Indonesian Fighter Requirements Aired at Local Show

 - November 4, 2016, 12:10 PM
Indonesia has a 20-percent stake in co-development of the KF-X/IF-X fighter with South Korea. (Photo: David Donald)

Indonesia has outlined a need for up to 200 new fighters over the next 15 years to meet its minimum force ambitions. Most pressing is the need to replace No. 14 Squadron’s elderly Northrop F-5E/Fs, and funding has been allocated for that in the current (2015-2019) five-year spending plan. Although selection of the Sukhoi Su-35 has been "announced," no contract has been signed, and Western manufacturers have good reason to believe that it is still an open competition.

Apart from the merits and costs of the aircraft themselves, an important consideration is Indonesia’s Law 16, which calls for the development of the country’s own aerospace/defense industry and governs the conditions under which foreign companies can compete, including the need to provide 35 percent of the contract value in direct offsets and 50 percent indirectly.

At the Indodefence show in Jakarta this week Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin and Saab outlined their offers. Eurofighter, represented by Airbus, is offering the latest AESA-equipped Typhoon and is emphasizing its swing-role capability. This year Airbus celebrates 40 years of collaboration with Indonesia’s airframer, PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI), which has resulted in licensed production and co-development of helicopters and transport aircraft. Airbus sees an industrial share in the Typhoon program as a logical next step, and could even set up a final assembly line at PTDI’s Bandung facility if selected.

Lockheed Martin is proposing the supply of 16 F-16V Block 72s, powered by the Pratt & Whitney F100 for commonality with Indonesia’s existing F-16s. These comprise early F-16A/Bs and the more recent delivery of former U.S. Air Force F-16C/D Block 25s refurbished to Block 52 standard. The U.S. government submitted a response to Indonesia’s request for information earlier this year, including significant offset proposals involving co-production and technology transfer, as well as the establishment of a systems engineering center of excellence at Bandung.

Saab’s offer is currently based on the supply of 14 Gripen C/D MS20s, and the Swedish company says it can begin deliveries 12 months after contract signature. The MS20 version entered Swedish air force service earlier this year, and is the first fighter to become operational with the MBDA Meteor long-range air-to-air missile. Saab plans to involve PTDI engineers in production from the start, initially in Sweden but then moving step-by-step to Bandung, with the aim of having the last aircraft built entirely in Indonesia.

All three Western fighter builders include technology transfer in their proposals that may help Indonesia, and PTDI in particular, meet its development commitments to the KF-X/IF-X 4.5-generation fighter being developed with South Korea. Jakarta holds a 20-percent stake in the project, which is being led by Korea’s DAPA (defense acquisition program administration) with Korea Aerospace Industries as the industrial lead.

The KF-X/IF-X entered the preliminary design phase on December 28 last year, which is to be completed in the second quarter of 2018. A prototype is slated to fly in 2021 or 2022, with deliveries planned for around 2025. Korea has a requirement for more than 100 KF-Xs, while Indonesia will initially take at least 50 IF-Xs. There are minor systems differences between the two.

On May 26 this year DAPA announced that the General Electric F414-GE-400 is the preferred engine type, and there are several other key systems to be selected from foreign suppliers. At the Indodefence show, Leonardo was promoting the ES-05 Raven AESA radar, with associated infrared search and track and IFF equipment, for the new fighter. Meanwhile, Saab is proposing the new fighter radar that it launched at the ADEX show in Seoul late last year. This is the world’s first such system to employ GaN (gallium nitride) transmit/receive modules. This sensor also forms part of Saab’s Gripen bid for India.

In other news from Indodefence, ShinMaywa of Japan reported that it is close to signing a deal with Indonesia for three US-2i amphibians for rescue, firefighting and disaster-relief operations. The deal surfaced during a visit to Tokyo last March by Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, during which the nations signed an MoU covering defense cooperation. If concluded as expected next year, the deal would mark the first major sale of Japanese defense equipment since an export ban was lifted in 2014.

Leonardo reported that a single Airbus/PTDI CN235MPA twin turboprop has recently entered service with the Indonesian air force equipped with its SAGE electronic support measures equipment, the first application of this system to a large fixed-wing aircraft. The installation was engineered by U.S. company Integrated Surveillance and Defense, and was undertaken by PTDI.

Local company PT Indo Pacific Communication and Defence is to deliver an unmanned version of the LH Aviation LH-10 Ellipse to the Indonesian air force for evaluation as a Male UAV before the end of the year. The French-designed Ellipse was unveiled in its LHD optionally piloted form at the Paris Air Show in June last year. Indonesia’s Lapan (national institute of aeronautics and space) has also envisioned a Male UAV based on the German Ecarys ES-15 motor-glider, a manned example of which is being evaluated in-country, known as the LSA.