Indonesia has advanced talks with France for the acquisition of Rafale aircraft, Scorpene submarines and Gowind corvettes which would figure in a potential defence cooperation deal between the two countries to be signed later this year.
Jakarta is interested in acquiring 48 Rafale jets, up to 4 Scorpene submarines armed with Exocet SM39 missile and by two 2,500-ton Gowind corvettes, French publication LATribune said quoting informed sources. The potential purchases are worth an estimated $25-$28 billion.
The immediate need for rushing to Paris with a shopping list for Rafale fighter jets, Scorpene submarines and Gowind corvettes is to achieve technological and qualitative superiority over China which is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea. Already several incidents of face-off between the Indonesian coast guard and Chinese naval vessels have been reported in recent months around the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea. The Chinese naval ships are seen as escorting fishing boats accused of fishing in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
An Indonesian industry source told Defenseworld.net that current Indonesian military hardware such as Russian Su-30 jets and South-Korean sourced warships are “inadequate to mount an effective deterrent” against Chinese military might.
Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto held a bilateral meeting with his French counterpart Florence Parly last Monday besides discussions with French defence firms such as Dassault Aviation, Thales, Naval Group and Nexter. Prabowo expressed hope that the French defense industry could help Indonesia to improve its defense capacity through technology transfers.
"As a country with an advanced defense industry, France can be a strategic partner in Indonesia's efforts to modernize its weaponry defense system and accelerate the development of our national defense industry. This will support efforts to make the national defense industry a part of the 'global production chain'. In this context, our defense minister placed special attention on the development of the defense industry when discussing defense cooperation,” a press statement from the Indonesian embassy in Paris said.
If the defence cooperation agreement comes through, Indonesia would quickly initiate the purchases, estimated to be worth an estimated $25 billion through an intergovernmental agreement between France and Indonesia.
France has already proposed sales of the Scorpene submarines either off-the-shelf or through a technology transfer (ToT) with the Indonesian group PT PAL. A working group has already been set up between Naval Group and the Indonesian Navy to study these proposals.
The Rafale purchase would seriously affect on-going plans to purchase the Russian Su-35 jets and another plan to buy Lockheed Martin F-16 jets.