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Indonesia in talks to buy Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia

With tensions in the area heating up, South East Asian powers are looking to shore up stocks of military hardware. President Joko Widodo has pledged to make big deals of this kind more transparent.

Indonesia is in talks to buy "nine or 10" Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets from Russia, an Indonesian defense ministry official told Reuters on Tuesday, without giving a timeline for any deal.

The purchase of the aircraft is aimed at strengthening the capabilities of the Indonesian Defense Force, according to Salim Mengga, an Indonesian MP and member of the House of Representatives Commission overseeing defense procurement.

The deal initially was for a total of 16 aircraft but was later reduced to ten, although Indonesia still has the option of procuring the additional two Su-35s in the future.

Not yet a done deal

Western companies have also been competing to supply Indonesia with fighter jets, led by Lockheed Martin of the US and Sweden's Saab. Indonesia already has a contract with Lockheed Martin to deliver 24 F-16 jets, of which 14 have been delivered and 10 more are expected by early 2018.

South China Sea: hot waters

Indonesian warplanes recently staged large-scale exercises on the edge of a South China Sea area claimed by Beijing. China's claims to a large part of the sea area were overruled by an international court in The Hague in June, and while Indonesia is not part of the dispute, it has objected to China's inclusion of waters around the Natuna Islands within its 'nine-dash line' a demarcation line used by China to show its claims there.

Indonesia's total defense spending has risen exponentially over the last four years to 108.7 trillion rupiah (7.5 billion euros), although it is expected to pause at 108.0 trillion rupiah in 2017, according to official data.

Indonesia is expected to spend over 20 billion euros on military procurement between 2016 and 2025, making it the fifth fastest-growing defense budget in the world, according to Research firm IHS Markit.

jbh/jm (Reuters, AP)

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