JAKARTA --- Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto last month spent more than two weeks on a mission to solve a long-standing riddle of how Indonesia will replace its aging fighter jets.
Subianto, who flew to the U.S., Austria, France and Turkey, was also bargain hunting as Indonesia is constrained by a limited state budget and because his defense ministry had its funding slashed when COVID-19 demanded tax revenue be spent elsewhere.
"What Prabowo is doing now is looking for the best option, the best deal," said Muhamad Haripin, a defense researcher at the Centre for Political Studies at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.
Defense received more funds than any other ministry in this year's state budget, but Prabowo still must narrow his choices down to one option, Haripin said, as buying from several countries may "require the whole defense budget."
The Indonesian Air Force's mainstay fighter, the U.S.-made F-5, has been in operation for nearly four decades with few upgrades. Rising tensions in the South China Sea make it critical that Jakarta swiftly upgrade its military equipment. (end of excerpt)
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