Sinister grin: Indonesian Air Force officers take a closer look at the newly arrived EMB-314 Super Tucano airplanes at Halim Perdanakusuma airports in Jakarta on Saturday. The Brazilian-made warbirds are famous for their shark-face nose art. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
After a hiatus of several decades, the Indonesian Air Force will again have a squadron sporting the famous shark-face nose art with the arrival of Brazilian-made EMB-314 Super Tucano ground attack aircraft on Saturday.
Four of a total order of 16 airplanes made by Embraer will evoke the memories when the 21st Squadron was equipped with the legendary P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft sporting the Cocor Merah nose art.
Air Force vice chief of staff Vice Marshal Dede Rusamsi welcomed the four EMB-314 Super Tucano single-turboprop, dual-seater airplanes at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base (AFB) in East Jakarta.
“The aircraft is painted with gray camouflage to allow it blend perfectly with its area of operations,” Dede said in a welcoming ceremony.
“The Cocor Merah scheme is to maintain the squadron's tradition from the Mustang era.”
The four ground attack aircraft were flown by eight pilots, led by team leader Capt. Carlos Alberto, from Embraer's production facility in San Jose dos Campos, Brazil, stopping in 14 cities in 12 countries.
The four aircraft, with tail numbers TT-3101 to TT-3104, will make the final leg of their journey on Sunday as they head to Abdulrahman Saleh AFB in Malang, East Java, which hosts the 21st Squadron.
Dede said the aircraft had various applications such as counter-insurgency (COIN), close air support (CAS), anti-guerrilla operations, interdiction, and limited air defense.
“There are also additional capabilities of training and surveillance,” he said, adding that the aircraft would also be used to safeguard the borders.
The Super Tucanos are replacing the American-made Rockwell OV-10F Broncos, which were grounded in 2007 due to spare parts shortages following a number of crashes.
“This is the moment we have been waiting for,” Dede said. Indonesia's order was divided into two batches of eight aircraft each. The first batch was ordered in 2010 while the second order was made at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2012.
Dede said the contract value for the first batch was around US$143 million for a complete package, including training and maintenance.
He added that the second portion of the first batch would arrive in January 2013, followed by delivery of the second batch throughout 2014.
Being flown to Indonesia, the aircraft had undergone inspects for, among other things, documentation, components, interior, painting and a test flight at an altitude of 25,000 feet, Dede said. The test flight was conducted by Embraer test pilot William Souza, who was accompanied by 21st squadron commander Maj. James Yanes Singal.
The four aircraft were handed over by Embraer on Aug. 6 to Indonesian Defense Ministry secretary-general Vice Marshal Eri Herryanto in San Jose dos Campos, Brazil.
Dede said some of the Brazilian pilots would stay in Malang to help train eight Indonesian pilots.
“The Brazilian pilots will be assisted by four Indonesian pilots who have received instructor qualifications after being trained in Brazil,” Dede said.
Meanwhile, assistant to the Air Force chief of staff for operations Rear Marshal Ismono Wijayanto said additional pilots would need to be trained to man the Super Tucanos.
“With 16 airplanes, we will need to have 24 pilots,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the welcoming ceremony.