Technology transfer a must in RI arms purchases

Leopard 2A6 Dutch Army By: battle14 The government’s plan to buy 100 used Leopard tanks has sparked debate within the House of Repres...

Leopard 2A6 Dutch Army By: battle14

The government’s plan to buy 100 used Leopard tanks has sparked debate within the House of Representatives, but apparently the show must go on as part of the country’s long overdue modernization of defense equipment. Deputy Minister of Defense Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin provided The Jakarta Post’s Novan Iman Santosa, Dwi Atmanta and Imanuddin Razak with a broader picture of the issues of primary weaponry system modernization.

Question: What is the latest update on negotiations to purchase second-hand Leopard tanks after the Dutch parliament opposed the plan? 

Answer: Procurement of arms is not an instant process. There are some parameters of purchasing arms, such as defense, the challenge of potential revolution, military affairs and budget capabilities. 

Regarding modernization of primary weapons systems, the three forces in the Indonesian Military (TNI) plan their needs and the Ministry of Defense procures the equipment.

However, we cannot buy certain arms from certain countries before we discuss the specifications of our needs, which is compatible with our doctrine. The technical and tactical aspects of the defense equipment depend on the conditions in the field where we will operate the equipment. All of these are analyzed before being presented to the Ministry of Defense, which procures weapons through either a government-to-government arrangement or government-to-producer mechanism.

The ministry finalizes the shopping list and checks if the procurement is in line with our doctrine of military strategy, which is a joint operation involving all three branches of the armed forces. Procurement must suit our budget and follow the appropriate mechanisms in accordance with regulations.

Related to the purchase of the Leopard tanks, our technical and tactical military analysis has led us to the product. Yet we cannot push for the purchase if external problems, in this case the buyer, constrain the process.

If the tank-purchase deal with the Netherlands is agreed, it will go through a government-to-
government mechanism. The defense ministries of the two countries will sign the contract and the respective finance ministries will deal with the payment. In the government-to-producer arrangement, the government of the company selling the product will provide an export license to facilitate the sale. 

Of the 10 ASEAN member countries, seven have operated heavy tanks; two of them Leopards.

The United States has offered Indonesia 24 used F-16 fighter jets. Will we accept the offer or buy new jets instead? 

In connection with aerial defense, we aim for self-reliance in the long term. We are therefore involved in a program to build KFX jets with South Korea. In the mid-term, we still need to interact with countries that posses the necessary high technology.

The Indonesian Air Force fleet is a vast configuration produced by the US, Russia, Britain, Brazil, South Korea and so forth. But government policy requires any purchase to be combined with transfer of technology, including maintenance technology, as a package in order to achieve self-reliance. 

Our purchase of large-size personnel transport such as the Hercules has given us limited self-reliance in maintenance so that we can maintain the aircraft at home. When it comes to middle-sized transporters, state aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia has signed a contract for joint production with Airbus Military. We have reached self-reliance in the light transporter category, albeit not quite 100 percent.

To strengthen our naval defense, do we need aircraft carriers?

Indonesia is an archipelagic state. Our islands are therefore the carriers themselves. We do not intend to cover areas beyond our national boundaries, so the purchase of aircraft carriers is inefficient.

But we will surely procure three submarines in accordance with our mid-term modernization program. The deal to purchase the submarines from South Korea was combined with a technology-transfer agreement. 

We have sent 130 skilled young personnel to Daewoo to observe the construction of the first submarine. The second submarine will be produced in South Korea with technological interaction between the two countries, but the third submarine will be built in Surabaya with a minimum presence of foreign technicians. 

In any defense cooperation, we seek mutual benefit. Before a memorandum of understanding is signed, our partner must have already built a production house so that it does not give us a blank check. We welcome joint production or investment, but it must contribute to our economic growth and create jobs. It is no use signing an arms purchase deal in the name of cooperation if it does not provide added value to the people.

What about drone technology?

We are talking about technology, not politics. Technology can come from anywhere, be it for military or non-military purposes. What we need to consider is whether it supports our mission and its utility.

We actually had already thought about the technology even before the first Cabinet of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004-2009. The producing company (Kital Philippine Corp) happens to have combined production with European countries. However, we cannot go ahead with the purchase of the drones without the consent of the budget supervision authority or the House of Representatives.

I think everything is already clear and we should not make a fuss over it. Rather, the issue is the appropriate use of the budget.

How do ASEAN neighbors react to Indonesia’s arms purchases?

No ASEAN member country has raised concerns over our defense shopping. We in ASEAN support each other. Indonesia has purchased defense equipment from Singapore and Malaysia and hope that they will buy goods from us.

We have even started thinking about an ASEAN joint defense industry. It was once discussed among ASEAN ministries of defense, although there is still a long way to go to set up a consortium.

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