JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia has ditched a controversial plan to buy 733 million euros ($790 million) worth of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets previously used by Qatar, the defence ministry spokesperson said late on Saturday.
“There is no purchase of Mirage jets. Even though it was planned, it has been cancelled … meaning there is no active contract,” spokesperson Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak said in a statement, but did not elaborate.
Last month, the ministry said the deal to purchase the 12 fighter jets was delayed due to fiscal constraints and that the military would order a retrofit for its existing Sukhoi and F-16 aircraft instead.
The planned purchase garnered controversy when it was announced last year, as lawmakers said the secondhand jets were old.
Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, the frontrunner to win Indonesia’s presidential election on Feb. 14, has been criticised about the deal by rival candidates during campaigning.
But he defended the purchase during one of the presidential debates, saying the secondhand jets were still good for another 15 years and were needed while the country waits for its new jets to arrive.
Prabowo has overseen the military’s efforts to modernise its ageing fleet, which include purchases of Rafale fighter jets, drones from Turkish Aerospace and fighter jets and transport helicopters from U.S. companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
($1 = 0.9275 euros)
(Reporting by Ananda Teresia; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo)