Indonesia on Thursday ordered 42 Rafale fighter jets from France, as Paris and Jakarta seek to strengthen military ties in the face of growing tensions in the Asia-Pacific.
The agreement was announced as Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto met his French counterpart Florence Parly in Jakarta.
“It’s official, Indonesia orders 42 Rafale,” said Parly on Twitter.
Indonesia will order 42 Rafale fighter jets, France's defence minister said on Thursday, after the two countries signed a series of agreements that include submarine development and ammunition manufacturing. https://t.co/xgu0QCHRiH
— Stanley Widianto (@stanleywidianto) February 10, 2022
Subianto confirmed a deal had been struck for the purchase of the jets, with a contract signed Thursday relating to the first six.
It is the latest sign of warming ties between Jakarta and Paris, as France rethinks its alliances in the region following the collapse in September of a multibillion-dollar Australian submarine deal.
Paris was left furious by the debacle, saying it had been given no warning that Canberra was negotiating a new defence pact with the United States and Britain.
Australia is now obtaining nuclear-powered submarines as part of the new defence alliance, named AUKUS, which brings together Canberra, Washington and London to counter a rising China.
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In November, France and Indonesia strengthened a strategic partnership agreement during a two-day visit by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to the vast Southeast Asian archipelago.
Indonesia’s first order for French warplanes comes as Jakarta replaces an ageing fleet — consisting mainly of American F-16s and Russian Sukhois — as concerns grow about rising US-China tensions in Asia.
In Jakarta, Parly told reporters that Indonesia had chosen a warplane known for its “technical excellence”, which had demonstrated its “operational capabilities on numerous occasions”.
Eric Trappier, CEO of manufacturer Dassault Aviation, said the contract “marks the start of a long-term partnership that will see Dassault Aviation rapidly step up its presence in the country.
“It also demonstrates the strong bond between Indonesia and France and reinforces the position of the world’s largest archipelago as a key power on the international stage.”
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Indonesia is reportedly in negotiations to buy about 30 American F-15s, and is participating in a South Korean programme to develop a warplane.
Since the Australian submarine deal collapsed, France has been bolstering ties with long-time partners including Japan and India, as well as turning to Southeast Asian nations such as Indonesia.
Indonesia is one of several Asian countries that expressed concerns about the AUKUS pact, with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi warning it could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region.
The Dassault Aviation Rafale aircraft, which entered service in 2004, has proved popular in the international market despite competition from American and other European manufacturers.
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The United Arab Emirates signed the biggest ever order for the jets in December, with a deal to buy 80 for 14 billion euros.
Other foreign clients include Qatar, India, Egypt, Greece and Croatia.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk