U.S. Announces First Sale of Apaches to Indonesia

 - September 6, 2013, 11:00 AM
Indonesia is buying eight new AH-64E Apache attack helicopters. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Indonesia signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LOA) with the U.S. government to buy eight new Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters during U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent trip to Southeast Asia. The Pentagon valued the transaction at $500 million; it represents the first sale of Apaches to Indonesia.

Hagel and Indonesian defense minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro announced the LOA signing during a press conference in Jakarta on August 26. The Pentagon first notified Congress of the foreign military sale of the latest-model Apache a year ago, estimating the value at $1.42 billion. The transaction includes four Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 Longbow fire-control radars. The Indonesian army will use the Apaches to deter “both external and other potential threats…to defend its borders, conduct counterterrorism and counter-piracy operations and control the free flow of shipping through the Strait of Malacca,” the notification said.

Indonesia is also modernizing its air force and awaits delivery of 24 F-16C/D fighters decommissioned from the U.S. Air Force and upgraded to Block 32 configuration. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of that transaction in November 2011. The refurbished F-16s will supplement 10 F-16 Block 15 aircraft that Indonesia acquired many years ago. They will also be upgraded. The Indonesian air force also operates 12 Russian Su-30 and Su-27 combat aircraft, plus Northrop F-5E Tigers, Embraer Super Tucanos and BAE Hawk 209s.

The U.S. imposed an arms embargo on Indonesia from 1999 to 2005 following Indonesia’s military intervention in East Timor. In remarks during the Jakarta press conference, Hagel described defense trade as “one of the fastest-growing areas of cooperation” between the two countries and said the U.S. is committed to building Indonesia’s military capability. He said Indonesia has made progress in protecting human rights, but added that more progress is needed and would “lead to even more momentum in our defense relationship.”

Indonesia faces ongoing attacks by separatists in its province of Papua, which comprises the western half of the island of New Guinea. According to a transcript of the press conference, a reporter asked if Indonesia had given the U.S. assurances that the Apaches “won’t be used in places like Papua on separatists and people who say they’re victims of systematic genocide.” Purnomo answered that Indonesia began to reform its armed forces in 1998 and has respect for human rights.

In addition to Indonesia, Hagel traveled to Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, and participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Plus meeting of 18 defense ministers. President Obama will visit Indonesia next month for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.