IO – When we discuss the Indonesian Defense industry, certain aspects are fundamental in nature, the first being that any defense industry requires a massive investment in capital expenditure, one that must be in harmony with the needs of the user and / or the user segment. This is why it will be very difficult to develop a defense industry well without major funding support from the state and integrated strategic planning. That is also why a defense industry requires appropriate government policy that is consistent and consequent across successive regimes. Technological advances, regeneration, and networking in the management of a defense industry aim for the long-term, are consistent, and must from the outset be contained in a master plan, a strategic plan, before they can be executed. A defense industry is highly dependent on high-level Government policy, one that is directly linked to national policy.
Defense industry policy requires substantial funding and is therefore highly vulnerable to mismanagement and leakage. Thus, not only is strict supervision required in financial management, technical quality control is also vital. Provision of funds leading to implementation of procurement of weapons systems is a complex matter, and implementation necessitates careful planning. Past history contains many examples of procurement of weapon systems that have “fallen apart” midway. Such an experience should not merely be regretted or viewed as a failure, but it must be appraised with an open mind, to be taken as a bitter pill, a lesson not to be repeated.
PT Indonesian Aerospace Incorporated (PTDI) has been an expensive lesson for all of us on the long journey of the defense industry, one that has thus far been unable to prove itself a reliable supplier of defense industry hardware for the Indonesian Air Force. First was the exclusion of pioneer aviator Nurtanio, to a repeated change of name, to its current “PTDI”. Several PTDI procurement project outputs were conspicuously unsuccessful in the reality of Air Force operations, ones that have even been “wiped clean”. The elimination of a CN-235 squadron from the Air Force fleet and the CN-235 fleet in MNA can also be regarded as valuable case studies if we are serious about the introspection required to reform and build PTDI’s position as a front-line member of our strategic industry in Indonesia.
Measured in terms of being a successful aircraft manufacturer, PTDI has not earned and does not merit a proud reputation, instead relying on a constant infusion of domestic and foreign experts and upgrades of technical equipment. Abandoned installations and a Wind-Tunnel damaged even before it could be put into service, a case in which the Serpong contractor has reportedly never been, are case studies of how we cannot be regarded as truly professional in the management of our defense industry – in this particular case the aircraft industry. This is not to mention management and continuity of availability of required technical experts. As an example, there are no longer any Test Pilot graduates, as the PTDI Test Pilot School no longer exists; the training of a new generation of Flight Test Engineers has also ceased, since the 1990s.
Patriotism, nationalism and pride as a producer country of defense industry products must not commence from the consumer sector; rather, it must start from a reliable “production-line” which delivers high-quality, leading-edge military hardware. Sufficient quality will undoubtedly attract intelligent, choosy buyers, as end-users should not be pressured to buy inferior hardware in the name of pride, nationalism, economic stimulus or patriotic fervor.
The defense industry of the Republic of Indonesia can someday survive and thrive (Chappy Hakim)