JAKARTA: Indonesia confirmed on Wednesday it had bought 12 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets previously used by Qatar, defending the nearly US$800 million deal as a fast way to upgrade the air force after it was criticised by lawmakers who said the planes were too old.
The Defence Ministry said Indonesia had signed the deal for €733 million (US$792 million) with Excalibur International, a unit of Czech defence company Czechoslovak Group (CSG), in January. The planes would be delivered within 24 months of that date.
The deal, for nine jets with single seats and three with double seats, was first reported earlier on Wednesday by Indonesian media, who quoted lawmakers raising doubts about it.
"What is so urgent that we had to buy used and old jets?" the newspaper Kompas quoted lawmaker Tubagus Hasanuddin as saying.
According to the website of manufacturer Dassault Aviation, the model was first launched in 1967.
The ministry did not mention the age of the jets. It said they will come with three years of support service and pilot training.
"Indonesia needs fighter jets that could be delivered quickly to cover for the decline of combat readiness in the Indonesian Air Force's fleet," said Edwin Adrian Sumantha, a spokesperson for the Defence Ministry.
The country has long been seeking to overhaul its ageing air fleet which includes United States-made F-16 and Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 jets.
The ministry said plans to replace its F-5 Tiger jets with Su-35 had been hampered by US sanctions on Russia, adding that Jakarta has other plans to upgrade its fleet but that will take some time.
Indonesia announced plans to purchase 11 Su-35 jets from Russia in 2017, which it had intended to pay with cash and Indonesian commodities.
The country secured a deal to order 42 Rafale fighter jets for $8.1 billion in February. A planned purchase of F-15 fighter jets is also in advanced stages and awaiting final sign-off from the government, defence minister Prabowo Subianto said last year. — REUTERS