Director General for Defense Potential at Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense,
Dr. Timbul Siahaan, talks to United World about the country’s defense strategy
Could you outline the 7 core strategic projects for enhancing the countries defense capabilities?
First of all, there is the joint development with South Korea, the KF-X/ IF-X Fighter Jet Project. This is a generation 4.5 fighter Jet which is equivalent to the F-16++. It is a 3 phase project consisting of: technology development, engineering and manufacturing development and finally production. We are now entering the 2nd phase - engineering and manufacturing development.
In terms of budget, South Korea will cover 80% of costs while Indonesia provides 20%. Our 3rd meeting will be held in June, 2014 in Jakarta where we will discuss the project agreement in detail. The main challenge here will be accommodating the operational requirements of both the Korean and Indonesian military. Secondly, the aircraft will have to fulfill future needs of the air force in line with its strategic planning. The negotiating of these requirements is currently underway. Furthermore, at least one of the prototypes has to be built and tested in Indonesia with Indonesian Aerospace (PTDI) as the lead integrator from our side.
Second, there is the submarine project, whereby we procure three 209 DSME model submarines from South Korea. The third of these will be built in PT PAL’s shipyard by Indonesians. The first and second submarine represent the learning phase for our engineers, as they observe and participate in production in Korea. The final submarine will be built based on this experience in PT PAL’s shipyards in Surabaya, East Java.
Third, there is the C-705 project with China. This is a transfer of technology (TOT) program whereby this missile will be procured for the navy and then subsequently built in Indonesia. Our specialists from various state owned companies, headed by PTDI as the lead integrator, will be trained in China to gain the necessary expertise. An entirely new production line and facility will then be established in Indonesia to manufacture this sophisticated weapon system.
The fourth project involves the program of constructing the R-Han, 122mm rocket, which is still in progress. This weapon system will be wholly designed, developed and manufactured by Indonesia through the R&D consortium led by The Ministry of Research and Technology (Ristek) and supported by the Ministry of Defence’s Research and Development Agency (Balitbang Kemhan) and The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN). Production will be carried out by Indonesian defense companies, including PTDI, once the R&D phase is complete.
The fifth project concerns propellant which is a vital ingredient for the production of munitions. At the moment Indonesia is dependent on imported propellant. The question we are discussing at the moment, is whether we use the propellant for munitions production or whether we use it to support our rocket project. We are currently finalizing our choice for international cooperation in this matter. PT Dahana will be the lead integrator based on their expertise.
The medium tanks are our 6th project, which is being done in cooperation with Turkey. Indonesia’s state owned arms and vehicle manufacturer, PT Pindad is working with Turkey’s FNSS to develop the capability to create tanks from scratch, rather than working from a pre-designed blueprint. This program has already been running for a year with Pindad as the lead integrator. The business to business agreement between the companies has been signed and now the project agreement between Indonesia and Turkey is being finalized. This tank will be designed specifically to accommodate Indonesian army operational requirements.
We will also create a design center for this, because we are not just doing this to meet current defense requirements, but for preparation to meet the country’s requirements in the future. We will start with the medium tank, and work to gain the capability to build other tanks as well, including light tanks or heavy tanks, as defense needs dictate.
Our 7th strategic project is to strengthen national radar coverage. When you look at Indonesia, you will see that we have large territory of both sea and land. Unfortunately, our current radar capacity is not sufficient to adequately cover such a vast area, so this project is being initiated to change this.
We use a Ground Control Intercept Radar (GCIR) system for our air defense and this has to be bolstered within the framework of this project. Currently, we are negotiating with international defense corporations and exploring options to make this a reality.
Because the process of procurement is underway as we have not yet decided who will be the consortium members. Whoever they are, they must guarantee TOT to Indonesia. In fact there are a number of local companies that have the capability to produce radars which will play an important part in this project. The lead integrator from the Indonesian side has not yet been determined.
What infrastructure upgrades do the submarine and fighter jet projects provide for the country?
In the contract it is stated that 3 submarines will be built and that one of them will be built in Indonesia. Completely new infrastructure, valued at over $150 million will have to be constructed to accommodate this, including shipyards, docks and related facilities. This includes builing a design center for submarines. Some $70 million has been allocated for the human resources side of the project. For PT PAL, the Indonesian ship-maker, this is a completely new production model for them. They are moving from the construction of surface vessels to submarines so the facilities they require for this shift are very different.
The situation with the KF-X/ IF-X Fighter Jet also requires significant infrastructure investment. PTDI currently builds planes for transport purposes, however the KF-X/ IF-X Fighter Jet is a completely different aircraft with a different mandate (combat). The avionics, aerodynamics and the very materials the aircraft will be made out of (composites) are different from those of PTDI’s existing production line. Hence, when we reach the 3rd phase of the project, brand new infrastructure will need to be in place to allow for production.
Could you elaborate on the radar project, which companies are involved and how this enhances the defense of the country?
We have large requirements in the radar industry, in general as well as for defense. We need radars for the development of our defense strength. Radars are tools that can be used for communication and for our main system tools in defense. We have the capability to produce in Indonesia, which has already been evaluated. There are also plans to cooperate with countries abroad and plans to buy radars. So for the future we have something that we can count on for the supply of radars for both military and civil purposes.
The companies that are involved in the radar industry include PT CMI Teknologi, PT Len, PT Infoglobal and PT INTI. At the moment we just have to correspond project requirements with the needs of the users - in this case the needs of military. If the airforce needs radars with specific technical specifications we just need to communicate with the industry to confirm that they are able to produce this technology. Our regulation states that we need to prioritize our domestic industry for producing and for procurement.
If the industry is not able to do so, there is a possibility to cooperate with international companies. The Ministry of Defense supports this approach 100%.
We have also formed a wider consortium that involves research instutions, universities, the defense industry and the users. The role of this consortium is to ensure that if domestic firms or the military has additonal requirmements, this need is translated. Hence, this consortium will help to bridge relations between the industry and the army as well as relations between the industry, universities, research institutions, and other stakeholders.
What is your perspective on the development of human resources over the course of 10 years as a result of these endevors?
First of all we cooperate with universities to prepare for the future. We have informed them of the need to develop curricula that provides the right educational background graduates need to support our defense industry’s needs. We want our people to learn more about technology and to follow the developments taking place so they will have the knowledge and skills to be employed in the projects we have discussed.
This is so important that the Minister of Education and Culture is a board member of the Defense Industry Policy Committee (KKIP). That way a synergy is being developed between the nation’s higher education and defense development. In line with this, strong research and development institutions are also needed to provide the people and knowledge our ambitious projects require.
With a link established between universities, R&D institutions and the defense industry, we are ensuring that we are able to obtain the human resources needed to push the defense industry forward.
What is the role of the private sector in these projects?
Our regulations are clear on this issue. The government maintains control for main equipment production which the private sector can support. We encourage the private sector to do so. In fact, any project that does not involved the production of a weapon, for example a vehicle, can be led by a private sector company.
If the project is to develop a weapon, then the lead integrator must be state owned. However that does not preclude private sector involvement. They can be involved as a tier 2, 3 or 4 supplier. This may involve the production of sub components for instance.
Although these may be small, they play an important role in any weapon system and can also be excellent commercial opportunities for private companies. All of this is regulated within our legal frameworks.
Our minister, Dr. Purnomo encourages the involvement of the private sector. The KKIP plays an important role in helping the government to coordinate what needs to be done by public companies and the private sector to develop the defense industry.
What is the vision for the final development of Indonesia’s defense industry as a result of the strategic projects and what do they mean for the country?
We have to maintain the regulations related to development of the defense sector. It is critical that they are maintained in order to ensure that all the important elements we have discussed including the industry, the companies, human resources and infrastructure, are sustainable over the long term.
We have a vision for the future – to achieve Minimum Essential Force by 2024 - and step by step we are working towards this. This in turn creates the basis for creating an even stronger defense industry as we look beyond 2024.