The United States is giving, not selling, two dozen second-hand F-16 fighter planes to Indonesia to strengthen security ties with an “important US Partner,” said the Defence Department
Elaborating on an announcement on Friday by the presidents of the two countries, the department said Jakarta would cover an estimated up to $750 million to refurbish the late-model fighters and overhaul their engines.
The F-16 C/D models are decommissioned and no longer part of the US Air Force inventory. Retooled and upgraded, they will contribute to Indonesia’s “interoperability” with the United States, Navy Commander Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Defense Department spokeswoman, added in an email to Reuters.
Interoperability is the extent to which military forces are able to communicate with each other and share information to achieve a common goal.
“Indonesia is an important U.S. partner and a leader in Southeast Asia,” Hull-Ryde said. “The Department of Defense is working to support the Indonesian military in their efforts to modernize the force.”
Developing ties with Indonesia, the largest country in Southeast Asia and the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, is a priority for the Obama administration as it seeks to shape the economies and security of the region.
With arms transfers come training, closer military establishments and other ties.
The United States granted Indonesia, “without cost,” the Lockheed Martin Corp aircraft and United Technologies Corp Pratt & Whitney engines, Hull-Ryde said, and the fix-up bill “is not expected to exceed $750 million.”
President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced the planned F-16 transfer in a joint statement near the end of a nine-day Asia-Pacific tour that Obama used to reassert U.S. interests in the region.
The planes will give Indonesia a “much-needed” capability to protect its sovereign airspace “without compromising the defense budget and other national priorities,” the White House said on Friday.
The Defense Department said the C/D Block 25 models will be brought back to “essentially the same capabilities they once had when actively flying in the U.S. Air Force.”
The airframes are expected to be upgraded to meet the Indonesian Air Force’s current needs, Hull-Ryde said. They are coming from the U.S. Air Force’s Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group in Tucson, Arizona.
The transfer of advanced U.S. weapons will help establish a longterm security relationship, partly because the complex technology of U.S. equipment requires regular collaboration between the United States and its partners.
U.S. assistance creates “strong incentives for recipient countries to maintain good ties with the United States,” Andrew Shapiro, who heads the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, told a Washington audience earlier this month.