Why did Indonesia choose the US F-15 for 5 times more expensive than the Russian Su-35?

Under pressure from Washington, Jakarta chose to buy an American F-15 fighter jet that is five times more expensive than a Russian Su-35 with almost equivalent features

On February 11, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense signed a contract worth 13.9 billion USD to buy 36 Boeing F-15 Eagle heavy fighters from the US. This makes Indonesia the 7th customer of this fighter, after Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore and Qatar .

The F-15 Eagle is a relatively small export heavy fighter aircraft mainly due to its high operating costs and maintenance requirements.

Since the 1990s, Indonesia has operated heavy and light fighters in tandem and is currently deploying a squadron of Russian Su-27 and Su-30 heavy fighters along with fighter jets The lighter American F-16.

Initially, Russia’s ‘4.5 generation Su-35S fighters were believed to be Indonesia’s choice, the US threat to impose economic sanctions caused Jakarta to change its plans and buy F-15.

It is not clear which variant of the F-15 Indonesia will buy, but there are many reports that Jakarta will choose the F-15EX that the US Air Force is also ordering. Both the Su-35 and the F-15EX are based on the Cold War designs of the Su-27 Flanker and F-15C Eagle – the main Soviet and American fighters of the time.

Although the Flanker was seen as the more capable fighter during the Cold War, the breakup of the Soviet Union and the dramatic shrinking of the Russian technology sector provided an opportunity for the US military aviation industry to gain traction. narrow distance. The F-15EX is considered to have a better chance against the Su-35 than the F-15 before the Su-27 of the 1980s.

The latest F-15 variants inherit avionics, data links and sensors that are rated at least equal to or even better than the Su-35.

Meanwhile, the Russian Su-35 fighter has significantly more powerful engines, three-dimensional thrust vectoring capabilities for improved maneuverability and a combat range of up to 400 km with the R-37M missile, in which the F-15 can only fight within a range of 160-180 km.

The Su-35 is equipped with 3 radars, including 2 L-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars mounted in the wings, while the F-15 is only equipped with a single AESA radar in the nose. This gives the Russian fighter a unique electronic warfare capability and is able to outperform stealthy targets.

An important advantage of the Su-35 program is that the aircraft family has become the backbone of the Russian Tactical Air Force since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with the majority of new fighters being purchased since the Soviet Union. disintegrating is a variant of the Su-27. Meanwhile, the US has stopped buying F-15s for nearly 20 years since 2001, producing only for export.

In part due to Russia’s lack of fifth-generation aircraft, the Su-35 is invested to be able to compete with the latest fifth-generation fighters, while the US fifth-generation programs have done so. making the modernization of the F-15 less of a priority.

While the latest F-15 variants can match the Su-35 well, the Russian fighter is expected to have the upper hand in more important areas of operation, especially in the field of combat. air-to-air and anti-ship missions.


For the Indonesian Air Force, the Su-35 and F-15 are equivalent options if they are offered on similar terms, where the US F-15 has the advantage due to its higher interoperability with other aircraft. Other Western fighters such as the F-16 while the Su-35 will be able to utilize most of the maintenance infrastructure and armament from the Su-27 and Su-30.

However, the price difference between these two types of fighters is huge. The F-15 is offered for sale at $386 million each while the Su-35, if purchased in similar quantities, is expected to cost around $78 million depending on additional options.

This makes the cost of the F-15 equal to 495% of the Su-35, or almost 5 times the price. Instead of 36 F-15s, Indonesia could have bought the world’s largest fleet of Su-35s with 180 – more than all the Su-35s have ever been produced.

The above figure does not include operating costs, as both aircraft have similar operating costs, meaning that maintaining such a large fleet of fighters would not make sense. However, comparing the purchase costs of the two fighters provides an important example of the cost-effectiveness that Russia can provide for export-oriented heavy fighters.

Threats of economic sanctions to pressure the US have worked, forcing Indonesia to abandon the Su-35 in favor of a comparable fighter jet that costs five times more.

Jakarta decided to buy the F-15 despite the fact that Washington also placed strict restrictions on the use of the fighter, including the bases it used, while for Russian fighters, almost without any restrictions.

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