Indonesia Looks to Dassaut Rafale for Fighter Requirement

 - December 8, 2020, 5:01 AM
The Rafale was demonstrated at the LIMA air show held at Langkawi as part of Dassault’s attempts to sell the aircraft to Malaysia. (Photo: Chen Chuanren)

Indonesia is reportedly looking to secure a deal for 48 Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft, with the French government confirming that talks are at an advanced stage. This comes after a whirlwind trip to Europe and the U.S. by Indonesian defense minister Prabowo Subianto, undertaken in the hope of securing deals from prospective sellers. In addition to the Rafales, Indonesia is also interested in acquiring Scorpène-class submarines from France.

According to the French La Tribune newspaper, Subianto expressed his interest in the aircraft during a visit on October 21 and hopes to sign a deal before the end of the year. His French counterpart, Florence Parly, later told French television that the order had not been signed, but is “very well advanced.” An unplanned introduction to the Rafale occurred in May 2019, when seven fighters from the carrier Charles de Gaulle were forced to divert to Sultan Iskandar Muda air force base due to inclement weather in the Indian Ocean that prevented them from safely recovering to the carrier. 

Following the collapse of a deal to buy Su-35s from Russia, Indonesia has reportedly turned down the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 72 after the U.S. snubbed Jakarta’s request for the purchase of the F-35 combat aircraft. During his tour Subianto also visited Austria, where Indonesia is pursuing the acquisition of 15 second-hand Eurofighter Typhoons. CNBC Indonesia has reported that both countries are currently in discussions at a technical level. 

If the Indonesian Rafale deal materializes, it will be the country's largest fighter aircraft procurement project to date, and could also make Indonesia the largest foreign operator of the type. While the cost of the 48 aircraft has not been revelaed, the 2015 contract for 24 Rafales to Qatar was worth around €6.3 billion ($7 billion), including weaponry, training, and support.

Dassault almost gained a foothold in Southeast Asia for the Rafale when it and the Boeing F-15 Eagle were down-selected by Singapore in the early 2000s to replace the A-4SU. The republic picked the U.S. aircraft in 2005. The French manufacturer also courted Malaysia for the Multi-Role Combat Aircraft requirement for many years, but that program was shelved in 2018 when the Royal Malaysian Air Force re-prioritized its procurement requirements to light combat aircraft and maritime patrol platforms.