Thoughts on the development of the Indonesian defense industry

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Chappy Hakim                        Air Chief Marshal Chappy Hakim was the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force from 2002 to 2005.

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)