29 Juli 2010

From Malang with Jetfighter Bombs

29 Juli 2010

In arms way : Ricky Hendrik Egam shows bombs in his workshop in Malang, East Java. Ricky’s “small” workshop produces bombs designed for Sukhoi jetfighters. (all photos : The Jakarta Post)

Limitations are frequently inspiring. Watching six Sukhoi 27SK and 30MK jet fighters of the Indonesian Air Force without armaments since their purchase from Russia in 2003, a company in Malang, East Java, has been encouraged to design bombs for the sophisticated aircraft.

The company, PT Sari Bahari, has managed to produce two types of dropped bombs for the Sukhois. The blue one that is used for practice is named the P 100-120, while the other one to be used in combat is colored military green, and is called the P 100-120L (live).

The two have almost the same dimensions: 1,100 millimeters (1.1 meters) long, 100-125 kilograms in weight and 273 millimeters in diameter. The shell is made of nodular iron, the 550-millimiter fin of ST-37 iron, the suspension lug of VCN 45 steel, with a charging tube, a nose and an ejector.

The blue practice bomb can only discharge smoke when it is dropped and its nose hits the ground. The smoke comes from TiCl2 (titanium dichloride) gas, which is filled in the tube within the bomb. The gas is released as the tube breaks upon impact. In the live bomb, the tube is filled with explosives, the reason behind the big bang.

The P 100-120 version has its materials completely derived from domestic sources and has been certified by the Research and Development Office (Dislitbang) of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU).The P 100-120L was subjected to static and dynamic tests on Dec. 29, 2009 in the air weapons range (AWR), Pandanwangi, Lumajang, East Java. A live bomb was mounted aboard a Sukhoi and dropped at a height of 1,371 meters and speed of 450 knots. TNI-AU considered the trajectory of this bomb feasible, like that of the practice type.

As planned, following such tests the weapon will be used in a fire power demo before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in August. As many as 24 P 100-120L bombs will be dropped simultaneously from Sukhoi jetfighters.

Meanwhile, practice bombs have been used since 2007 by Sukhoi SU 27/30 pilots in squadron 11, Makassar, for bombing exercises. Hundreds of P 100-120 practice bombs have been dropped from TNI-AU’s Sukhois.

It’s Ricky Hendrik Egam, 50, a 1985 graduate of the Agriculture School, Brawijaya University, Malang, who was inspired to equip the Sukhoi aircraft bought by TNI-AU with local armaments.
The son of a civil servant in the Indonesian Military (TNI) at first set up CV Sari Bahari, a business partnership (which later became PT Sari Bahari), for his business after graduation. In 1987, his firm was registered as a partner of PT Pindad (military industry) in Turen, Malang.

Originally, Ricky supplied non-technical products needed by Pindad in Turen through tenders for over five years. As Pindad’s partner, the Surabaya-born man had frequent contact with experts from foreign companies assisting the state-owned enterprise.

The foreign consultants turned out to supply Pindad’s machine spare parts, as most of the machines had in fact been imported. Ricky took the opportunity to talk about many things with the consultants.

“From then on, my knowledge of weapons, projectiles and military equipment was on the up and up.
Through acquaintances and self-taught attempts, I tried to become an importer of technical machines for PT Pindad in Turen,” said Ricky.

Ready to rumble: Ricky’s bombs on display at his workshop. His company produces two types of devices for the Russian jetfighters owned by the Indonesian Air Force.

By importing technical products related to armaments, Ricky had the chance to go to Germany, where he began to realize that domestic weaponry had to be produced rather than imported, because of the presence of local potential, materials and capability.

“At the time I wondered why we could not produce it ourselves,” recalled Ricky, who once joined an armament course in Germany. Back home from Germany, the father of three started thinking of producing principal equipment of the weaponry system (alutsista) for the TNI. He cooperated with TNI-AU’s Dislitbang in 2005.

He has rented two workshops on Jl. Muharto, Malang, from a local businessman since 2007. The facilities formerly produced motorcycle exhaust pipes, bus spare parts, and repair industrial machines.

His first project was the research and creation of a practice warhead of a 2.75-inch caliber, PSB Smokey type. Most of its materials were still imported. After several studies, the practice rocket was successfully produced and viable.

In 2007, still cooperating with Dislitbang, he made the P-100 practice bombs for the Sukhoi jet fighters. He has used his own capital for P-100 production, along with bank financing through a small and medium-scale business loan scheme.

Ricky’s Sukhoi practice bomb making capability led to two invitations by the Malaysian Royal Air Force.

Malaysia later ordered 1,000 P-100 L and P-100 units. The bombs will be used for bombing exercises by Malaysia’s 18 Sukhoi aircraft.

So far for its Sukhoi pilot practice, Malaysia has used Russia’s OFAB-50 dropped bombs, which do not have a practice version and thus explode, costing the military US$4,000 per bomb.

“Compared with the practice type, the Russian bombs they currently use are about four times as expensive,” noted Ricky.

Line of fire: Ricky learned how to make bombs from his experience as a supplier to state-owned arms producer PT Pindad.

Apart from their compatibility with Russian-made Sukhoi jet fighters, the bombs produced in Malang can also be carried by NATO’s standard aircraft such as F-5E Tiger jet fighters. When visiting Ricky’s workshops on July 13, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said he was proud of Ricky and his team.

With only seven core staff members and 50 production employees, the quality of their products is competitive with that of those made overseas. They are also far less expensive because all materials are available locally.

“What has been achieved should be further developed and promoted,” said Purnomo. Ricky will shortly develop the P 100-120 generation into smart dropped bombs. It means the concept of a P 100-120L that can find its own target when dropped from a bomber, for being guided by the GPS.

“Consequently, when it is shot, the bomber has to be over 9,000 feet or about 2,743 meters high,” said Ricky. Compared with guided missiles, smart dropped bombs generate no heat, which is detectable by radar.

“With such bombs, their aircraft doesn’t need to enter enemy airspace and the bombs will reach relevant targets,” added the science-fiction buff.

While preparing smart bombs, the automotive enthusiast has made a 2.75-inch or 70-millimeter caliber rocket, which is called a 2.75-inch-caliber folding fin rocket, with locally derived materials. Its tube is an iron alloy and its fin is a domestic design. This rocket has been tested ground to ground, with a cruising range of 8 kilometers.

Ricky’s rocket is also suitable for air-to-air, air-to-ground or ground-to-air missile systems. “This is the rocket we built ourselves but we asked the National Aeronautic and Aviation Agency [Lapan] to fill its propelling materials,” acknowledged the man of Manado descent.

In addition, Ricky has developed a mounting stand gun of a 5.56-12.7-millimeter caliber. It is used to tune the accuracy of guns owned by the TNI. So far, for gun tuning the TNI has had to use imported equipment.

“We have proven that we can make [armaments] at home. We should be proud of our own products. So why should we import?” he stressed.

In his view, if alutsista is to be imported from other countries, everybody will easily read the strength of Indonesia’s defense. But if it is domestically produced, nobody will be aware of our real military power.

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