Indonesia Interested in Austria’s Typhoons

 - July 21, 2020, 8:44 AM
Austria currently flies its Tranche 1 Typhoons solely on air surveillance duties. (Photo: Austrian air force)

Indonesia’s defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, has tabled an official request to the Austrian defense ministry to enter into discussions regarding the possibility of acquiring the European state’s 15 Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 fighter aircraft. In the mid-2010s Eurofighter itself mounted a campaign to supply new-build Typhoons to Indonesia, with a high degree of local industrial participation.

“To achieve my target to modernize the Indonesian Air Force, I would like to propose to enter into official deliberations with you on purchasing all 15 Eurofighter Typhoons from Austria for the air force of the Republic of Indonesia,” the letter said. Prabowo added that Indonesia is aware of the “Eurofighter topic” and the sensitivity of that matter and hoped that his proposal would offer “promising change for both sides.”

The letter, dated July 10, was tabled a few days after Austrian defense minister Klaudia Tanner said that the country will retire its dozen Saab 105Ö trainer jets from 2021 but keep its 15 Eurofighter Typhoons until the contract with Airbus terminates. She did not reveal the date when that contract will end. Vienna initially wanted to retire the Typhoon in 2020 in favor of aircraft with lower operating costs such as the Saab Gripen and the Lockheed Martin F-16.

Austria bought the Typhoons in 2003 for €1.75 billion, but the government subsequently accused Airbus and EADS of fraud and deception concerning the true costs of the program and the aircraft's operating costs. Austria sought €184.4 million in damages, but a Viennese court dismissed the case in April of this year. Defense budget cuts have also forced the air force to cut flight hours for its pilots, and only 12 pilots were reportedly certified to fly the jets in 2014. This has led to reduced periods in which aircraft are available for air defense missions, a shortfall partially remedied by using some of the Saab 105s for air surveillance.

Despite the oldest aircraft being at least 13 years old, the relatively low flying hours of the Austrian jets could be a factor in why Indonesia is seeking them. However, the basic Tranche 1 version lacks some beyond-visual-range and air-to-ground capabilities, as well as the updated mission computer found on later Typhoons.

Indonesia has expressed interest in two squadrons of F-16C/D Blk 72s and, more recently, has issued a request to potentially acquire eight Bell-Boeing MV-22 Ospreys. The Russian ambassador to Indonesia stated on July 8 that the deal for 11 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters to replace the Northrop F-5s is still on the table, despite earlier reports to the contrary. However, that deal could see Jarkarta potentially being sanctioned by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), jeopardizing its current and future F-16 programs and the possible Osprey deal.