19 Mei 2010

Indonesia's National Corvette Program (1)

19 Mei 2010

PKR 105 concept (image : APDR)

Ressurecting The National Corvette Program ?

In early March the Jakarta press were reporting that Indonesia was about to restart the process of acquiring two corvettes as part of its National Corvette program—which had actually started in 2004- but quickly stalled, mainly due to funding issues.

Although the program as it was conceived has actually been in coma for the past few years, the Indonesian Navy still wants to "resurrect" it by purchasing two locally-built SIGMA (Ship Integrated Geometrical Modularity Approach)-based corvettes called Guided Missile Escort 105 M, also known as Perusak Kawal Rudal or PKR.

The Ministry of Defense (MOD) and PT. PAL - the state-owned naval manufacturing company said to be awarded the contract - are in the process of finalizing their future foreign design partner to jointly produce the PKRs. This activity should hopefully lead to the conclusion of the deal within the next few months. Assuming the order is placed later this year, the entire process to launch the first PKR is estimated to take at least four years, with initial delivery by the end of 2012, followed by test trials in 2013, and the final delivery by 2014. The second ship could be delivered within the following six months.
Korvet 80m, preliminary design of national corvette (photo : Defense Studies)

Until an actual final contract is signed with the foreign design partner, sources close to the MoD are still pessimistic about whether the schedule can be achieved - or even if the purchase will actually be made. As a consequence an alternative plan is required and is being privately discussed at senior levels within both the military and Government.

This suggests that while the PKR project may be part of a recent 'Defense Industrial Revitalization' drive by the MoD since late 2009, several fundamental problems remain—not just on the uncertain procurement contract for the corvettes, but also relating to the country's overall defense acquisition strategy and force planning.

From "National Corvette" to "Guided Missile Escort"

The cost of the two PKR project ships has been estimated by PT PAL to reach around EUR 340 million (EUR 170 million each), with an expected local content of 35 percent. In fact, a substantive inward technology transfer deal has been mapped out in this regard.

This is in keeping with the spirit of achieving defense self-sufficiency, though a foreign partner is still needed in this regard. While the initial list had included Italy, Russia, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany, recent reports suggest that the MoD has narrowed it down to the first three.

Steregushchy class, the candidate from Russia (image : RIA Novosti)

The country's own chief of R&D said in 2006 that Indonesia's naval technicians were "already accustomed working with technologies from Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands." Italy through Orrizonte Sistemi Navali was the original co-designer with PT. PAL of the 80-metre national corvette. Holland's Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding helped built Indonesia's first ever 4 SIGMA- class corvettes (the last two jointly produced with PT. PAL) and train local technicians as part of the offset deal. And Indonesia has some familiarity with Russian defence technology through a number of activities, including the purchase of the entire former East German navy more than a decade ago.

That said, the character and design of the national corvettes had changed several time ; from an initial sketch of Germany's Meko 100 to Italy's Commandante class, and from 80 meter to 105 meter in length. The changes mainly reflect the Navy's requirements to allow the ships execute a wide-range of military and non-military operations—in line with Indonesia's new doctrinal requirements of "Military and Non-military Defense."

Commandante class, the candidate from Italy (photo : Detik)

The stealth-enabled Guided Missile Escort 105 M (PKR) is designed to fight electronic and anti­submarine warfare, as well as surface and anti-air warfare. Though it is likely that the PKR could be deployed mainly for patrols and safeguard the country's Exclusive Economic Zones, former Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono has also said that they could be used for humanitarian or disaster relief.

Naval Development and Industrial Revitalization

The MoD had hoped that the locally-built PKRs could be the beginning of Indonesia's defense transformation journey to reach its Minimum Essential Force (MEF) requirement. Specifically, according to the State Defense Posture document (published in 2007), the Navy's ideal version of the MEF is essentially a "274-ship" green water navy based on an Integrated Fleet System (SSAT) by 2024.

The future fleet is to be divided into: Striking Force (110 ships), Patrolling Force (66 ships), and Supporting Force (98 ships), based at 59 naval bases under three, and if possible four, Command Regions. This is to be further supported by a naval air force of 137 aircraft and also a Marine Force (2 brigades / 11 battalions). The development of the MEF however is to be done gradually, with financial factors as usual being the main consideration.

(APDR)

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