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Jakarta Post

Saab offers solutions for RI'€™s defense ambitions

  • Dicky Christanto

    The Jakarta Post

Gothenburg/Linkoping/Stockholm   /   Thu, March 19, 2015   /  07:39 am
Saab offers solutions for RI'€™s defense ambitions

Flying high: Swedish jet fighter Gripen D flies in demo flight in Linkoping, Sweden, last week. JP/Dicky Christanto

Saab AB recently invited the Indonesian media to visit a number of cities in Sweden to see what the Swedish defense giant could offer to Indonesia, especially in terms of modernizing the Indonesian Air Force as well as other related defense capabilities.

In Gothenburg, Saab introduced its Erieye airborne early warning (AEW) system and radar manufacturing facilities.

The Erieye AEW is based on active electronically scanned array (AESA) technology, which boasts a multi-tasking capability.

Saab vice president and airborne surveillance systems head Lars Tossman told the group that the Erieye AEW system would be a good fit for Indonesia'€™s geography as it could cover more area than the conventional systems.

Covering 900 square kilometers in diameter, the Erieye AEW system can scan targets beyond the horizon. This equals a 500,000 square kilometers area with a height of 20 kilometers, allowing the system to detect potential targets.

'€œWe'€™re in the middle of discussing this with the Indonesian government,'€ Tossman said in a discussion held last week.

For daily operations, the system requires two aircraft equipped with Erieye radars to cover 80 percent of Indonesia'€™s territory. One aircraft can be deployed from Jakarta to cover the western part and another from Makassar, South Sulawesi, to monitor the eastern part of the country.

The Erieye AEW system has been certified to be placed on two platforms: Sweden'€™s own Saab 2000 turboprop airliner and the Brazilian Embraer ERJ 145 regional jet.

Say cheese!: Indonesian journalists pose with Swedish air force officials and Saab staff during a visit to Satenas Air Force Base last week. Courtesy of Ade Marboen Say cheese!: Indonesian journalists pose with Swedish air force officials and Saab staff during a visit to Satenas Air Force Base last week. Courtesy of Ade Marboen

Tossman said to encourage other countries to acquire the system, it was also possible to install it on other platforms, such as the Indonesian-made CN-235/295 manufactured by state-owned PT Dirgantara Indonesia.

However, he warned that installing the Erieye AEW system on other platforms would then oblige the user to make improvements to the assigned aircraft, which would cost more money. The platform required Saab certification before it could house the Erieye AEW system.

Meanwhile, Lars Ekstrom of Saab'€™s airborne surveillance system, who served in the Swedish Air Force, said the Erieye AEW system had been tested in Mexico in 2006. The system helped the Mexican Air Force rid the country'€™s air space of aircraft allegedly bringing illegal drugs to the country.

'€œThe strategy could be applied to Indonesia. The system could be directed at the most prone areas like the Malacca Strait, while it also monitors other activities simultaneously,'€ he told The Jakarta Post.

He said the Erieye AEW system could also be deployed to monitor illegal fishing activities across the 17,000-island archipelago.

Ekstrom added that the total time needed to build the system from scratch was about four years because it would require an extensive amount of research.

Currently in the region, the Royal Thai Air Force is already operating the Erieye AEW system mounted on Saab 2000 aircraft. The system was acquired as a package with Thailand'€™s acquisition of Saab'€™s JAS-39 Gripen light, single-engine, multi-role jet fighters.

The next stop was Satenas Air Base, a two-hour drive into the middle of the country, where Lt. Col. Michael Lundquist, operational commander of the F7 Skaraborg Air Force Wing, was based, just outside Linkoping.

Lundquist said the air base had been dedicated to training all Gripen pilots from inside and outside Sweden. All pilots will participate in Swedish fighter pilot training over 36 months.

According to Lindquist, they had developed a learning experience that would free students of stress, with instructors avoiding a '€œblame culture'€ and working with students to find solutions.

The Swedish Air Force is the biggest customer for Gripen. It has purchased 100 Gripen C single-seater and D dual-seater jet fighters. Sweden is prepared to procure another 60 fighters in the immediate future.

Brazil recently procured 36 Gripen NGs and South Africa purchased 17 Gripen Cs and nine Gripen Ds. In Southeast Asia, Thailand is the only country flying the Gripen, with an acquisition of 12 jet fighters.

From Satenas, the group headed to Gripen production line in Linkoping. A solo 15-minute performance from a Gripen D during the Linkoping visit showed what the fighter could do. Various aerobatic maneuvers were displayed and fighter looked solid and up to the task.

In his presentation, Saab senior vice president and business area aeronautics head Ulf Nillson stated that Saab offered a complete package tailored for each customer.

Within the package, he went on, a long-term partnership and the comprehensive transfer of technology were included.

Dewa Made J. Sastrawan - JP/Dicky ChristantoDewa Made J. Sastrawan - JP/Dicky Christanto

In Stockholm, the group spoke with Indonesian Ambassador to Sweden and Latvia Dewa Made J. Sastrawan, who said he expected Saab would have the opportunity to offer its package to Indonesia.

'€œI'€™ve looked everywhere and I can'€™t find a more complete strategic defense package supported by the comprehensive transfer of technology than the one offered by Saab. I hope they can make an offer to the government back home,'€ he said.

Saab deputy CEO and senior vice president Lennart Sindahl said Saab was more than willing to continue discussions with the Indonesian authorities regarding the need to improve its jet fighters.

However, in a late development, Indonesian Military (TNI) spokesman Maj. Gen. Fuad Basya said the TNI had decided to opt for the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-35 to replace the ageing, American-made Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II.

'€œThe Sukhoi Su-35 will replace the F-5E/F. The Defense Ministry will finalize it,'€ Fuad told the Post, adding that more information on the decision would be available from the ministry.

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