JAKARTA, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Indonesia is aiming to create eight new squadrons of fighter aircraft by 2024 as part of military upgrade programs, the head of the air force said.
The Indonesian Defense Force also is set to train more pilots to cope with what could be more than 100 new jet fighters if each squadron has around 16 aircraft, the Jakarta Globe newspaper reported.
"We hope that by 2024 we will have eight squadrons of fighter aircraft," Air Chief Marshal Ida Bagus Putu Dunia said.
He was speaking during a ceremony at the Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base in Makassar on Sulawesi Island in which the air force officially received six Russian-made Sukhoi SU-30MK2 fighter aircraft -- the last of a contract for 16 Sukhoi aircraft signed in 2007.
The Jakarta Globe report said each squadron is expected to consist of 16 Sukhoi jets, although the newspaper didn't quote Dunia specifying what the aircraft might be.
Ida said the Sukhoi jets were sophisticated fighter aircraft that offer a high deterrence and will strengthen the Indonesian air force.
The deal on the Sukhois that includes pilot training is for the air force's Squadron 11 at Hasanuddin Air Base in Makassar.
"[We] have a sufficient number of pilots to operate them, but we also are preparing pilots for new fighter aircraft," he said.
In early September the Jakarta Post newspaper reported that the last two Sukhoi fighters had arrived from Russia at the Hasanuddin base in an Antanov An-124 transport aircraft.
The Sukhoi aircraft were in completely knocked-down condition.
"The manufacturer also sent 13 technicians to assemble the aircraft [and] perform a series of tests before handing them over to the government," Hasanuddin base spokesman Maj. Muliadi said at the time.
He said usually it would take a week for the technicians to assemble the aircraft and perform the tests.
Weapons for the aircraft are being procured under separate contracts, he said.
The air force also is looking to replace its old Northrop F-5 Tiger fighter aircraft, Ida said.
"We are looking at our options as it is important to find a more sophisticated replacement," he said.
Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirmed the government's plan to replace its F-5 Tigers, the Jakarta Globe reported.
Yusgiantoro said the military had received a squadron of 16 supersonic advanced trainer T-50 Golden Eagle T-50s -- so-called baby F-16s -- from South Korea at the Iswahyudi Military Air Base in Madiun, on Java Island.
The T-50, which also can be used as a light fighter, was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin and is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft.
Its maiden flight was in 2002 and it entered service with the Republic of Korea Air Force in 2005.