War is profit.
From rescue helicopters to air surveillance equipment, defense manufacturers jostled in Jakarta this week to claim one of the region’s biggest prizes: a slice of Indonesia’s shopping list as the country updates its aging air and sea security capability.
While it is not part of the dispute over claims in the South China Sea, Indonesia objects to China’s claim to waters around the Natuna Islands and has been ramping up military exercises and patrols in the region.
At this year’s annual defense gathering, just weeks after the largest Indonesian exercise to date off the Natuna archipelago, corridors were jammed and industry executives reported one of their busiest years at a time of high interest across the region after a lull of over five years.
Indonesia, which faced a U.S. arms embargo until just over a decade ago, has yet to nail down a winner for the highest profile item on its wish list – a squadron of jets to replace its aging Northrop F-5 fighters, as talks continue with Russia to buy Sukhoi Su-35 jets.
Rival contenders for the deal include the Saab Gripen combat jet, the Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin’s F-16s, according to industry stakeholders. Most offers include the jets and industrial cooperation.
“The situation here is obviously concentrating people’s minds,” said Robert Hewson, spokesman for Saab.
“So we have found a lot of interest in people talking to us about our radar products, our airborne surveillance products, because they need to be able to extend their horizons.”