Yesterday, Indonesia’s government confirmed its long-anticipated purchase of 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets previously used by Qatar’s armed forces, defending itself against claims that the secondhand aircraft are overpriced and obsolete.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defense said that Indonesia signed in January a $792 million deal with Excalibur International a.s., a unit of the Czech defense company Czechoslovak Group, which is acting as an agent for the secondhand jets, Reuters reported. The planes would be delivered within 24 months of that date – i.e., by January 2025.
The purchase, which will be funded by foreign loans, has been rumored for some time. But like many large defense acquisitions, it has stirred controversy in Indonesia, with members of parliament questioning both the age of the fighters, which have been essentially kept in storage since the mid-2000s, and the possibility that the purchase violates the 2012 Defense Industry Law, which seeks to promote the local defense industry.
The government has defended the purchase as a stopgap measure to fill the country’s security needs and to help prepare the air force for a batch of 42 new Rafale jet fighters, also manufactured by Dassault, which was announced in February 2022. Three jets the first of the $8.1 billion purchase, are due to be delivered in January 2026.
“The ministry decided to buy the aircraft from Qatar as a quick and effective solution to fill the gap in its air force capabilities,” the ministry said in a statement to BenarNews. It added that many of the military’s older fighter jets – many of them Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters – were reaching the end of their service life.
“Indonesia needs fighter jets that could be delivered quickly to cover for the decline of combat readiness in the Indonesian Air Force’s fleet,” Defense Ministry spokesperson Edwin Adrian Sumantha said in a statement that was quoted by Reuters.
The Mirage 2000-5 is an air superiority variant of the fighter manufactured by the French company Dassault Aviation. The Qatar Emiri Air Force initially acquired the fighters in the late 1990s, but they have reportedly seen little use and the government has sought various international buyers. They have been offered to Pakistan and India without success, while Bulgaria has also expressed interest in acquiring them.
Indonesia’s purchase of Rafale fighters will make Indonesia the top client of French military equipment in Southeast Asia – it is currently second to Singapore – and among the top in Asia, alongside India.
As with the latter nation, the purchase marks a step away from the country’s historic reliance on Russian military equipment. This is less a case of preference than practicalities. Until recently, Indonesia intended to replenish its air force with the purchase of 11 Su-35 jets from Russia, but the deal has been greatly complicated by the various U.S. sanctions on Russia.
A December 2021 report from Defense News stated that Jakarta’s reluctance to conclude the Su-35 acquisition was “due to concern the move could trigger U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.” At this point, Indonesia turned to alternative suppliers in France and the United States. Given Russia’s increasing isolation since its invasion of Ukraine, and fresh questions about whether Moscow can any longer be considered a reliable source of defense equipment given its political and military situation, it is perhaps just as well that Indonesia has chosen a different path toward military modernization.