17 November 2009

Indonesia Looking at Russian, Chinese Trainer/Attack Aircraft

17 November 2009

Russia's Yak-130 (photo : flickr rin&rbi)

In August 2007, “Indonesia’s Air Force Adds More Flankers” chronicled its purchase of Russian SU-27SK and SU-30MKK fighters. The Flankers would supplement and/or replace fleets of F-16A/B and F-5E/F Tiger II fighters, whose condition was harmed by a long arms embargo imposed in response to widespread repression and genocide in East Timor.

East Timor became independent in 2002, and the American embargo on military supplies to Indonesia was lifted in 2005. Nevertheless, the effects of foregone maintenance can be lasting, and the experience was firmly etched into Indonesia’s military consciousness. Subsequent incidents, such as the UK’s injunctions against using British-made Scorpion light tanks against Aceh’s separatist revolt, only deepened the determination of Indonesia’s military and political leaders to deal with a different set of military suppliers.

In fall 2007, “
Indonesia Signs $1B+ Defense Credit Agreement With Russia” chronicled the next step under that policy. Now Indonesia is looking to replace its fleets of BAE Hawk Mk.53 trainer jets, and OV-10 Bronco forward air control/ counterinsurgency aircraft. Their replacements will reportedly be Russian – and Chinese…

The Yak-130 was developed as a joint project by Alenia Aermacchi, and Russia’s Yakolev Design Bureau. The partners ended up going their separate ways, fielding 2-seat aircraft with similar lines but different internal equipment. By 2006 the aircraft had beaten the MiG-AT and Sukhoi’s S-54 to be selected as Russia’s next advanced jet trainer, and has also been sold to Algeria. There are also reports that Libya has 6 on order.

While Alenia’s M-346 Master emphasizes its role as an advanced trainer and aerobatic jet, the similar Yak-130 can also be heavily armed for air policing patrol, or counter-insurgency/ ground attack missions. Its NIIP Zhukovsky Osa radar offers adequate performance, and its 8 hardpoints can carry up to 3,000 kg/ 6,600 pounds of weapons. These
reportedly include Western equipment like AIM-9L/Magic 2 short-range air-air missiles (SRAAM) and AGM-65 Maverick precision strike missiles; as well as Russian weapons like the advanced R-73/ AA-11 Archer SRAAM, a Platan targeting pod, the Vhikr and KH-25ML laser guided missiles, the KAB-500Kr guided bomb, 23mm or 30mm gun pods, or rockets and unguided bombs. The Yak-130 is powered by a pair of AI-222-25 or Povazske Strojarne DV-2SM (export option) turbofans.

The Yak-130 offers similar capabilities to Indonesia’s 8 existing Hawk 109 trainers, and may be actually more comparable to its 29 single-seat Hawk 209 light attack aircraft. Unlike the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara’s (TNI–AU, Indonesia’s air force) 20 Hawk Mk.53 trainers, which were ordered in 1980-81 and reportedly have few operational planes left, these 1990s-era Hawk fleets remain operational, and are expected to remain in service with the TNI-AU.

China's JL-9 (photo : Wiki)

China National Guizhou Aviation Industry's JiaoLian-9, known as FTC-2000 Shanying (Mountain Eagle) when exported, is derived from China’s JJ-7 trainer. Which was, in turn, derived from Russian 2-seat MiG-21s. Visible enhancements include a raised cockpit that greatly improves visibility for both pilots, a correspondingly larger dorsal “spine”, a cranked delta wing to improve handling characteristics, and moving the engine intake from the plane’s nose to a pair of small side intakes.The JL-9 uses a Chinese WP-13 or WP-14 turbojet engine, and carries Chinese electronics, and weapons. It reportedly packs an internal 23mm cannon, and has 5 stores stations that can carry up to 2,000 kg/ 4,400 pounds of fuel tanks, short-range air-air missiles, or rocket launders and unguided bombs. Its derivation from the MiG-21 gives it questionable suitability as a ground attack aircraft, but they could be used effectively for secondary air policing, especially if equipped with SELEX Galileo’s Grifo S7 radar.

Nov 13/09: The Jakarta Post quotes newly sworn-in Indonesian Air Force chief of staff Vice Marshal Imam Safaat, who says that Russian Yak-130s and Chinese FTC-2000s would replace Indonesia’s 20 remaining British Hawk Mk.53 trainer jets (2 reportedly operational), and remaining American OV-10 Bronco turboprops (0-8 operational).

At this point, this is pre-budget intent, and not a contract. The age of Indonesia’s Hawk and Bronco fleets, and the importance of training, will add urgency to this request. Imam said that these aircraft are “expensive” and would be bought with the help of foreign aid.

The new TNI-AU chief added that the service also plans to replace its 16 F-5E/Fs (4 reportedly operational) by 2013.

Indonesia’s economy has performed well in recent years, and the TNI-AU budget is expected to increase by 25%-75% over the next year, adding $105-320 million. Nevertheless, a verdict that even the Yak-130 and FTC-2000 are expensive could suggest these very aircraft for the F-5’s roles. Both designs are capable of handling those roles at comparable performance levels, and the shrinkage of Indonesia’s front-line combat fleet makes a large array of single-focus trainers a dubious proposition, unless ample money is available for more front-line fighters as well. The flip side of that choice is that beyond the Yak-130’s strong close air support capabilities, these 2 choices would not be competitive with modern fighters.

Alternatively, Indonesia could cast a wider net, and look to purchase both replacement trainers, andlow-budget dedicated fighters like the Chinese/ Pakistani JF-17 Thunder, India’s Tejas, or South Korea’s TA-50 Golden Eagle to replace its F-5s. A more ambitious effort might even examine higher-end lightweight fighters like the Russian MiG-29/35, Chinese J-10, or the Swedish JAS-39 Gripen flown by nearby Thailand. Of these lightweight fighter choices, the Russian MiG-29/35 and Chinese JF-17 or J-10 are the only options that would be immune to future western military sanctions. All of the other choices currently fly with General Electric turbofan engines, and are slated to continue using western designs.

(Defense Industry Daily)

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