Saturday, December 11, 2010

Indonesia Charts Procurement

As part of its military modernization strategy, Indonesia is set to place an order for jet trainers and also wants to expand its fleet of fighters, helicopters and fixed-wing transports.
Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro says the three finalists in the jet trainer competition are from South Korea, Russia and the Czech Republic. Industry executives say the types are the Aero Vodochody L-159, Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 and Yakovlev Yak-130. Purnomo tells Aviation Week that a decision will be made soon and Indonesia plans to order 16 aircraft, enough for one squadron. “It is already in the final process,” he says, without giving a definite timeframe.
“We are looking for aircraft that can be used for training and as a light attack fighter. Light fighters are good for intercepting aircraft that cross your territory without giving notice,” he notes.
Indonesia needs jet trainers because about half of its BAE Systems Hawks are grounded, says Purnomo. Indonesia has had difficulties obtaining spare parts and equipment for the Hawks. “I stressed to the chairman of BAE, they need to trust us and give us the spares. They promised to improve relations,” says Purnomo, adding that Indonesia will have to phase out the Hawks if there is no improvement.
South Korea could be the front-runner in the competition due to the strategic importance Indonesia places on that relationship. “The air force is the end user, and it has to make a technical evaluation,” says Purnomo. Once the service decides, the armed forces headquarters has to concur, and then it’s up to the defense ministry, he says. The ministry “understands what the government’s interest is,” he adds. It takes into consideration issues such as licensing, technology transfer, industrial cooperation and spare parts support. If Indonesia is making a sizable purchase, it’s important to have an offset program so Indonesian industry can benefit, he says.
Indonesia and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding in July to develop a new fighter, the KF-X. Indonesian Aerospace, the state-owned aircraft maker, will be involved in this program. Purnomo says the KF-Xs should enter air force service in 2025.
In the near term, Lockheed Martin could benefit. “There is a budget for brand-new F-16s or used F-16s,” says Purnomo. “With used F-16s we can get more and upgrade them ourselves [with help from overseas].” But if Indonesia buys used F-16s, then it has to take into consideration the aircraft’s life-cycle, he says. Indonesia already has F-16A/B Block 15 aircraft, which the country wants upgraded.
Although the U.S. no longer has an arms embargo against Indonesia, there are still technical issues that it must resolve, say government officials. Nevertheless, Purnomo says Indonesia could ask a non-U.S. company to upgrade the F-16s. “There is Turkey. They have the biggest F-16 fleet after the U.S.,” he notes, adding that there is no ­certainty the F-16 upgrade work will go to the U.S. Under Indonesian law, the tender has to be competitive, and the only exception to this rule is if the requirement can be fulfilled domestically, he says.
Bell Helicopter and Eurocopter recently secured deals thanks to their partnerships with Indonesian Aerospace. Purnomo says the army recently signed a firm contract for 24 Bell 412EP utility helicopters, and the air force is buying more Eurocopter AS332 Super Pumas made by Indonesian Aerospace.
The country also has a future requirement for helicopters that will be stationed on the Indonesian navy’s corvettes and used for antisubmarine warfare. Indonesia already has four Dutch-built Sigma 9113-class corvettes that it purchased recently, and it has a fifth under construction at a shipyard in Surabaya, where the Indonesian navy has its largest base. The corvettes have a helipad near the stern. The navy currently uses Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm Bo-105s, a helicopter type first built in the 1960s.
Another procurement will be for more Sukhoi fighters. Indonesia already has 10 and Purnomo says there are plans to buy six more to form a squadron.
In terms of military transports, Indonesia plans to upgrade its older Lockheed Martin C-130s. “We hope that the defense budget can be increased so we can retrofit these aircraft, which are A/B class,” says Purnomo.
Indonesia also would like to buy new C-130s, but a higher priority is to upgrade the existing aircraft. It also wants more Indonesian Aerospace CN-235s and is seeking a replacement for its aging Fokker F27s, with the EADS CASA C-295 a possible contender.
Photo: Lockheed Martin

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