Indonesia has scrapped a plan to buy $790 million (733m euros) worth of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets after attracting criticism in the lead-up to the country’s election.
A Defence ministry spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday: “There is no purchase of Mirage jets. Even though it was planned, it has been cancelled … meaning there is no active contract.”
The purchase of a dozen of the fighter jets, which were previously used by Qatar, aimed to fill a perceived air defence ‘gap’.
But the plan drew controversy when it was announced last year, as lawmakers said the secondhand jets were old.
Last month, the ministry said the deal to purchase the 12 fighter jets was delayed due to fiscal constraints and that the military would order a retrofit for its existing Sukhoi and F-16 aircraft instead.
Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, the frontrunner to win Indonesia’s presidential election on February 14 (in three days time), has been criticised about the deal by rival candidates during campaigning.
But he defended the purchase during one of the presidential debates, saying the secondhand jets were still good for another 15 years and were needed while the country waits for its new jets to arrive.
Prabowo has overseen the military’s efforts to modernise its ageing fleet, which include purchases of Rafale fighter jets, drones from Turkish Aerospace and fighter jets and transport helicopters from US companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard