Jakarta likely to buy Russian fighter planes

INDONESIA has disclosed that it was likely to buy fighter planes from Russia – barely two weeks after it cancelled a purchase of F-16s from the United States.

State Minister for Development Planning Ginanjar Kartasasmita said after a meeting with President Suharto that the government would be sending a delegation to Russia next month to barter for jet fighters.

The delegation would be led by Research and Technology Minister B.J. Habibie, who also heads state-owned aircraft maker Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN).

“They will study in greater detail the feasibility of using Russian military hardware for Indonesia,” Mr Ginanjar said, adding that the government would consider a “counter-exchange” for the planes and other defence equipment.

But he did not elaborate on what Indonesia would offer in return.

He said that another fact-finding team, comprising military personnel and members of various government agencies, visited Russia last month and made a preliminary report on the equipment.

“The team has reported that there will not be any problems using their technology and equipment,” he said.

He noted that the Indonesian armed forces (Abri) had relied heavily on Russian military equipment in the 60s and was still using Russian-built tanks.

He said: “It is not alien to us. With technological advancement, their hardware is now comparable to that of other countries.”

Mr Ginanjar, who visited an air show in France recently, said that the fact-finding team had studied Russian fighter planes such as the MiG-29 and the Sukhoi-27.

He also disclosed that Abri was trying to buy missiles and radar equipment from Russia.

Abri spokesman Brigadier-General Slamet Supriadi told The Sunday Times yesterday that the military was also looking into the possibility of buying France’s Mirage-2000.

“We are studying the various alternatives carefully and we hope to make a decision soon,” he said, adding that an important consideration was whether there would be any “strings attached”.

He added: “We do not want any conditions linked to buying the planes. If there are any conditions, we will look elsewhere.”

Indonesia had earlier this month cancelled its planned purchase of nine F-16s from the US and pulled out of its military-aid scheme after “wholly-unjustified criticism” by the US Congress of Jakarta’s human-rights record.

Abri sources told The Sunday Times that Indonesia would “not bow to pressure” from Washington, which was linking military aid with the country’s human-rights record.

A senior military officer said: “We are not desperate to get US military hardware because there are always other markets we can turn to.”

Mr Ginanjar, meanwhile, said yesterday that the planned purchase of the Russian fighter planes and military equipment was not a result of the government’s cancellation of the F-16 purchase.

“There is no linkage between the two,” he stressed, adding that the Russian offer was made way before the recent US-Indonesian bilateral spat.

He said that Russian President Boris Yeltsin had sent a representative to scout for business from Indonesia.

“I was instructed then to send a fact-finding team to Russia,” he said.

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