15 November 2010

Indonesian Armed Forces: Continued Modernisation (2)

15 November 2010

T-50 Golden Eagle (photo : Airliners)

Up in The Air

The Indonesian Air Force (TNI Angkatan Udara, TNI-AU) has down-selected three competing advanced trainer designs to replace its depleted BAE Hawk trainer fleet: the T-50 Golden Eagle from South Korea, L- 159B from the Czech Republic, and Yak-130 from Russia. This trio was confirmed in early August for this long-standing requirement, and a decision by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is expected before the year’s end. The TNI-AU ordered eight Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano aircraft for use in the light ground attack role. These will replace OV­10F Broncos, and another eight could possibly be ordered in the future.

The purchase of expensive Su-27 and Su- 30 fighters has stretched the Air Force budg­et, and these few fighters, poorly equipped with weapons, provide only marginal mod­ernisation. Three new Su-27SKM fighters were due to arrive around September to join two Su-30MKs already in service. Indonesia’s fleet of ten Sukhoi fighters also consists of three Su-30MK2s and two Su­30MKs. Now the TNI-AU is also seeking new F-16C/D fighters to strengthen its fighter squadrons. Talks with the US were held mid-year, with any possible sale being funded by Foreign Military Financing. Indonesia needs to replace its Northrop F­5E/F Tiger II aircraft, and various fighter options are available. The MoD has already turned down Dassault Mirage 2000-5 fight­ers from Qatar, although the Chinese are aligning the J-10 and Pakistan has proffered the JF-17. Interestingly, PT Dirgantara and AVIC of China are in preliminary talks about forming a partnership to develop a military transport aircraft.

The TNI-AU has signed deals to upgrade its C-130 Hercules fleet, as well as pursuing the idea of buying new C-130Js, in an effort to improve weak airlift capabilities. The air force only has four missile types – KS-1 Komet, AIM-9 Sidewinder, AGM-65 Maverick and AA-2 Atoll. It would like more advanced air-
to-air missiles, with Russian munitions likely to be the best option. Locally, CV Sari Bahari is developing weapons like the P-100 air-to­ground bomb, which has been successfully tested on the Su-27 and Su-30.

There are serious reliability issues with the Air Force, as revealed by a Fokker F-27 crash on 6 April 2009 that killed all 24 occupants. A Lockheed L-100-30 crashed on 20 May 2009, killing 97. As with the shipbuilding industry, the aerospace industry under PT Dirgantara is showing resilience. South Korea recently ordered four more CN-235-110 MPAs, with Indonesia seeing off competition from US, Spanish and Israeli competitors.

Anoa 6x6 with CMI's 90mm cannon (photo : Army Recognition)

The Indonesian Army (TNI Angkatan Darat, TNI-AD) has ordered 154 Pindad APS-3 “Anoa” 6x6 armoured personnel carri­ers (APC). A total of 60 were delivered in 2009 and a further 33 in January 2010. This APC design is based on the French VAB, which was procured urgently for peacekeep­ing in Lebanon. Malaysia has ordered 32 APS-3 “Anoa” vehicles for its peacekeeping force in Lebanon too. Spurred by this success, there is a chance PT Pindad may attempt to develop a light tank in the future. It is report­ed Doosan of South Korea signed an Indonesian contract in November 2009 to deliver 22 Black Fox 6x6 vehicles within two years. The vehicles will mount a CSE90 90mm gun from CMI in Belgium.

International Connections

South Korea has established itself as a prime partner in Indonesian defence sales. Furthermore, on 11 August the two coun­tries’ defence ministers reached an agreement in Jakarta on expanding defence ties, with a key focus being development of South Korea’s next-generation KFX fighter. An existing collaboration framework dating back to 1999 is to be redrawn.

Super Tucano (photo : Airliners)

To the south, Australia has long been con­cerned about illegal migration by boat from and through Indonesia. From 16-27 April 2010, the two countries completed an inaugu­ral round of a Coordinated Maritime Security Patrol aimed at improving security on the shared maritime border to the south of West Timor. Commodore David Gwyther of the Royal Australian Navy stated: “It sends a message to those who may contemplate conducting illegal activities in our maritime zones, that the Indonesian Armed Forces and Australian Defence Force are working together - so beware.” The exercise incorpo­rated a HQ staff, naval vessels and MPAs, with further patrols planned.

On 22 November 2005, the US restored full military ties with Indonesia, ending a six-year ban on arms sales. President Obama’s administration has been making special efforts to reach out to the world’s most muslim populous nation, although the President has thrice cancelled visits to the country of his childhood due to domestic emergencies. On 22 July 2010, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced during an official visit to Jakarta that the USA was resuming ties with Indonesian Special Forces after a twelve-year hiatus. “The United States will begin a gradual, limited programme of security cooperation activities with Indonesian Army Special Forces,” said Gates. Kopassus had been implicated in atrocities in East Timor and Aceh, but Human Rights Watch asserts the Special Force Command continues to perpetrate abuses in Papua province. Obama considers Indonesia a vital Muslim ally, as well as an important influence in Southeast Asia.

However, remembering the recent arms embargo, Indonesia will be coy about relying too heavily on the US. At some stage, too, the TNI will need to relinquish its internal securi­ty duties to the police in order to reduce man­power. However, it is not yet ready to do this. Indonesia is still far from being able to project power, but it is making progress in improving its strategic situation and in securing its own archipelagic territory. A greater green-water defensive capability will certainly aid its status as gatekeeper to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, straddling as it does, the Malacca Strait.

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