Indonesia Shopping for Su-30 Fighters

IL Serge Pod #04.08.2001 19:28

Serge Pod


Indonesia Shopping for Su-30 Fighters

Cash-strapped Indonesia is considering modernizing its air force by purchasing advanced Russian fighters, sidestepping a U.S. arms embargo, officials said Monday.

Air force chief Marshal Hanafie Asnan was quoted by the state Antara news agency as saying that his service wanted to buy an unspecified number of Sukhoi Su-30 fighter-bombers, considered to be one of the world`s most advanced military aircraft.

``We are still studying the possibilities in view of our current economic situation,`` Vice Air Marshall Imam Wahyudi said Monday.

Indonesia is struggling to overcome a deep economic crisis and budgetary crunch and is hoping that the International Monetary Fund will restart a lending program that was shelved over a dispute about economic reform.

The price for a Su-30 Flanker is about $35 million per plane, defense analysts say. In Asia, only China, India and Vietnam operate the high-performance jets and Malaysia is considering purchasing a squadron.

Some previous proposals by Indonesia to buy Russian aircraft have fallen through because of financial constraints. However, Indonesia recently purchased thousands of Kalashnikov assault rifles for use by its paramilitary police.

Ever since an abortive communist coup in 1965, Indonesia has relied heavily on Western nations - particularly the United States - for its defense needs. Its intercept and attack squadrons operate about 45 U.S.-made A-4 Skyhawks, F-5 Tiger II and F-16 Fighting Falcon jets.

However, Washington and European nations embargoed weapons sales to Jakarta after army-inspired violence in 1999 in East Timor, a formerly Indonesian-ruled territory that had just voted for independence.

Although the European Union has since lifted most restrictions, the United States retained its ban.

The Su-30 has a range of over 3,000 kilometers, which would allow it to patrol Indonesia`s sprawling archipelago and neighboring parts of Southeast Asia without requiring aerial refueling.

Its range and the ability to carry eight tons of bombs could potentially cause concern to nearby nations such as Australia, whose relations with Jakarta have been strained since it led an international peacekeeping force that ended Indonesian rule in East Timor.

Antara reported that a committee within Indonesia`s parliament had discussed the purchase proposal several months ago.

Indonesia is currently in political transition. President Abdurrahman Wahid, who tried to rein in the military, was ousted by the national assembly last week and replaced by Megawati Sukarnoputri, a nationalist leader with close ties with the armed forces. She is expected to name a new Cabinet, including a defense minister, this week.


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