Finally, Indonesia purchases 42 Rafale warplanes from France
On Thursday, Indonesia agreed to acquire six Rafale fighter jets from France, as part of a larger order of 42 planes, as Paris strengthens military relations in the Asia-Pacific region.
The deal was revealed at a meeting in Jakarta between Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and his French colleague Florence Parly.
"We reached an agreement to buy 42 Rafales. "The deal signed today is for the first six, and it will be followed by 36 others," Subianto said.
It is the latest hint of improving relations between Jakarta and Paris, as France reconsiders its regional alliances after the failure of a multibillion-dollar Australian submarine agreement in September.
The disaster enraged Paris, which claimed it had had no notice that Canberra was negotiating a new defense treaty with the United States and Britain.
As part of the new Aukus defense alliance with Washington and London to oppose a growing China, Australia is now acquiring nuclear-powered submarines.
During a two-day visit to the enormous Southeast Asian archipelago by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in November, France and Indonesia renewed their strategic partnership pact.
Indonesia's first purchase for French jets comes as the country updates its aging fleet – mostly American F-16s and Russian Sukhois – amid growing fears about escalating US-China relations in Asia.
Parly told reporters in Jakarta that Indonesia has picked a warplane recognized for its "technical brilliance" and "operational capability on multiple occasions."
Indonesia is also apparently in talks to purchase around 30 American F-15s and is participating in a South Korean warplane development program.
Since the Australian submarine contract fell, France has been reinforcing relations with long-time allies such Japan and India, as well as moving to Southeast Asian states such as Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of numerous Asian nations that have voiced alarm over the Aukus treaty, with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi warning that it may spark a regional nuclear arms race.
Despite competition from American and other European manufacturers, the Dassault Aviation Rafale aircraft, which entered service in 2004, has proven successful in the worldwide market. In December, the United Arab Emirates placed the largest ever purchase for the planes, paying 14 billion euros for 80 of them.
Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece, and Croatia are among the other overseas customers.