Indonesia has selected Korea Aerospace Industries as the preferred bidder for its 16-aircraft advanced jet trainer requirement, paving the way for the first export sale of the T-50 Golden Eagle.
KAI received a letter from the Indonesian government on 12 April informing it of the decision, says an industry source. The source understands that preferred bidder status means that Indonesia will conduct commercial negotiations exclusively with KAI. These are likely to take between three and four months to finalise, the source adds. Indonesia also desires industrial co-operation on the project.
The news represents an important win for the T-50, which has previously lost competitions to the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.
An alleged spying incident at a Seoul hotel in January appeared to have threatened the Indonesia T-50 deal. A member of an Indonesian defence delegation visiting South Korea returned to his room to find three individuals looking at his laptop computer. The individuals fled and their identities were never determined.
The incident received wide publicity in the South Korean and Indonesian press, although the governments in Seoul and Jakarta played down its importance.
According to media reports in South Korea, Seoul told Jakarta that if it chose the T-50, then it would consider buying more Indonesian Aerospace-built CN-235 transport aircraft. The South Korean air force and coastguard already operate the type.
The other contenders in the competition to replace Indonesia's BAE Systems Hawk 53s were the Aero Vodochody L-159 and Yakovlev Yak-130. An Indonesian air force delegation visited South Korea in April 2010 to test-fly the nation's air force T-50s.
Jakarta's T-50 decision follows other efforts to upgrade the nation's air force. In November 2010 it purchased eight Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to replace Vietnam War-era Rockwell OV-10 Broncos. Then in January 2011 it awarded Arinc Engineering Services a $66.7 million contract to modernise five of its Lockheed Martin C-130B transports.
Indonesia is also considering upgrading its 10 Lockheed Martin F-16A/B fighters. Media reports have also said that the nation will buy 24 ex-US Air Force F-16s, but this has not been officially announced by either Washington or Jakarta.