Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has announced his team’s plan to buy 42 Dassault Rafale fighter planes and two Scorpène class submarines from France.
“We are starting today with the signing of the first contract for six aircraft which will be followed in the near future by a contract for 36 more aircraft, with support for training in weapons and simulators needed,” said Prabowo after receiving an honorary visit from the French Defense Minister Florence Parley on Thursday 10th February.
In addition, Prabowo said, an MoU for cooperation between PT Dirgantara Indonesia and Dassault Aviation has also been signed for the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of French aircraft that will be or have been used by Indonesia. A further MoU for cooperation in research and development on submarines has also been signed between PT PAL and the Naval Group from France.
“Which of course will lead to the purchase of two Scorpène submarines with AIP (Air Independent Propulsion) along with the weapons and spare parts needed, including training,” he said.
He went on to say that an MoU of cooperation has also been signed between PT LEN and Thales (Group) in the defense satellite sector. There will also be cooperation between PT Pindad and Nexter Munitions for the production of large-calibre munitions for land weapons.
Based on an official statement from the Public Relations Bureau of the Secretariat General of the Defense Ministry on 10th February, the two delegations in a bilateral meeting discussed increasing defense cooperation between Indonesia and France, which is expected to strengthen bilateral defense relations between the two countries in the future.
The meeting was a continuation of the signing of the Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) in Paris between the Indonesian Defense Minister and the French Armed Forces Minister on 28th June 2021.
“Based on several Letters of Intent on Alutsista, Indonesia and France have started a Strategic Defense Equipment Working Group (Rafale, Scorpene Submarine, Frigate, and MBDA Missile), where the next agenda will focus on discussing procurement contracts and technology transfer,” continued the statement.
The Indonesian Defense Ministry has welcomed the plan to develop a 2+2 cooperation mechanism between the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Defense Ministry of the two countries to increase cooperation as a follow-up to the meeting of the French and Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministers in Jakarta in November 2021.
What happens if the purchase of fighter jets and submarines from France does not materialize?
Indonesian Laboratory Coordinator 2045, or Lab 45, Andi Widjajanto believes that the planned purchase of the 42 Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft and Scorpène-class submarines from France is part of the 2024 Defense Force Strategic Plan (Renstra).
The strategic plan, he said, had been designed since 2006 to equip the Air Force’s combat squadrons to 10 to 12 squadrons and the Navy’s submarines to 12 submarines.
When asked whether the planned defense equipment purchase was related to the situation in the South China Sea or the development of the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region, Widjajanto said that the 2024 Strategic Plan used a capability approach. The approach is aimed at modernising defense, regardless of the dynamics of the threat.
Widjajanto also revealed the consequences that would be experienced by Indonesia if the plan doesn’t come into force.
“If this is not realised, Indonesia does not have an adequate defense title to protect the four hot-spot scenarios that the National Armed Forces must anticipate; the Malacca Straits, North Natuna, Ambalat, and Saumlaki-Arafuru,” Widjajanto said when contacted by Tribunnews.com on Friday 11th February 2022.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) has questioned Defense Minister Subianto’s policy, particularly regarding the purchase of Dassault Rafale and F-15 fighter aircraft.
“Mr Prabowo Subianto, is it worth it for us to spend a lot of time buying fighter planes now? Our enemy is now a virus, weapons that need drugs and vaccines,” said PSI DPP Spokesperson Rian Ernest in a written statement on Friday 11st February 2022.
Furthermore, he said, Prabowo must be transparent to the public regarding the purchase of defense equipment.
“This open attitude can be started by releasing a strategic plan to purchase defense equipment. What do you want to buy? What are the basic policies? And so on,” said Ernest.
He hopes that the minister can be wise when looking at spending priorities considering the pandemic, which is still a threat at this time and the nation’s economy has not yet recovered.
“There should be no question for the public whether the procurement of hundreds of trillions of defense equipment before the 2024 election is related to the celebration of the presidential election.
“We don’t want the Nanggala submarine tragedy to repeat itself. The Hercules plane crashed again. But the budget must be measured and according to priorities for handling the pandemic and economic recovery,” Ernest explained.