Indonesia receiving a proposal from Saab for the Gripen fighter plane and its investment in the KF-X program hints at a delay or reconsideration in the procurement of Su-35 aircraft from Russia.
Last month, Saab submitted a proposal to Indonesian authorities to supply its JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighter aircraft to meet the air combat requirements of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU).
Peter Carlqvist, head of Saab Indonesia was quoted as saying by IHS Janes that the proposal is flexible over the version of Gripen aircraft that can be supplied to the TNI-AU but that the company remains "100 per cent" committed to meeting Indonesia's requirements for localised industrial participation. The proposal was submitted earlier this year, although Carlqvist said the company is still waiting for the formal bidding process to commence.
Indonesia is looking to replace its Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighters, which entered service in 1980. The programme is expected to cost US$1.5 billion for 16 aircraft initially.
"Saab has submitted a budgetary proposal for one squadron of the latest generation Gripen," said Carlqvist.
Indonesia is expected to sign a contract to purchase around a dozen Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets this year. These aircraft are also touted to replace Indonesia’s F-5 fighters, and supplement a fleet of 16 Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters that form the backbone of its air force.
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, in April this year had confirmed the country’s plans to purchase Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets. The signing was expected in the first week of April.The Indonesian government had been considering purchasing Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-16V, BAE Systems Plc’s Eurofighter Typhoon or Saab AB’s Gripen.
The minister had added that Indonesia would continue looking to various countries for procurement. "We will buy from Europe and America, from Russia also," he said. "We don’t prioritize. The important thing is if we need them, and the research backs it up, we will buy. We are replacing old planes, not adding new ones."
“With our current budget, we will most likely buy 8 aircraft. Initially we were thinking of one squadron,” Indonesian Ambassador to Russia Wahid Supriyadi was quoted as saying by RBTH on the sidelines of Russian-ASEAN summit in Sochi last month. Indonesian companies will get contracts to manufacture some components for the Su-35, and the Russians are expected to set up a maintenance centre for the fighter jet in the country if they sign a contract.
Indonesia has also agreed to help fund South Korea's KF-X fighter jet programme, which hopes to develop a modern multi-role jet fighter in the 2020s. Jakarta expects to eventually get around 80 new fighter jets via this programme. South Korea and Indonesia have signed a US $1.3 billion deal to jointly develop the next generation fighter jet KF-X for Seoul in January this year.
While Indonesia would like to rapidly bolster its defence preparedness in view China’s aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, its budget is limited. Indonesia has allocated $18 billion for defense for the year 2017.