Singapore Air Show

Airbus Military launches Pacific drive from Indonesia

 - February 10, 2012, 12:25 AM
Airbus Military’s C295 could be assembled in Indonesia under the terms of a new agreement. The airlifter’s rough-field capabilities are seen as having wide application throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Airbus Military has embarked on a major program to assist the Indonesian aerospace industry expand its capabilities and to put the plane-maker PT Dirgantara Indonesia (DI - Indonesian Aerospace) back on its feet after suffering heavy losses accumulated after the Asian economic crisis in the late 1990s. In October the two companies signed a teaming agreement defining the initiatives of the initial 18-month phase of the recovery plan, following a strategic collaboration agreement signed last July.

For Airbus Military (Booth G53a) the deal establishes Indonesia as its marketing and production base for expansion in the Asia-Pacific region. That expansion does not just cover the smaller transport aircraft, but could include the A330 MRTT tanker/transport and A400M airlifter as well. For PT DI the agreement allows Airbus Military in to oversee the implementation of more modern processes as the Indonesian company strives to return to profitability.

The partnership between Airbus and PT DI dates back to September 1974, when the nascent Indonesian aviation industrial concern, then known as Nurtanio, signed a deal with Germany’s MBB to build the BO 105 helicopter, and with Spain’s Casa to build the Aviocar under license as the NC212. In 1976 Nurtanio became IPTN, and in 2000 adopted its current title.

In the early 1980s Casa – now Airbus Military – and IPTN jointly developed the CN-235 transport, which first flew in 1983. Development beyond the initial version was handled independently, resulting in both companies occasionally competing for the same order. IPTN’s successes have mainly been in the Far East countries, including South Korea. In late December PT DI delivered the third of four CN235 maritime patrollers to the Korean coast guard, while in November the Indonesian navy ordered three CN235-220 maritime patrollers. Under the renewed agreement there will be a more joined-up approach to marketing, with an agreement on co-marketing the CN235 a likely outcome.

A direct result of the teaming arrangement became apparent in late October, when a memorandum of understanding was signed covering the joint marketing in the Asia-Pacific region of the Airbus Military C295, a larger derivative of the CN235. At the same time, the Indonesian government announced a requirement for at least 12 of the aircraft: nine for the air force and three for the police air wing.

A firm contract has not yet been signed but, if it goes ahead as seems likely, most of the order will be assembled by PT DI, adding the C295 to the company’s portfolio. Airbus Military sees a bright future for the C295 in the region, and not only to answer additional Indonesian needs. The aircraft has already been demonstrated to several nations, including Vietnam. In Thailand the demonstrator was used late last year to undertake humanitarian aid flights in connection with the flooding disaster.

The application of Airbus Military expertise across the company also benefits PT DI’s other activities, which include license-manufacture of the Eurocopter Super Puma and Bell 412. The company also makes components for Airbus commercial aircraft, including the A350 and A380.

PT DI has long harbored ambitions for its own development projects. In August 1995 IPTN flew the prototype of the N-250 50-passenger transport, but was forced to cancel the program in the light of the regional economic crisis. Following a down-scaling of the company in the aftermath of the crisis, ambitions for new developments were put on hold, but the new recovery plan has given PT DI new confidence.

It is currently working on the N-219, a utility passenger/freight transport for operations in remote areas based on the NC212 Aviocar. Funding for this project has been restored following commitments for 20 by local carrier Merpati Nusantara, and for 15 from Papua New Guinea. A first flight is scheduled for 2014. More ambitious is the agreement made by the Indonesian government in July 2010 for PT DI to take a 20 per cent stake in the development of the KF-X next-generation fighter led by Korean Aerospace Industries.

At Airbus’s annual press conference held in Hamburg, Germany, on January 17, CEO Tom Enders, said that the group’s military division achieved higher than anticipated delivery numbers in 2011. It now holds a backlog of 220 aircraft—mainly consisting of the new A400M transport (174 orders)—but also including some new orders for both the new C295 and CN235. Airbus now plans on delivering between 20 and 30 of these medium- and light-transports each year.

Last year, Airbus also the achieved first six deliveries of its A330-based MRTT tanker to three different customers. This program is now supported by a backlog of 22 aircraft. Deliveries last year included anti-submarine versions for Chile and Brazil.

Enders reported that five A400Ms are now in flight-testing, with the last one having joined the fleet in December. They have no logged fast approaching 3,000 flight hours and the Airbus chief executive said that, after overcoming some certification delays due to engine troubles, it is now on track to start first deliveries to the French air force in January 2013. “This will be the year that we start seriously marketing the aircraft and we believe it has potential for at least 400 years,” he told the press.