As the international community continues to ramp up military assets and modernization efforts amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Indonesia is in a budget dilemma on funding its warplane acquisitions, including South Korea’s KF-21 Boramae, Boeing F-15 Eagle, and Dassault Rafale.

Earlier this month, the Indonesian Air Force (IDAF) announced that it would resume payments to South Korea for its part in the joint stealth fighter jet program that was previously stalled due to a financial crisis. An expert told Janes that Jakarta paid Seoul the KF-X (now known as KF-21 Boramae) development cost of KRW9.41 billion (USD6.63 million), the first repayment made by the former in three years.

KF-21 Prototype (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

After a series of bilateral talks South Korea and Indonesia finally settled in November 2021 on a recommitment funding of 20 percent development costs for the part of the latter until 2026 in addition to about 30 percent “in kind” contribution that would include “commodities and other goods,” Janes reported. This has been quite an adjustment from the original agreement between the two Asian countries in 2015, where Jakarta initially agreed to finance 20 percent of the total investment of KRW8.8 trillion (USD6.2 billion) for developing KF-21 until 2028 and, in return, would benefit “access ti technologies, expertise, and options to buy” the multirole fighter aircraft from Seoul.

But due to setbacks, including contract concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia has stopped paying its 20 percent commitment in 2019.

The KF-21 Boramae (“young hawk,” “fighter hawk”) is a joint fighter aircraft development program led by the South Korean government, shouldering 60 percent project funding. Manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the KF-21 is set to become South Korea’s second indigenous fighter jet after the FA-50 light combat aircraft. KIA unveiled the first prototype of the fighter jet in April 2021 and held its first test flight in July 2022, with the manufacturing schedule announced to begin in 2026.

According to South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the general characteristics of a KF-21 include a length of 16.9 m, a wingspan of 11.2 m, a height of 4.7 m, and a gross weight of about 11,800 kg. It is powered by two General Electric F414-GE-400K after-burning turbofans, generating 57.8 kN (13,000 lbf) thrust each and reaching a maximum speed of Mach 1.81 within a 2,900 km range. Moreover, the aircraft can be armed with air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, anti-ship missiles, and bombs (both standard and precision-guided bombs).

While Indonesia worked on resolving its KF-21 funding issue with South Korea, the former is facing another warplane acquisition that involves dozens of US-made fighter aircraft worth $14 billion.

According to a Bloomberg report, Boeing Co. has expressed concerns about Jakarta’s ability to finance the proposed sale of 36 new F-15 fighter jets plus equipment. As a result, Boeing Executives recently flew to Jakarta to personally discuss the Indonesian officials regarding the deal. While the latter has offered to pay in installments, an insider told Bloomberg that “the meeting ended without a conclusive outcome” and would possibly delay the signing of the contract on or before the end of the year.