In the ever shifting fighter jet procurement plans of Indonesia, Lockheed Martin announced that it has Received U.S. Government go-ahead to launch F-16 Block 70/72 sales campaign in Indonesia

Mike Kelley, F-16 Business Development Director said during a May 27 online briefing with Indonesian media that the offer to sell the F-16 Block 70/72 (also called Viper) to Indonesia, along with the AN / APG-83 AESA radar and weapons package, had received approval from the U.S. Government.

This comes at a time when negotiations to acquire Rafale jets is understood to have progressed considerably between the Indonesian government and Dassault/French government, with Jakarta only left a decision on how the finance the acquisition.

What is unclear is whether Indonesia will buy both planes or leave one for the other. Is there a plan to buy the F-16 Vipers to replace the current fleet of 33 F-16s bought since the 1990s and use the Rafales as its top-line fighter jet.

For the record, Indonesian Air Force Chief Air Marshal Yuyu Sutisna had announced in 2019 a plan to acquire two squadrons of F-16 jet fighters starting the following year. "We will buy two squadrons of jet fighters as part of our strategic plan for 2020-2024. We're aiming for the latest type, the Block 72 Viper," Yuyu told Antara news agency.

The Air Force chief said Indonesia still relies on F-16 fighters for its air defence, with 33 of them still in operation at the Roesmin Nurjadin Air Base in Pekanbaru, Riau, and the Iswahjudi Air Base in Madiun, East Java.

Leveraging on Indonesia’s existing F-16s, Kelley said that the transition from using the existing F-16 fleet to the F-16 Viper would be easier, simpler and cost-effective when compared to Indonesia buying a completely new type of fighter (read Rafale). "Building a combat aircraft support ecosystem will be very expensive, not to mention when it comes to infrastructure in the field, pilot training and maintenance."

What he did not mention was whether the option of upgrading older F-16s to the Block 70/72 standard that Lockheed Martin and the U.S. government have offered to countries such as Greece, was also open to Indonesia. We also do not know if the Indonesia government is considering such an option.

The Rafale purchase seems to be on track going by reports that the Indonesian MoD since raised a request with the government for the programme to be funded with foreign-sourced loans. This followed reports that an MOD officials’ delegation led by Major General Dadang Hedrayudha, director general of the ministry's defence potential department, discussed offset and financing arrangements with Dassault Aviation's vice-president for business development Jean Claude Piccirillo, and vice-president for offset Michael Paskoff in February this year.