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Jakarta Post

Keep ‘em flying safely

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, June 17, 2020   /   08:26 am
Keep ‘em flying safely .An Air Force Hawk 209 jet fighter crashes in a residential area of Kampar regency, Riau, on June 15, 2020 morning. (Antara/Hendri) (Antara/Hendri)

The Indonesian Military (TNI) suffered from two separate aircraft crashes in less than two weeks, which will seriously affect its readiness to carry out missions, especially during the recent regional dynamics.

On Monday, an aging British-made Hawk 209 crashed just as it was about to land at Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base in Pekanbaru, Riau, from a routine training mission. The pilot safely ejected before the single-seater, single-engine fighter crashed into a residential area about 5 kilometers from the air force base.

Following the crash, Air Force chief of staff Air Chief Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo on Tuesday suspended the operation of all Hawk jet fighters pending investigation results. The pilot, First Lt. Aprianto Ismail, reported a strange loud noise before the aircraft suffered from a power failure.

There have been three other crashes involving Hawk 209 aircraft: in 2006, 2007 and 2009. Three Hawk 109 crashed in two separate accidents in 2000.

Meanwhile, an Indonesian Army Mi-17 transport helicopter crashed on June 6 during a training mission in Kendal, Central Java, killing five personnel and injuring four others on board the Russian-made aircraft.

There have been two other accidents involving Mi-17. In June 2019, an Mi-17 was reported missing but the wreckage was not found until February 2020, while another crashed in Malinau, North Kalimantan, in November 2013.

While Hawk aircraft are relatively old, making it difficult to get parts and components, the Mi-17 are much younger, having being delivered in 2010 and 2011. 

In aviation, an accident is never attributed to a single factor, in a model known as 5M, referring to man, machine, medium, management and mission. While an engine problem was reported in the Hawk crash, no such report has yet been made in the Mi-17 crash. The weather was clear and fine in both crashes.

There is plenty of room for improvement in management, especially in the maintenance of our military aircraft as well as crew training. As the procurement uses public funds, any investigation results must be made public as a form of public accountability. Not to lay the blame, but to find ways to prevent accidents from recurring in the future.

Regardless of what caused both accidents, proper maintenance will allow most aircraft – and other major weapon systems (Alutsista) – to be at the highest level of readiness for any mission.

Such high readiness is important during the current regional dynamics, especially in the South China Sea, where skirmishes often happen among claimants in the resource-rich area. Although Indonesia in not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, there are still unsettled borders regarding our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), especially with Vietnam and China.

No matter how sophisticated our Alutsista are, poor maintenance will lead to low readiness, which means low deterrent capabilities. This also applies to crew training. If the personnel do not know how to operate them, the expensive Alutsista will only be a white elephant with no deterrent value whatsoever.

All in all, the TNI must ensure its Alutsista are properly maintained to ensure a high level of readiness at all times, and the crew must receive the highest level of training.