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Indonesia mulls fighter jets after pulling out of US deal

Agence France Presse - June 10, 1997

Indonesia is now perusing a shopping list of jet fighters from various countries after pulling out of a deal to buy nine US F- 16s, a high-ranking source said here Tuesday.

Russian Sukhoi-27s, British Hawk 200s and the French Mirage-2000 were all under scrutiny by military authorities, said the Indonesian source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The French model "is not the only being considered, but it is very, very well placed," the source said.

On Friday, Indonesia hit back at US Congress criticism of its human rights record by withdrawing from a US military training program and cancelling plans to purchase the F-16s.

Announcing the move, President Suharto cited "wholly unjustified criticisms in the United States Congress against Indonesia" in a letter to President Bill Clinton.

Washington had wanted to sell the nine F-16s to Indonesia and pass on the proceeds to Pakistan, which paid 650 million dollars for 28 of the jets in 1989 but could not take delivery because of US fears it was developing nuclear weapons.

But US Congress blocked the so-called US Expanded International Military Education and Training (IMET) program in 1992, following the 1991 massacre of unarmed civilians in Dili, East Timor.

Last September, Indonesian Air Force Chief Sutria Tubagus said publicly "there are other aircraft, like the Mirage-2000 or the Sukhoi-27 which are in the same category as the F-16."

He added he had "suggested the government buy (the other aircraft), if they have the means."

Meanwhile, the Indonesian source pointed out that a high-ranking industrial and military delegation from Indonesia would be attending the Le Bourget air show near Paris, which begins at the end of this week.

The cost of the F-16s has never been made public, but is estimated at about 10 million dollars each.

A comparable model of the Mirage-2000 is about three times the price, and the Sukhoi-27 about double. The cost of Hawks, which are largely inferior in speed and range, cannot accurately be compared.