Indonesia Moves Forward with Fighter Programs

 - November 11, 2014, 7:47 AM
This 1:10 scale model of the IF-X was shown at the Indo Defence show last week, armed with air-to-air missiles, stand-off cruise missiles and glide bombs. (Photo: David Donald)

Faced with rising regional threats from China, Indonesia plans to modernize its fighter fleet, with the stated aim of having 200 on strength by 2024 to form a minimum effective force. The nation has three separate programs covering current, middle- and long-term requirements.

For the long-term requirement, Indonesia has joined the South Korean KF-X program for a 4.5-generation advanced low-observable fighter. This program, named IF-X in Indonesia, is intended to offer a capability pitched somewhere between the F-16 and F-35, but without the latter’s hefty price tag.

Last month Indonesia committed to providing 20 percent of the development funding as the project moves into the full development phase. Some details of the aircraft emerged during last week’s Indo Defence show, held in Jakarta.

In the summer South Korea settled on the twin-engine, single-seat C103 design as the basis for the KF-X/IF-X. The engines will offer a combined thrust of at least 36,000 pounds, and two contenders are the Eurojet EJ200 and General Electric F414. The aircraft is similar in configuration to the F-22, with chined nose and outward-canted fins. Alignment of the leading edges of the wings, root extensions and tailplanes is 40 degrees aft sweep, while trailing edges are aligned 10 degrees forward. The wings have an aspect ratio of 2.7:1. The caret-shaped intakes offer a capture area of 781 sq in.

Up to 16,000 pounds of stores can be carried on 10 hardpoints, including four staggered recesses under the fuselage for the semi-conformal carriage of missiles in the AMRAAM class. The IF-X model on show at Indo Defence was displayed with guided glide bombs. The Indonesian Ministry of Defense is currently undertaking a research program for a range-extension and precision guidance kit for application to Mk 80-series unguided weapons, and intends to make its first test drops next year.

While South Korea has yet to decide who will lead the program, PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI, the state-owned airframer) will take the major role in Indonesia’s participation. Lockheed Martin is also to be involved with some technology transfer, a stipulation of South Korea’s recent purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. KF-X and IF-X will be similar in most respects, but with some local suppliers contributing to the Indonesian version. Avionics specialist Infoglobal has been selected to provide cockpit displays and other systems for the IF-X. First flight is expected around 2020, with service-entry around 2024/25.

In the medium term Indonesia is seeking an F-5 replacement. An RFI was issued in the summer of last year, and an RFP is expected early next year. A number of OEMs are bidding for this contract, which will initially be for 16 multi-role aircraft. Lockheed Martin (F-16), Sukhoi (Su-35), Saab (Gripen NG) and Eurofighter (Typhoon) are in the running. Sukhoi has been supplying Su-27/30 Flankers to Indonesia in small batches for some time, and this may play in its favor.

However, under Indonesian law new defense acquisitions must include a minimum 30-percent direct offset, while the selection criteria have been weighted 30 percent for aircraft/system performance, 30 percent acquisition/life-cycle costs and 40 percent for industrial cooperation. Both Saab and Eurofighter are offering attractive cooperation packages that include technology transfer, local production and development work. Each company has been holding talks with PTDI to finalize its joint industrial proposals.

In the short term, the Indonesian air force has received the first of its F-16C/D “Block 52ID” aircraft acquired through U.S. Foreign Military Sales. The 24 aircraft on order are former U.S. Air Force Block 25 aircraft that have undergone a thorough overhaul and modernization, including reworked engines and overhauled/strengthened airframes. The initial three were delivered in July to 3 Skadron Udara at Madiun, where they are augmenting the existing F-16A/B force. A second F-16C/D unit, 16 Skadron Udara, is to form at Pekanbaru.