Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Jakarta. The Indonesian Military chief says an offer of 24 used fighter jets from the US government would come in handy once they were buffed up.
The Ministry of Defense previously said Washington had offered the secondhand F-16 jets as a grant. However, the Indonesian government has not announced whether or not it will accept them.
On Thursday, Military Chief Adm. Agus Suhartono said that while the aircraft might be used, their airframes were still sound and they could be restored.
“We could turn them into brand-new fighter jets if we upgraded their engines and combat capabilities,” he said.
He added that while the fighter jets had been offered as a grant, the Indonesian government would still need to spend a considerable sum to ship the planes over and build hangars for them, in addition to the cost of maintenance and upgrades. “Everything is being considered at the moment.
“I hope the decision is made in the near future,” he said.
The military currently has a squadron of seven F-16A and three F-16B aircraft.
Analysts have long questioned the squadron’s combat-readiness, which has been compromised by a lack of spare parts and advanced weaponry.
That shortage came about as a result of a US ban on military aid to Indonesia in 1999 following gross rights abuses immediately after East Timor’s independence referendum.
The ban was lifted in 2005.
Agus said the ban and resultant lack of spare parts was one consideration for accepting the offer of the used jets, which could potentially be cannibalized for parts.
“On the other hand, we also want to support local manufacturers that produce spare parts,” he said.
“We can turn to them to maintain our defense equipment.”
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry has announced a deal to buy eight Super Tucano training and attack aircraft from Brazilian plane maker Embraer.
The deal was signed during the Indo Defense 2010 Expo and Forum, a major international aerospace and defense exhibition being held in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.
The Super Tucano jet is expected to replace the Air Force’s decommissioned OV-10F Bronco aircraft, ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. I Wayan Midhio said on Thursday.
While no figure has been given for the cost of the deal, a basic Super Tucano sells for nearly $10 million.