US moves to arm Indonesia's growing F-16 fighter fleet

Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:40pm EDT

* Jakarta seeks air-to-surface missiles in deal worth $25 million

* US is giving Indonesia 24 surplus F-16s

* Arms deal is part of U.S. bid to shape security in Asia-Pacific

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON, Aug 24 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's administration has proposed to sell air-to-surface guided missiles and related gear to equip Indonesia's growing fleet of U.S.-built F-16 fighter aircraft.

The sale, valued at $25 million, would be the latest U.S. move to boost security ties with friends and allies in a region stirred by China's growing military clout and territorial assertiveness.

Indonesia has requested 18 AGM-65K2 "Maverick All-Up-Round" missiles, 36 "captive air training missiles" and three maintenance training missiles, plus spares, test equipment and personnel training, the administration told the U.S. Congress in a notice dated Wednesday.

The AGM-65 Maverick, built by Raytheon Co, is designed to attack a wide range of tactical targets, including armor, air defenses, ships, ground transportation and fuel storage facilities.

"The Indonesian Air Force needs these missiles to train its F-16 pilots in basic air-to-ground weapons employment," the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in the notice to lawmakers.

The arms sale would contribute to making Indonesia "a more valuable regional partner in an important area of the world," the security agency added.

Such notices of a proposed sale are required by law and do not mean the sale has been concluded.

GIVING F-16s

The United States is giving, not selling, Jakarta two dozen second-hand F-16C/D fighter planes to strengthen bilateral ties and foster what the Pentagon has called a "much-needed" capability to protect Indonesian air space.

Obama and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia announced the F-16 transfer near the end of a nine-day Asia-Pacific tour that Obama used in November to re-emphasize U.S. interests in the region.

The F-16s are decommissioned and no longer part of the U.S. Air Force inventory. Once retooled and upgraded, they will boost Indonesia's "interoperability" with the United States, the Defense Department said at the time.

Interoperability is the extent to which military forces can work with each other to achieve a common goal. The refurbished aircraft add to Indonesia's existing fleet of 10 earlier-model F-16s.

The quantities of missiles being sought by Indonesia would support both the existing fleet and the 24 being provided as U.S. surplus, the notice to Congress said.

Jakarta is paying up to $750 million to upgrade the second-hand Lockheed Martin Corp fighters and overhaul their United Technologies Corp's Pratt & Whitney-built engines.

Indonesia, the largest country in Southeast Asia and the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, is only one part of the growing U.S. emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region for national-security planning.

The United States also is building Guam as a strategic hub, deploying up to four shore-hugging littoral combat ships on a rotational basis to Singapore and preparing what is to be a 2,500-strong Marine Corps task force rotation as part of a tightening military partnership with Australia.

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