The U.S. has indicated it will sell F-15 and F-18 fighter jets to Indonesia following months of meetings between top defense officials from the two countries. Indonesia has been pushing the U.S. to sell it F-15, F-18 and F-35 fighter jets, but finally agreed on only two models as the third could take up to 10 years to deliver. U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller was in Jakarta on Monday and Tuesday to meet with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto. During those meetings, Miller agreed to sell the two models of fighter jets to Indonesia, which has long wanted to upgrade from its aging F-16 fleet.
Indonesian officials have expressed concern that the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), an American law signed by President Donald Trump in August 2017, could potentially hinder the purchase of Sukhoi SU-35 from Russia – a deal with a price-tag of U.S. $1.14 billion – as Southeast Asia’s largest country looks to modernize its military. The CAATSA law targets Russia, Iran and North Korea for sanctions, and stipulates that the United States can impose sanctions on governments or entities that purchase weapons or military hardware and parts from Russia. Indonesia bought 16 Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 jets from Russia between 2003 and 2012.
The Indonesian defense ministry under Subianto has a grand plan of procuring more than 100 superior fighter jets, to add to Indonesia’s current fleet of less than 60. The ministry hopes to achieve that target, but added Indonesia hopes to make available between $9 billion and $11 billion for new weaponry and military equipment over the next 20 years. As the deal for the new fighter jets could take years to come to fruition, Indonesia is planning to buy used aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, which can be delivered much sooner.Indonesia was also planning to take soft-loan offers from countries like France, Turkey, China and Russia.
The procurement of new U.S. fighter jets would strengthen Indonesia’s ability to deter Chinese incursions into areas of the South China Sea around the Natuna Islands, where its 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone overlaps with China’s massive “nine-dash line” maritime claim. In recent years, the two nations have experienced increasing frictions in the area, mainly due to the incursion of Chinese fishing boats and coast guard vessels into the area. The potential purchase of U.S. jets elicited immediate concerns from the Chinese government. The Trump administration has made assiduous efforts to push Southeast Asian countries to counter China’s influence in the region, particularly in the South China Sea.