSR Russia.
Oct 17/12: Support from India. During his visit to Jakarta, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony agrees to train and support the Indonesian Air Force’s Flanker fleet. India flies a large fleet of SU-30MKIs, and is conducting manufacturing and final assembly work in India at HAL. They’ve already leveraged that base to provide similar support to Malaysia’s fleet of SU-30MKM fighters, though there are some items like engines that still need to be handled by Russia.
Note that this isn’t a contract just yet. Indonesia needs to firm up its requirements, and a India high-level Indian Air Force team will be sent to finalize the training and spares support package. The move will have an importance that goes far beyond its dollar value, as it’s part of a wider set of enhanced defense cooperation agreements the 2 countries are reportedly pursuing. Indonesia isn’t looking to antagonize China, but China’s aggressive claims in the South China Sea are contrasting poorly with India’s support for freedom of navigation, and for multilateral resolution of the disputes under international law. The result is an important Indonesian tilt toward more cooperation with India, which fits very well with India’s own strategic priorities. India MoD | Indian Express | The Jakarta Globe.
Sukhoi support: a the tilt toward India?
Dec 31/11: 6 more. It seems that the F-16 pursuit hasn’t replaced Indonesia’s desire for more Flankers. The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense has ordered 6 more SU-30MK2 jet fighters, and quotes Deputy Minister of Defense Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin: “We handed over the contract yesterday. We have another contract still in progress”.
Amounts were not mentioned, but by Jan 10/12, Russia’s RIA Novosti says that Russian “defense and diplomatic sources” had confirmed a $470 million contract for the new planes, for delivery beginning “after 2013.”
The purchase would give Indonesia a total of 5 SU-27SKM and 11 SU-30MK2 fighters.
Nov 17/11: F-16 request. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Indonesia’s official request for 24 ex-USAF F-16C/D Block 25 fighters.
This doesn’t change Indonesia’s interest in more Russian aircraft, but it will bolster TNI-AU fleet numbers if a contract is signed.
F-16 request to USA
March 23/11: Chinese competition? The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesia has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China regarding joint military procurement, technology transfer, and joint-development and joint-marketing.
There’s a lot that isn’t set yet, including cost, proportional shares, intellectual property rights, and of course which weapons systems are covered; China does make a J-11 Flanker copy. Exact coverage and purchases usually wait until all other aspects are finalized, however, as the point of the MoU is to provide a ready-made umbrella agreement for such projects as they arise. The 1 item specifically mentioned by the Post is that Indonesia is very interested in jointly producing “C-907 missiles”, which it supposedly bought for its Flankers in 2009-2010. Unfortunately, that designation doesn’t correspond to any commonly-known Chinese missile.
2007 – 2010
6 more SU-30s bought and delivered (a bit late); Weapons buy; Interest in more Flankers; Don’t drink the moonshine, tovarisch.
Nov 10/10: Weapons. Russia and Indonesia sign a $54 million “contract on the delivery of munitions for Sukhoi-family fighters in service with the Indonesian armed forces.” Weapon types were not specified. BNO News | RIA Novosti.
Sept 16/10: 6 more? Indonesian Air Force Air Force chief of staff Marshal Imam Sufaat says that they plan to buy 6 more Flanker family jets, as the 10 jets bought from Russia since 2003 aren’t enough to cover its territory. He also cites Malaysia’s 18 next-generation SU-30MKMs, and Singapore’s 20 F-15SGs. At the moment, however, there is no budget or definite time frame.
Ultimately, it depends what Indonesia wants to do. If control of territory is the goal, its 30+ Hawk 209 light combat aircraft serve that role well, and so will the EMB-134 Super Tucano light attack planes it’s buying to replace its OV-10 Broncos. Over the longer term, Indonesia has signed up with South Korea to develop a “KF-X” fighter by 2022. It’s intended to be an F-16C/D equivalent, and Indonesia has made noises about buying 50 or so. The debate thus comes down to whether the country needs a high-end gap filler as a hedge against the KF-X’s schedule, and its development risks. Jakarta Post | Jakarta Globe.
Sept 16/10: Deliveries done. The last Su-27SKM arrives in Makassar for service with Squadron 11, along with 3 Sukhoi warranty technicians to replace their poisoned colleagues. Jakarta Post | Voice of Russia.
2007 order delivered
Sept 13/10: 3 KnAAPO maintenance technicians are found dead in Indonesia, and 2 more are hospitalized. Some media outlets speak of deliberate poisoning, but the deaths turn out to be from ethanol – which means they poisoned themselves with drinking alcohol.
Liquor is prohibited at Sultan Hasannudin AB, so an investigation is underway regarding the liquor’s origins. Smuggling is the theory mentioned in the media reports, though maintenance technicians for multi-million dollar aircraft would also have the skills required to set up a basic moonshine still. Jakarta Post | Jakarta Post re: investigation | RIA Novosti.
Don’t drink the moonshine
Sept 8/10: The fighter delivery to Sultan Hasannudin Airbase in Makassar is canceled when the transporting Antonov AN-124-100 air craft breaks down. Tempo Interactive.
Sept 6/10: RIA Novosti reports that Russia will deliver the last of 6 contracted fighters to Indonesia on September 7th and 16th, flying 2 SU-27SKs in via AN-124 heavy transport planes to the Makassar air base. That will make 3 SU-27SK single-seat fighters, and 3 SU-30MK2 2-seat fighters, under the current contract; the last SU-30MK2 was delivered in January 2010.
The planes are supposed to be sent to Indonesia earlier than scheduled, following a request by the Indonesian military authorities, who didn’t want to miss yet another October 5th Armed Forces Day military parade.
Dec 26/08: Deliveries. RIA Novosti reports that Russia has delivered the first 2 jets under the contract: a pair of SU-30MK2s. Another Su-30MK2 jet is reportedly due for delivery in early 2009, and 3 Su-27SKM fighter jets are due to be delivered by 2010. Russia’s RIA Novosti | Singapore’s Straits Times.
Sept 19/08: Financing. While 3 of the Sukhois were expected to arrive in Indonesia by Indonesian Defense Forces Day on Oct 5/08, the September 2007 loan agreement for their purchase has not been approved yet by Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR). Without that approval, Bank Indonesia cannot take up the loan and issue the letter of credit.
Indonesia’s DPR is not deliberately delaying the purchase, and political figures have promised to give the issue priority. Even so, resolution and delivery in time for the Oct 5/08 Armed Forces Day parades would appear to be unlikely. Philippines’ Balita Pinoy news report.
Aug 21/07: On the opening day of the 8th International Aviation and Space Salon (MAKS 2007), Rosoboronexport State Corporation and the Republic of Indonesia have sign a $355 deal to deliver 3 Su-27 SKM and 3 Su-30MK2 fighters. This would bring Indonesia’s fleet to 5 aircraft of each type. ITAR-TASS | DefenceTalk.
- KNAAPO – SU-27SKM and SU-30MK2.
- DID – Indonesia Adding F-16 Falcon Fighters to Join Flankers. Via a DSCA request to buy 24 used F-16C/D block 25s.
- Australian Strategic Policy Institute (Nov 12/13) – Moving beyond ambitions? Indonesia’s military modernisation
- Jakarta Post (Oct 6/11) – Buying the right to snap up arms contracts. Shines a light on Indonesia’s deeply corrupt defense procurement environment.
- UPI (Aug 24-27/07) – Jets for Jakarta: A Whole New Strategic Game For Australasia: Part 1 | Part 2.
- Air Power Australia – Sukhoi Flankers: The Shifting Balance of Regional Air Power