Indonesia is rapidly arming in the shadow of China

US State Department has cleared Indonesia to buy up to 36 Boeing F-15 fighters in US$13.9 billion deal

When it comes to jousting with China, Indonesia is taking no chances.

In the last few weeks, the Southeast Asian nation has secured a staggering amount of military contracts, from none other than the United States, South Korea and France.

It looks like Indonesia is tired of being pushed around by the Middle Kingdom. Why else, would they be spending so much on defense?

According to Breaking Defense, the US State Department has cleared Indonesia to buy up to 36 Boeing F-15EX aircraft as part of an estimated US$13.9 billion deal, just hours after Indonesia announced another major investment ($8.1 billion) in the French-made Dassault Rafale.

“We agreed on the purchase of 42 Rafale. The contract signed today is for the first six, which will be followed by 36 others,” Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto said, according to France 24

Prabowo had previously indicated that Indonesia was interested in buying both Rafales and the F-15EX, as part of a major defense spending increase planned for the coming decades.

By approving the sale, the US State Department may be leaving the door open for Indonesia to split its spending between the Rafale and an Indonesian variant F-15EX, which would be known as the F-15ID.

Proposed sale

The sale will improve the security of “an important regional partner that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” the State Department said in a news release.

“The proposed sale will improve Indonesia’s capability to meet current and future threats by enabling it to provide increased deterrence and air defense coverage across a very complex air and maritime domain.”

Indeed, it will.

Even though the F-15 first appeared in the mid-1970s, today’s F-15 is a lot more advanced than the ones first delivered to the USAF in 1974.

The Eagles of today have stronger airframes, more powerful processors and advanced flight control systems than any Air Force still flies, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The Scorpene-class attack submarine. Photo: Handout

What’s new to the F-15EX is an advanced radar and other subsystems that other countries’ Eagles don’t get. About 30% of the American F-15EX would be unique to the US military, they note, reported.

According to Air Force Magazine, “the new airplanes would have a substantially more powerful mission computer, new cockpit displays, a digital backbone, and the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) — an electronic warfare and threat identification system.”

There’s a good reason other Air Forces around the world still fly F-15s, even without US technology: they’ve never lost in combat. This is a pretty big deal — especially if the enemy isn’t flying F-15s.

Enemies like the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

The package also includes 87 engines, along with radars, computers, navigation systems and security devices for the advanced fighter jets, officials said.

International market

The Rafale aircraft, which entered service in 2004, has proved popular in the international market despite competition from the US and other European manufacturers.

The United Arab Emirates signed the biggest-ever deal for the jets in December to buy 80 aircraft for $19bn, while its other foreign clients include Croatia, Egypt, Greece and Qatar.

The deal comes as France seeks to expand geopolitical ties in the Indo-Pacific, with Indonesia becoming the second country in the region – after India – to acquire the aircraft.

Meanwhile, Indonesia seems set to turn its affections for South Korean submarines to French ones.

According to Shephard Media, Jakarta inked an MoU for two Scorpene submarines for the Indonesian Navy on 10 February, the same day that Indonesia signed a contract for the Rafale fighters.

The F-15 Eagle is an American twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter aircraft. Photo: Boeing

Florence Parly, French Minister of the Armed Forces, and Defence Minister Subianto were present at the signing ceremony between officials from Naval Group and PT PAL.

The agreement encompasses the construction of the two Scorpene boats in Indonesia via technology transfer, plus support, weapons and training.

It must be stressed that no purchase contract has been signed yet.

The Scorpène submarine is capable of carrying out all types of missions, such as anti-surface vessel warfare, anti-submarine warfare, long-range strikes, special operations, or intelligence gathering.

According to Navy Recognition, it is extremely stealthy and fast and is equipped with a comprehensive range of weapons (torpedoes, missiles, mines).

Launch capability

The Scorpène submarine can carry 18 torpedoes and missiles or 30 mines. It is equipped with six bow-located 21-in torpedo tubes providing salvo launch capability.

It can launch anti-ship and anti-submarine torpedoes, as well as anti-surface missiles. The handling and loading of weapons are automated.

In a statement released on January 20, Admiral Yudo Margono, the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy (TNI AL), announced that the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) will transfer a retired corvette to Indonesia.

Seoul hopes the gifted corvette will pave the way for the procurement of additional naval vessels to Indonesia.

Indonesia has agreed to buy six Rafale fighter jets. Photo: Dassault

Admiral Yudo Margono had requested the transfer of three corvettes during a visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) in April of last year.

Contrary to initial media reports, the transfer of only a single corvette has been confirmed, with the additional transfer of two more vessels still under consideration, a source familiar with the deal told Naval News.

This has been confirmed by other media outlets, including Yonhap News, the ROK’s national wire service.

The exact class of ship that will be transferred to Indonesia has not yet been revealed, however, Naval News believes it will likely be a Pohang-class corvette.

The primary mission of the corvette is coastal line patrolling. Pohang class is deployed as the main force to monitor defense on the South Korean coast.

These ships were equipped to perform anti-submarine, anti-ship, and anti-aircraft warfare operations in the littoral environment.

Indonesia territory

In other words, perfect for dealing with Chinese incursions into Indonesia territory.

China has told Indonesia to stop drilling for oil and natural gas in maritime territory that both countries regard as their own during a months-long stand-off in the South China Sea earlier this year, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The demand elevated tensions over natural resources between the two countries in a volatile area of strategic importance.

The discovery of nearly 100 million barrels of oil in the region, as reported in Energy Voice, indicates the reasons for the growing presence of Chinese vessels in the region.

In response to the Chinese incursions, Indonesia has bolstered its military presence on Natuna Besar, the largest island in the area, and held military exercises.

In any case, while officially denying it has any issues with Beijing, Indonesia is obviously tired of being bullied and is strengthening its military power in all sectors.

Together, with other US allies, such as Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Canada and others, “The Dragon” is being tamed.