Heru Andriyanto, Jakarta – Defense and technology company Lockheed Martin has confirmed that the United States government will not stand in the way if Indonesia acquires the latest version of F-16 fighter jets and their advanced weaponry system.
The Indonesian Air Force has been operating F-16 for decades and another procurement of the multi-role jets will be much more cost-effective for the country's long-term defense program, according to Mike Kelley, the company's director for F-16 business development.
Lockheed Martin is offering Indonesia F-16 Block 72 jets, the latest version of the F-16 with "cutting-edge technology in the most advanced F-16 configuration on the market today".
"If Indonesia chose an aircraft other than the F-16, it would be much more costly to build up that new ecosystem to support another platform, from infrastructure on the ground, to training of pilots and maintenance crews," Kelley said in a recent interview with a number of Indonesian media outlets including The Jakarta Globe.
"With the F-16, that infrastructure and knowledge is already there. This saves significant cost as well as time it takes to get up to speed."
He said the US government remains the decision-maker in arms exports and in this case Indonesia has been given the green light.
"Indonesia has been approved by the U.S. Government to receive all advanced Block 72 capabilities and weapons requested by the IDAF [Indonesian Air Force], including the advanced AESA radar," he said, adding that Lockheed Martin is not part of that decision-making process.
The Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar is an array of the avionics technology infusion including mission computers and display processors, a large-format 6x8 high-resolution display, an internal electronic warfare system, a high-volume, high-speed data network and incorporates a sophisticated data link, according to Lockheed Martin website.
"The Foreign Military Sales process, or what you may hear referred to as the "FMS" process, is the US government's program for making those decisions, as well as the actual contracting and transfer of the defense products and programs," Kelley explained.
"Basically, this means that the international partner has a contract with the US government for its defense procurement, and the US government in turn handles that contract with Lockheed Martin. This ensures a highly transparent process that clearly defines all aspects of the program and partnership," he added.
Lars Hubert, a veteran F-16 pilot, said a major advantage that comes with the F-16 Block 72 is the familiarity for Indonesian pilots.
"What does that do for Indonesian pilots? Their transition will be more rapid and certainly more efficient," Hubert said.
Having flown the F-16 for most of his 25-year career with the US Air Force, Hubert said there are essentially over 200 upgrades he has seen in this aircraft in recent years.
"The AESA radar provides an amazing capability, seeing targets at further ranges. And I can get a track quality out of each of those detects, which is more precise," said Hubert, whose callsign is Yeti when in the air.
Indonesia has around 30 F-16 jets, all manufactured in the 1980s.
In October 2019, Air Force Chief of Staff Air Marshal Yuyu Sutisna said the government mulled procuring "two squadrons" of F-16 Block 72 but the plan has not been materialized nearly two years after his remarks.
Indonesia also operates a number of Russia's Sukhoi jets.