Indonesia will purchase new trainer/light attack aircraft from Russia and China as part of an effort to revitalize its primary defense system, says newly sworn-in Air Force chief of staff Vice Marshal Imam Safaat.
He said the new jets, consisting the Yak-130 from Russia and the FTC-2000 Mountain Eagle from China, would replace the squadrons of British Hawk Mk-53 jets and American OV-10 Bronco.
The Air Force has 20 Hawk Mk-53, and eight turboprop-driven OV-10 Bronco aircraft that are around 30 years old.
“We plan to replace them in the next couple of years. We have done feasibility studies for the purchases, and will propose them to the government soon,” Imam said after the handover ceremony at Halim Perdanakusumah Air Force Base in East Jakarta. Imam replaced Marshal Subandrio.
It would be the first time Indonesia purchases warplanes from China and the second from Russia after the United States embargoed the supply of spare parts for its F-5E Tiger II and F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters and C-130 Hercules transport planes in 1999 due to human rights abuses mainly East Timor.
The Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman, Rear Marshal Sagom Tamboen said the reshuffle in the Air Force leadership was conducted to improve its professionalism through the regeneration of leaders.
Sagom added the new Air Force chief was assigned to boost the country’s air defense system by increasing the quality of aircraft and equipment.
“It is our mission to reduce accidents during training and operational work conducted by Air Force personnel to zero,” he said.
Iman said the military aircraft had to be replaced soon because the Air Force had used the existing planes for more than 30 years.
Imam said further that the Indonesian Military had also planned to replace the old F-5E Tiger II jets.
“We expect to replace them by 2013,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Imam declined to mention the prices of the new aircraft, saying he had not yet discussed it with the government.
“They are expensive,” he said, adding the aircraft would be purchased using foreign aid.
Indonesia bought three Sukhoi fighter jets in February this year to strengthen aerial defense following a series of deadly accidents caused by outdated military aircraft.
The country now has seven Sukhoi-type fighters, all of which were purchased from Russia through a credit scheme. Three more are expected later this year.
Indonesia purchased the seven fighter jets from Russia through the seven-year credit scheme at a total price of US$335 million, but does not have to start making payments for five years.
TNI chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said the Air Force would focus on increasing the operational quality of its basic equipment and maintenance.
“That includes the improvement of the Air Force’s radar systems and air control power,” he said.
Sagom said the Air Force would also focus on improving personnel welfare, despite its limited budget, in addition to increasing safety standards for its primary weaponry defense system.
Sagom added that 70 percent of the Air Force’s budget was geared toward the welfare of personnel. The other 30 percent was for the maintenance of equipment and spare parts.
He said the Air Force budget was expected to increase to between Rp 5 trillion ($531.6 million) and Rp 7 trillion next year, up from Rp 4 trillion this year. (nia)