The Austrian authorities received a letter of intent from the Indonesian government to acquire the fleet of fifteen Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets that have been the target of constant debate for the last two decades.
The Bundesheer had been on the lookout to retire the Eurofighter Typhoon. The aircraft was chosen in 2002 to replace the Saab 35 Draken and the Northrop F-5E Tiger within the Luftstreitkräfte, the Austrian Air Force. Its main mission was to defend the sovereignty of the country’s airspace.
Austria eventually settled for 15 Typhoons, including nine new and six used aircraft, in their Tranche 1 variant specialized in air superiority. The contract was valued at €1.75 billion ($2.7 billion). But since the deal was signed, the acquisition has been targeted by critics, which consider the aircraft too expensive for its modest tactical application.
Some even suspect, without evidence, that Austrian politicians could have been bribed. In 2017, a parliamentary commission was formed to investigate an alleged fraud from Airbus, after the Ministry of Defense accused the manufacturer of charging 10% for offset deals without properly informing Austrian taxpayers. The case was closed in April 2020.
After an unsuccessful campaign to find a new future for their unwanted fighter jets, Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner had just announced on July 6, 2020, that the Luftstreitkräfte would retain the Typhoons. But four days later, Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto reached out to his Austrian counterpart with an offer she could hardly refuse.
“In order to modernize the Indonesian Air Force, I would like to enter into official negotiations with you to buy all 15 Eurofighters for the Republic of Indonesia,” Prabowo wrote in a letter, quoted by Die Presse. “I am aware of the sensitivity of the matter, but I am sure that my offer offers opportunities for both sides.”
The Typhoons would thus likely assist or even replace the aging F-16A/B Fighting Falcon within the Indonesian Air Force. Indonesia also operates a small number of Sukhoi Su-27SKM.
As for the replacement of the Eurofighter Typhoon within the Luftstreitkräfte, the Saab JAS 39E Gripen is, for now, one of the strongest contenders: reputed for its small price, some hope the sale of the Typhoons to Indonesia could potentially fund the acquisition of the Swedish fighter jet.