JAKARTA: Indonesia is set to purchase just under 80 new fighter jets from France and US to replace its ageing fleet. Indo Pacific nation has ordered 42 Rafale fighter jets from France and may acquire two French submarines, while the United States approved Jakarta’s potential purchase of 36 F-15s in the face of growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific.
The Rafale agreement was announced as Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto met his French counterpart Florence Parly in Jakarta.
Subianto confirmed a deal had been struck for the purchase of the jets, with a contract signed on Thursday relating to the first six.
France’s Defence Ministry said the contract for the 42 aircraft and their weapons was worth $8.1 billion.
Spokesman Herve Grandjean said the two countries also signed a letter of intent for research and development with a view to Indonesia ordering two Scorpene submarines.
Indonesia’s first order for French warplanes comes as Jakarta replaces an aging fleet consisting mainly of American F-16s and Russian Sukhois as concerns grow about rising US-China tensions in Asia.
Meanwhile, the US State Department said it had approved the potential F-15s sale along with other assorted military equipment for an estimated $14 billion.
The proposed sale will improve “the security of an important regional partner that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” said a statement, adding that it “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
It did not mention China, whose rise Washington is seeking to counter in the region, and gave no indication when the sale could be concluded.
The Rafale deal is the latest sign of warming ties between Jakarta and Paris, as France rethinks its alliances in the region following the collapse in September of a multibillion-dollar Australian submarine deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed Indonesia’s decision to choose “French industrial excellence”, writing on Twitter that the Rafale deal would “strengthen our partnerships”.
Since the Australian submarine deal collapsed, France has been bolstering ties with long-time partners including Japan and India, as well as turning to Southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of several Asian countries that expressed concerns about the AUKUS pact, with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi warning it could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.
The Dassault Aviation Rafale aircraft, which entered service in 2004, has proved popular in the international market despite competition from American and other European manufacturers.
The United Arab Emirates signed the biggest ever order for the jets in December, with a deal to buy 80 for 14 billion euros.
Other foreign clients include Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece and Croatia.