Indonesia scraps Mirage Jet deal amidst fiscal concerns

Indonesia cancels plans to purchase Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets due to fiscal constraints, opting instead to retrofit existing aircraft.

Indonesia’s decision to abandon its plans to purchase Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets, with a price tag of 733 million euros ($790 million), has sparked discussions and raised questions about the nation’s military procurement strategies.

The announcement, made by a spokesperson for the defence ministry, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, on Saturday, underscored a significant shift in Indonesia’s approach to bolstering its air force capabilities.

Simanjuntak’s statement, declaring the cancellation of the Mirage jets purchase and the absence of an active contract, left many observers seeking clarification on the reasons behind the sudden change of course. While no specific details were provided, the move comes on the heels of last month’s revelation from the ministry attributing the delay in the fighter jet acquisition to fiscal constraints. Instead, the military has redirected its focus towards retrofitting its existing fleet of Sukhoi and F-16 aircraft, signaling a strategic reevaluation of priorities in the face of budgetary limitations.

The initial proposal to procure the 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets, previously utilized by Qatar, stirred controversy when it surfaced last year. Lawmakers expressed apprehensions over the acquisition of secondhand aircraft, citing concerns about their age and long-term viability. The decision to scrap the deal reflects a response to these apprehensions and highlights the government’s responsiveness to public and political discourse surrounding defence procurement initiatives.

Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, a prominent contender in Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election scheduled for February 14, has faced scrutiny from rival candidates regarding the Mirage jets deal. Despite criticism, Prabowo staunchly defended the decision during a presidential debate, asserting the continued operational value of the used jets for an additional 15 years. He justified the necessity of acquiring these aircraft as a stopgap measure while awaiting the delivery of newer, more advanced aircraft models.

Prabowo’s tenure as defence minister has been marked by a concerted effort to modernise Indonesia’s ageing military fleet. In addition to the proposed Mirage jets purchase, Indonesia has pursued various procurement initiatives, including securing Rafale fighter jets, drones from Turkish Aerospace, and fighter jets and transport helicopters from leading U.S. defence contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin. These efforts underscore Indonesia’s commitment to enhancing its defence capabilities and ensuring readiness to address evolving security challenges in the region.