Indonesia to buy French warplanes as Paris boosts Asia alliances

Lucie Godeau, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 10 2022 07:38 PM

A Rafale F3R conducts flight operations with the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier. Courtesy of US Navy
A Rafale F3R conducts flight operations with the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier. Courtesy of US Navy

JAKARTA — Indonesia on Thursday ordered 42 Rafale fighter jets from France, as Paris and Jakarta seek to strengthen military ties in the face of growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

The agreement was announced as Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto met his French counterpart Florence Parly in Jakarta.

"It's official, Indonesia orders 42 Rafale," said Parly on Twitter. 

Subianto confirmed a deal had been struck for the purchase of the jets, with a contract signed Thursday relating to the first six.

It 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.

Paris was left furious by the debacle, saying it had been given no warning that Canberra was negotiating a new defense pact with the United States and Britain.

Australia is now obtaining nuclear-powered submarines as part of the new defense alliance, named AUKUS, which brings together Canberra, Washington and London to counter a rising China.

In November, France and Indonesia strengthened a strategic partnership agreement during a two-day visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to the vast Southeast Asian archipelago.

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.

'TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE'

In Jakarta, Parly told reporters that Indonesia had chosen a warplane known for its "technical excellence", which had demonstrated its "operational capabilities on numerous occasions".

Eric Trappier, CEO of manufacturer Dassault Aviation, said the contract "marks the start of a long-term partnership that will see Dassault Aviation rapidly step up its presence in the country.

"It also demonstrates the strong bond between Indonesia and France and reinforces the position of the world's largest archipelago as a key power on the international stage."

Indonesia is reportedly in negotiations to buy about 30 American F-15s, and is participating in a South Korean program to develop a warplane.

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.

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