Indonesia has purchased more than £100 million worth of air defense equipment from Thales. (Thales Land & Air Systems)
LONDON — The Indonesian Army has turned to the British arm of Thales to plug a gap in its short-range air defenses with a deal to purchase its Forceshield integrated system of vehicle-mounted missiles and radars.
Under the deal, Thales operations in Britain and France will equip five Indonesian Army batteries with Starstreak missiles, ControlMaster200 radars and weapon coordination systems, lightweight multiple launchers and RapidRanger weapon launchers, said David Beatty, vice president for advanced weapon systems at Thales UK.
Beatty said that although there are no options in the contract for additional deliveries, “once we show we can deliver our solution and the customer likes it, we hope to develop good relations for follow-on orders from the Indonesian authorities.”
The purchase is the latest in a string of orders aimed at modernizing the Indonesian Army. The military is adding main battle tanks, 155mm artillery, infantry fighting vehicles, and other weapons to its inventory.
The Indonesians also purchased next-generation light anti-tank weapons developed by Saab for the British and Swedish armies. The missiles are built by Thales at the Northern Ireland weapon facilities that are also responsible for Starstreak work.
The air defense deal is worth more than £100 million (US $164 million), said Thales, and includes an agreement with Indonesian state-owned company PT LEN Industri to partner on integration of some of the systems involved in the contract as well as future collaboration in the military and civil sectors.
The deal being announced this week is a combination of two contracts, one going back to November 2011 with Indonesia to acquire the first of five required batteries.
No deliveries were made under the earlier arrangement and the delivery schedule being worked on by Thales combines the two contracts, Beatty said.
The Thales executive said the company hopes to get “deliveries of the man-portable elements of the weapon underway this year but that equipment with longer lead times like the ControlMaster200 medium-range air-defense radar would take longer and it would take several years to deliver the complete integrated system.”
Starstreak will provide air defense out to about 7 kilometers against ground attack aircraft, pop-up attack helicopters, drones and cruise missiles and is seen as a replacement for the longer range British Rapier missile systems previously a mainstay of Indonesian anti-air capabilities.
Operating at speeds in excess of Mach 3 and able to travel at more than a kilometer a second, Starstreak is the fastest short-range surface-to-air missile in the world. Britain, South Africa and most recently Thailand are all operators of the laser beam-riding weapon.
Thales beat Saab with its RBS-70-based air defense system, although earlier several other weapons suppliers had shown an interest in the requirement, including Poland and China.
The RapidRanger launcher and fire control system equipped with four Starstreak missile tubes will be integrated into the Spanish-designed Vamtac vehicle for the Indonesians. The vehicle is similar in appearance to the Humvee.
A version of the LandRover Defender will be used to mount a lightweight multiple launcher version of Starstreak. The lightweight launcher can also be used dismounted for firing off a man-portable tripod.
It’s the first sale of an integrated turn-key air defense solution by Thales since the company relaunched its offerings in the sector under the ForceShield banner nearly two years ago. ■