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France Offers Rafale Fighters to Replace Indonesia’s Aging F-5s

France is offering its state-of-the-art Rafale fighters to the Indonesian military to bolster their strategic partnership after a failed multibillion-dollar submarine deal with Australia.

The offer to provide 36 Rafale aircraft was reportedly part of the defense cooperation plan discussed during French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s two-day visit to Jakarta. However, no final deal was announced after the meeting.

The Indonesian Air Force seeks to modernize its military equipment amid increasing tensions with China over the South China Sea. Defense minister Prabowo Subianto has spoken with various nations to discuss replacing the country’s aging F-5s.

In addition to combat aircraft, the southeast Asian nation wants to boost its defense capabilities by acquiring submarines and warships to protect its maritime territory.

“This trip is about reaffirming France’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific… and to intensify the relationship with Indonesia,” a French diplomatic source told Reuters.


France’s initiative for closer military cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region is reportedly the country’s attempt to compensate for Australia’s controversial “stab in the back” over a lucrative submarine deal.

Earlier this month, Australia opted to obtain nuclear-powered submarines from the United States and Britain instead of choosing the submarine program of France. This led to Paris feeling “cheated” by Canberra.

Illustrating how angry France is with the Australian government, it released a two-minute video outlining its Indo-Pacific strategy and naming numerous regional countries, except Australia.

“The French are doubling down on other Indo-Pacific relations, including Indonesia, in a sense to compensate for losing the Australians,” an Indo-Pacific diplomat explained.

About the Rafale

Developed by French aircraft manufacturing company Dassault Aviation, the Rafale is a twin-jet combat aircraft capable of a variety of short and long-range missions, including ground and sea attack, reconnaissance, high-accuracy strikes, and nuclear strike deterrence.

With a payload capacity of nine tons (8,164 kilograms), it can be integrated with high-powered weapons such as air-to-air missiles, Apache air-to-ground missiles, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Additionally, the Rafale is equipped with an RBE2 passive electronically scanned radar featuring look-down and shoot-down capabilities able to track up to eight targets simultaneously.

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