RUSSIAN CHOPPERS: Rear Marshal Eris Herryanto (left), the director general of defense facilities at the Defense Ministry, officially receives six Russian Mi-17 helicopters (background) from Russian Ambassador Alexander Ivanov at the Juanda Naval Air Base in Surabaya. (JP)
Defense cooperation between Russia and Indonesia was given a new twist Wednesday with the arrival of six Mi-17 helicopters from the former Soviet republic.
Director general of defense facilities at the Ministry of Defense, Rear Marshal Eris Herryanto, received the transport helicopters from Russia's Ambassador to Indonesia Alexander Ivanov at the Juanda Naval Airbase in Surabaya.
The choppers will go to the Army Aviation Center (Penerbad).
"These helicopters are the first to be sold by Russia to Indonesia. I believe will we see more Russian weapons systems in Indonesia in the future," Ivanov said.
Indonesia, desperately seeking new weaponry following an arms embargo imposed by the United States, bought four Sukhoi jet fighters from Russia in 2003. Another six Sukhois, worth US$335 million, are expected to arrive ahead of the Oct. 5 anniversary of the Indonesian Military.
The Mi-17 helicopters are part of a 2007 Russia-Indonesia agreement, according to which then Russian president Vladimir Putin provided $1 billion in loans for Indonesia's purchase of 22 helicopters, 20 tanks and two submarines from Russia.
The Mi-17 can carry up to 42 passengers, crew included, with a cargo payload of up to four tons. It has a top speed of 250 kilometers per hour.
The procurement contract for the six helicopters, based on a 2003 export credit, was signed by both countries in 2005 and stipulated a price of $21.6 million, including trainings, assembly and spare parts supply.
The Indonesian Army will operate the helicopters under its squadron based in Semarang, Central Java. Ten more Mi-17s are planned for the squadron.
The Army so far has three helicopter squadrons -- two in Semarang and one in Waitoba, South Sumatra -- of a total of eight to be acquired by 2024, with one under preparation in East Kalimantan.
The arms purchase was marred by a prior corruption scandal, causing nearly $3.24 million in state losses.
Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said Tuesday the government went ahead with the purchase despite the scandal because the deal had already been signed.
"We're still working on the problem. We'll analyze whether the money can be recovered," he added.
The Attorney General's Office has named Andy Kosasih a suspect in the corruption case. Andy represented the mediators in the procurement, PT Putra Pobiagan Mandiri and Singapore's Swift Air & Industrial Supply.