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High-tech local content in Indonesia’s defense sector

Interview - July 17, 2014
Ms. Wiwiek SA, Director of PT Infra RCS Indonesia, discusses the company’s history and its range of navigation and electronic warfare products that it supplies to key stakeholders in the Indonesian defense sector.
Could you outline the establishment of PT INFRA RCS Indonesia and the key milestones it has achieved since its inception?

It all started with the idea of how we could contribute to the development of Indonesia. Being an archipelago, Indonesia’s maritime territory takes up two-thirds of the country’s area, which needs to be secured. This is one of the reasons why we siezed the opportunity to start our business in the defense sector and specifically focus on maritime related products.

We then introduced ourselves to the Indonesian Navy and promoted this LPI-Radar. Following this meeting, we went through the necessary procedures and eventually received a certificate that enabled us to produce this technology.

With our vision to support the revitalization of the defense sector and our dedication, our commitment, our desire to achieve perfection and quality and our sense of responsibility we were able to gain the trust of the key stakeholders – the Ministry of Defense, the Indonesian National Armed Forces, the Indonesian Navy and other related institutions and the public.

This is also why we succeeded in obtaining our first project from the Navy in 2010 to do research and development on the Electronic Support Measures system – part I. Projects from the Navy are not easy to secure and require expertise and a thorough evaluation. Today I am proud to say that the Indonesian Navy is our biggest client.

How does the research and development process take place within the company?

In our small workshop in Bandung, we have hardware engineers, software engineers and mechanical engineers who are responsible for product design, testing and fabrication. Normally it takes up to two years before we can start production. Before we can bid for any project, we have to do research first before we make a proposal to our client. Our policy is to then go to the Indonesian Navy Research and Development Center (DISLITBANGAL) first to check the specifications of the product.

Once we get their approval, we receive a certificate that enables us to manufacture and sell the product. It is quite a long procedure. For most products it usually takes about a year to do research and development and then another year to reach production.

Could you elaborate on the range of products RCS produces for Indonesia’s defense organizations?

We have two product lines: navigation products and electronic warfare products. Our navigation products consist of radar-related technology including the LPI Radar and Coastal Radar and a range of navigation support products.

Our LPI Radar is a surface and tactical navigation product that has true Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) characteristics. It uses the Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) principle enabling it to “see without being seen” due to its low transmitter power. These LPI Radars have been installed in frigates and corvettes of the Indonesian Navy, including Van Speijk and Parchim Class vessels.

Our Coastal Radar is a mobile land-based radar that we were able to produce after research and subsequent approval by DISLITBANGAL. It is now located in Tanjung Pasir and has a height of 20 meters. One of the features of this product is that it can be remotely controlled from a distance using a radar surveillance network. At the moment, we are still testing its functionality, doing try-outs and working to have it commissioned. The potential customers for this product are the Navy and the Maritime Security Coordinating Board (Bakorkamla). They perform a number of search and rescue roles for the county.
In regards to the navigation support products, we have installed the ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) in some naval vessels. This product is a computer based navigation system, capable of determining a vessel’s position in relation to land, chartered objects, navigation aids and unseen hazards. The maps that are used for this system come from DISHIDROS. Hopefully next year we can start with the second phase of the project and install ECDIS in more naval vessels.

Other products in the category of navigation support are WECDIS (Warship Electronic Chart Display) and INS (Integrated Navigation System), which are still in the research and development stage.

In regards to electronic warfare, we produce ESM (Electronic Support Measures). This system has been installed already in a couple of naval vessels. It is a passive radar that can detect, intercept, identify, locate, record and analyze sources of radiated electromagnetic energy for the purposes of immediate threat recognition or longer-term operational planning. Another product is ECM (Electronic Counter Measures), which is still in the development phase.

What is your human resources strategy, particularly regarding the recruitment of skilled workers and engineers?

We have 15 people working in administration and up to 20 software engineers, most of whom are college students that work for our company. The way we recruit our engineers is by providing senior high school students with a scholarship. We also finance post-graduate studies in the field of ICT at The Institute of Technology Bandung (ITB) for high potential students. In return, we ask them to work part time for us and do some projects.

For example, ECDIS was developed and produced by our young talented software engineers. So it is a win-win situation. Our goal is that they keep working for us after they have finished their studies and fortunately the majority do. By doing this, we want to contribute to the improvement of social welfare in Indonesia. We also employ more than 15 hardware engineers and 10 mechanical engineers.

What is the company’s strategy for business growth over the next 5 years (2014-2019)?

We want to become a leader of Indonesian products and solutions in the naval and maritime industry with navigational equipment and electronic warfare. We plan to do this by developing products that are reliable and adopted by our customers in both the military and the maritime industry.

For the upcoming two years, we will be working on several projects. This year, we are focusing on the production of the Warship Electronic Chart Display (WECDIS), Platform Projection System and the ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display Information System) for combat boats. For 2015, we are planning to produce the INS (Integrated Navigation System) and ECM (Electronic Counter Measures).

For the near future, we are also developing the Integrated Bridge Navigation System (IBNS). This product is an integrated system that aids with shipping planning and has real-time navigation tracking. Five years from now we hope to have grown bigger and better and to be exporting our products.

What kind of partnership opportunities exist for international investors in defense related projects in Indonesia?

We position ourselves as a company engaged in the development and manufacturing of real Indonesian products made by Indonesians. There are components of our products that we get from other companies outside of Indonesia, but the design and integration of the product is done completely by us.

We are very open to cooperate with other countries or institutions, but it has to be in line with our product lines, and there has to be synergy and the ability to support each other. In the case of cooperation with other countries we also require transfer of technology (TOT).

We were offered joint cooperation opportunities from foreign companies, one of which is based in France, but the products they offered were not in line with our vision. So we had to decline that offer. However, in the future, we may cooperate on a product we did research called the Integrated Surveillance System, which is related to the main weapon systems field. But this will probably not start until 2017.

Our expectation for the defense industry is that the production of defense equipment and tools will continuously play a role and contribute to the support of the defense industry in Indonesia.