Perhaps the greatest problem facing Indonesia’s Air Force is ensuring that a limited number of combat aircraft can cover the island nation’s air-defense requirements. There are a bit more than 50 fighter aircraft in service in the world’s 15th largest nation –roughly one airplane for every 36,000 square kilomters – 13,900 square miles.
Worse, the nation’s long-cherished goal of creating an advanced, 4.5-generation fighter via a joint venture with South Korea appears to have failed. The Koreans appear to be closing in on a deal to buy F-35s from the United States – a sale which would probably be out of Indonesia’s price range, even if a request for export were granted – leaving the KF-X program, intended to deliver 50 jets by 2020, effectively stalled. PT Dirgantara Indonesia, the state-owned aerospace company, announced in July that it intended to proceed with the development program, but how feasible this may prove without Korean involvement remains to be seen.
There are some grounds for optimism. In 2011, Barack Obama ended a tour of the Asia-Pacific region in the country, and announced that the U.S. would donate 24 decommissioned F-16s, and would permit the sale of a $750 million package to upgrade and restore them to airworthy condition. Eight of the aircraft are due to arrive this year. Upgrade work is taking place at Hill AFB, Utah. The jets were formerly used by elements of the U.S. Air National Guard, and will be upgraded to Block 25 standard.
Alongside materiel included in the initial export authorization request – such as targeting pods and electronic warfare systems – the aircraft will have new missile systems. Notification of an intent to export 18 AGM-65K2 Maverick missiles, and associated training munitions, was lodged with the House of Representatives in August of 2012.
The backbone of the IAF fleet is provided by 25 BAE Systems Hawk 209s, while a further 12 Embraer Super Tucanos are due to arrive this year, to add to the four currently available for similar counter-insurgency missions. Six Sukhoi Su-30Mk2 jets ordered in 2012 have been delivered.