JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia is planning to place an order for jet trainers and is interested in expanding its fleet of fighters, helicopters and fixed-wing transports.
The country’s 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 Korea Aerospace Industries T-50, Yakovlev Yak-130 and Aero Vodochody L-159, respectively.
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 noting a definite time frame.
“We are looking for aircraft that can be used for training and as a light attack fighter,” he says. “Light fighters are good for intercepting aircraft that cross your territory without giving notice.”
Indonesia needs jet trainers because about half its BAE Hawks are grounded, Purnomo says, noting that the country has had difficulties getting 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,” he says, adding that if there is no improvement, Indonesia will have to phase out the Hawks.
South Korea could be the front-runner in the jet trainer competition due to the strategic importance Indonesia places on that relationship. “The air force is the end user and they have to make a technical evaluation,” Purnomo says. But once the air force makes a choice, it goes to the armed forces headquarters for approval, and then it goes to the ministry of defense, he says. The ministry “understands what the government’s interest is,” he adds.
Indonesia and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding in July to develop a new fighter, the KF-X, and the Indonesian state-owned aircraft manufacturer Indonesian Aerospace will be involved . Purnomo says Indonesia wants to start putting KF-X fighters into service with its air force in 2025 and start replacing their Lockheed Martin F-16s.
But in the near term, Lockheed Martin could benefit. “There is budget for brand-new F-16s or used F-16s,” Purnomo says. “With used F-16s we can get more and upgrade it ourselves [with help from overseas], which is attractive to us”. But if Indonesia buys used F-16s, then it has to take into consideration the aircraft’s life-cycle . Indonesia already has F-16 A/B Block 15 aircraft and Purnomo confirms that Indonesia wants these upgraded.
The U.S. no longer has an arms embargo against Indonesia, but there are some technical issues to be ironed out , government officials say. Purnomo says Indonesia can always turn to 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 says.
Bell Helicopter and Eurocopter recently secured deals thanks to their partnerships with state-owned aircraft maker Indonesian Aerospace, which helps manufacture the helicopters. Purnomo says the country’s army recently signed a firm contract with Indonesian Aerospace for 24 Bell 412EP utility helicopters. He also says the air force is buying more Eurocopter AS332 Super Puma helicopters made by Indonesian Aerospace.
Indonesia also has a future requirement for helicopters to be stationed on its navy’s corvettes and be used for anti-submarine warfare. Four Dutch-built Sigma 9113-class corvettes were purchased recently, and it has a fifth corvette under construction at a shipyard in Surabaya.
Another future procurement will be for additional Sukhoi fighters. Indonesia already has 10 and Purnomo says the country plans to buy six more so it can form a squadron.
In terms of military transports, upgrades to its older-model Lockheed C-130s are on the wish list. The country also hopes to buy more Indonesian Aerospace CN-235s and is looking for a replacement for its aging Fokker F27s, with the EADS CASA CN-295 a possible contender