Indonesia postpones Mirage fighter jet purchase citing fiscal constraints

Despite President Joko Widodo approving a 20% increase in defence spending until the end of 2024, totalling US$25 billion, the decision to delay the Mirage acquisition prevailed.

The Indonesian government has decided to defer the acquisition of 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets, previously utilized by Qatar, citing fiscal limitations as the primary reason. Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, the spokesperson for the defence minister, revealed this delay during a panel interview with broadcaster TV One, indicating that the decision was a joint effort between the defence and finance ministries.

Dahnil conveyed on TV One that the acquisition of Mirage jets had been deferred by the government due to the insufficient fiscal capacity to support such a purchase. Additionally, he noted that the military would shift its attention to retrofitting existing Sukhoi and F16 aircraft.

Despite being asked for comments, neither Dahnil nor representatives from the defence and finance ministries have responded as of yet.

Indonesia had initially sealed a deal with a unit of Czech defence company Czechoslovak Group (CSG) in January 2023 to procure 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets, valued at €733 million (U.S.$801.68 million), as confirmed by the defence ministry last year. The secondhand aircraft were anticipated to be delivered within 24 months from the signing of the agreement, serving as an interim solution while awaiting the arrival of the 42 Rafale fighter jets purchased by Jakarta in 2022 for U.S. $ 8.1 billion.

Criticism arose regarding the Mirage purchase plan, primarily due to concerns about the age of the jets. Despite President Joko Widodo approving a 20% increase in defence spending until the end of 2024, totalling U.S.$25 billion, the decision to delay the Mirage acquisition prevailed.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, a leading candidate in the upcoming February presidential elections, has spearheaded efforts to modernize Indonesia’s ageing military fleet. This modernization initiative includes recent acquisitions such as 12 new drones from Turkish Aerospace and fighter jets and transport helicopters from U.S. companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The postponement of the Mirage purchase underscores the delicate balance between upgrading military capabilities and navigating fiscal constraints. As Indonesia prioritizes the retrofitting of existing assets, the decision reflects a strategic shift in managing resources to enhance the country’s defence capabilities amidst evolving geopolitical landscapes. The upcoming presidential elections may further influence decisions on military modernization as Indonesia seeks to maintain a robust and technologically advanced armed forces.