Procurement: F-16s Versus Su-30s Over Indonesia

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January 15, 2012: Indonesia has signed a contract to buy six more Su-30 jet fighters from Russia for $78 million each. Indonesia already has ten Su-27s and Su-30s, but wants at least 16 of these modern aircraft so they will have a full squadron. Although expensive, the Russian fighters are modern, and look great. They are also relatively cheap to maintain. This was all part of a plan to switch from American fighters (ten F-16s and 16 F-5s) to Russian Su-27s and 30s. But used F-16s are so much cheaper than Su-27s, and the public pressure forced the Indonesian politicians to hang on to the F-16s, and upgrade existing F-16s, an expensive proposition that appeals to corrupt Indonesian officials.

Although Indonesia wants to buy 180 Su-27 and Su-30 fighters from Russia they are now also rebuilding their older force of early model F-16s. In addition, Indonesia has ordered 24 used, but modernized, F-16Cs for $31 million each. The ten older F-16s will also be modernized to the same standard.

Indonesian Air force generals opposed the acquisition of the F-16s because they fear this will lead to a reduction in the procurement of new Russian fighters. The generals believe the Russian fighters are a better match for the F-18Es and MiG-29s that neighboring Malaysia is acquiring, and the F-35s that Australia is buying. But the F-16s have a proven combat record that the Su-27s and Su-30s lack.

 


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