Indonesia has given the Netherlands a deadline to decide whether or not to sell its surplus Leopard main battle tanks (MBTs) after which Indonesia will look for other sources, a top defense official said Tuesday.
Defense Deputy Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said the ministry had given the Dutch until the end of March before deciding to buy the MBTs from other countries.
“We can buy the tanks directly from Germany, although the quantity might be different,” he told reporters at the Defense Ministry after a press conference on the results of a meeting of the Defence Industry Policy Committee (KKIP).
Initially, Indonesia had planned to buy the German-made MBT at a discounted price as the Dutch government was implementing harsh defense budget cutbacks that included disbanding its armored divisions in the wake of the economic downturn in Europe.
The plan was to buy 50 units of the 2A4 and another 50 units of the 2A6 variants of the MBT at a total price of US$280 including the costs to upgrade the A4 variant to the A6 standard.
The Indonesian Army said it needed to modernize its weapons systems with MBTs because it only had light tanks such as the British-made Scorpion and French-made AMX13 which weigh 8 tons and 14 tons respectively.
The Leopard weighs more than 60 tons leading to heavy criticism from lawmakers and NGOs who oppose the buying of the MBT, which is made by German firm Krauss-Maffei Wegmann Maschinenbau (KMW).
A minority party in the Dutch parliament, the Left Green, has also voiced its concerns at selling the MBTs to Indonesia taking note of what it claims is the possibility of the tanks being used to supress human rights in Indonesia.
Sjafrie has just returned from a tour of several European countries to discuss various aspects of defense cooperation.
In France, Sjafrie studied the possibility of locally assembling Sherpa light tactical, armored vehicles at state-owned arms manufacturer PT Pindad.