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State Department backs $14B
sale of F-15 jets to Indonesia

The State Department has approved the potential sale of as many as 36 new F-15EX fighter jets built by Boeing Co. to Indonesia, bolstering US ties with a key ally and Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

The proposed sale is valued at about $9.5 billion for the aircraft and approximately $4.4 billion for related equipment, according to a statement Thursday from the State Department. 

From a geopolitical standpoint, the proposed sale improves the “security of an important regional partner that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to the State Department. “It is vital to US national interest to assist Indonesia in developing and maintaining a strong and effective self-defense capability.”

The US Congress has 30 days to review the decision but is expected to support it. After that, it’s up to Indonesia and Boeing to negotiate a contract. The deal, which would be the first export sale of the F-15EX, comes as the Biden administration seeks to refocus its foreign policy strategy on the Indo-Pacific region. 

The decision also marks a surge in spending by Indonesia for newer military aircraft. Earlier on Thursday, Indonesia signed a contract with Dassault Aviation SA for 42 Rafale fighters, a deal valued at $8.1 billion.

The Indonesia sale is also a coup for Chicago-based Boeing, which sees the market for the jets, originally built in the early 1970s, continuing to grow. 

The F-15EX’s “contemporary sensors and radar, advanced cockpit, and range, speed and payload capacity have resulted in a modernized platform that will serve as a key asset in any force structure—today and into the future,” Boeing said in a statement. “The jet is gaining interest from multiple international customers.”

Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at AeroDynamic Advisory, signaled that there’s still work to do on both sides to ensure the agreement goes through. 

“In the event that they actually buy these jets, it would be a huge breakthrough for the program and a real boost for the production line,” said Aboulafia. “But I just don’t think Boeing can take this to the bank until they get a firm contract.”

Despite a higher profile focus on newer jets, the US Air Force is also a customer for the non-stealthy F-15EX. The service took delivery of its first EX models last year, and its current plan calls for 144 of the jets with an option for a maximum of 200. 

The service decided to buy new modernized but non-stealthy models of the vintage jet to complement the F-35, which is costlier to maintain but higher-tech. The Air Force estimates it will save $3 billion through 2025 under its current plan to buy 90 new F-15EX jets to replace aging F-15C/D fighters instead of more F-35s. Bloomberg News

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