Subject: AN: Indonesian Air Force Wants 48 Sukhois: Military Chief

Indonesian Air Force Wants 48 Sukhois: Military Chief

MOSCOW, April 23 Asia Pulse/Antara - The Indonesian Air Force requires 48 Russian-made Sukhoi fighter planes to enable it to secure the country and maintain its sovereignty, Indonesian military commander, Gen Endriartono Sutarto, said.

"Ideally, we should have four squadrons or 48 Sukhoi fighter planes and we hope to achieve the number in the next four years," Endriartono told newsmen here Tuesday night.

He said the Air Force has for the moment decided to buy two Sukhoi-27s, two Sukhoi-30s, and two MI-35 helicopters for a total value of US$197 million.

Of the amount, he said some 12.5 per cent will be paid in cash, and the rest will be paid through a countertrade scheme.

Indonesia's state Bank Bukopin has been tasked to loan the government US$21 million as bail-out fund to cover the cash payment, he said.

Asked about the possible negative reaction of western countries and the US over Indonesia's purchase of Russian fighter planes, he said this is understandable.

"I could understand the concern for the possible negative reaction of western countries," he said.

The US has imposed a military embargo on Indonesia in 1999 due to the latter's alleged support for militia violence in East Timor.

Meanwhile, chief of the Indonesian military's Operational Command II, Rear Marshall Teddy Sumarno, who accompanied Endriartono, expressed hope that the fighter planes would arrive in Jakarta by September at the latest.

A number of pilots and technical officers will be sent to Russia in June to study the operation of the airplanes, he said.

Industry and Trade Minister Rini Soewandi meanwhile confirmed that the negotiations for the purchase of the fighter planes began during her visit to Russia in September last year.

During that time, she offered 31 commodities for the countertrade scheme.

Russia has agreed to buy several commodities from Indonesia, among them rubber, palm oil, tea, coffee, cocoa, textile and bauxite, she said.

She pointed out that the countertrade agreement was supposed to be signed on Tuesday night here, but it will be signed only on Wednesday as it has to be checked by lawyers.

The Indonesian government has tasked the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) to sign the trade contract, while Russia will be represented by one of its state companies.

Rini further said that Bank Bukopin has been chosen to provide the loan for the cash payment as it has completed the government's recapitalization program.

Megawati is here as part of a 10-day visit to Romania, Russia and Poland. She is scheduled to return home on April 27.

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