SINGAPORE, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Indonesia is ordering around a dozen Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and could sign a contract for the purchase in a month’s time, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter.
These will replace its ageing Northrop F-5 fighters, and supplement a fleet of 16 Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters that form the backbone of its air force.
Indonesian companies will get contracts to manufacture some components for the Su-35, and the Russians are expected to set up a maintenance centre for the fighter jet in the country, added the sources.
Officials from United Aircraft Corporation, which manufactures the Su-35, declined to comment at the Singapore Airshow.
An Indonesian air force spokesman did not want to comment on the deal and referred all questions to the defence ministry. Officials at the ministry could not be reached for comment.
Western firms including the European consortium Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin, Saab and Dassault had also been in talks with Jakarta over a possible sale of their fighter jets.
Indonesian officials, however, have said for several years that their preference was to get more Russian fighters.
This will be the second export order for Russia’s newest fighter jet, with China inking a deal for 24 planes worth more than $2 billion in November 2015.
Indonesia also has around 12 early-model Lockheed Martin F-16s, and is receiving 24 refurbished F-16s from the United States as part of a 2011 government-to-government agreement.
It has also agreed to help fund South Korea’s KF-X fighter jet programme, which hopes to develop a modern multi-role jet fighter in the 2020s. Jakarta expects to eventually get around 80 new fighter jets via this programme.
Southeast Asia’s largest country and its biggest economy wants to bolster the capabilities of its air force to catch up with its neighbours, say industry analysts.
Neighbouring Singapore, for example, has one of the best trained and most modern air forces in the region with a fleet of more than 100 fighter jets including F-5s, F-16s and Boeing F-15s. (Additional reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor in JAKARTA; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)