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Indonesia’s Air Force signals intention to use ‘best of both worlds’

Indonesia’s Chief of Air Force has confirmed that Australia’s neighbour will push ahead to attempt to purchase new F-16 fighter jets from the US, as well as Russian Sukhoi Su-35s.

As part of Indonesia's "2020-2024 strategic plan", Air Force Chief of Staff, Air Chief Marshal Yuyu Sutisna, told a local news agency that they would indeed seek to arm their fleets with both US and Russian fighter jets, which could yet be shut down by either nation.

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"We will buy two squadrons of jet fighters as part of our strategic plan for 2020-2024. We're aiming for the latest type, the Block 72 Viper," ACM Yuyu said.

"Hopefully the plan will go ahead starting [January] 1 next year. Purchasing that variant means we will have the most sophisticated F-16s."

The announcement was made by ACM Yuyu during his visit to Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau Province on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The Air Force Chief also confirmed that Indonesia were seeking to purchase 11 Su-35s to replace their now out of service Northrop F-5E/F interceptors.

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However, this plan may well hit a snag due to CAATSA, a US law that applies sanctions for "transactions with the intelligence or defence sectors of the Russian Federation".

And the US showed that this wasn't just an idle threat, after booting Turkey out of the F-35 program earlier in 2019 due to the country's decision to buy Russian air defence systems.

“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities. The United States has been actively working with Turkey to provide air defence solutions to meet its legitimate air defence needs, and this administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the US PATRIOT air defence system,” a release from the White House said in July.

Turkey have now turned to purchasing Su-35s following that decision. 

However for the better part of the last decade, Indonesia has operated older versions of the F-16 alongside Su-27SKs and Su-39MK2s, due to the country's policy of diversifying arms purchases.

It is unclear, however, whether the US is happy for this to apply to the latest variant of the F-16, which boast new capabilities based on the advanced F-16V configuration, as well as over 50 per cent more structural life, with estimates of being able to be in service for at least the next 50 years.

Another aspect in Indonesia's favour may be that the F-16 is not being treated with the same level of confidentiality as the F-35 currently is, as almost the "poster plane" of American air power.

Your thoughts

Do you think the US should have any qualms about providing the Indonesian Air Force with the latest F-16 variant to work alongside the Russian built Su-35? Or are any question marks simply paranoia?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Indonesia’s Air Force signals intention to use ‘best of both worlds’
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