Airbus declined to comment when asked by Defense News about Indonesia's interest in the A400M. However, Indonesian defense watchers told Defense News they concurred that Widodo and TNI leadership have yet to warm to any acquisition of the A400M.
All this despite Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu flagging the possible acquisition of A400M aircraft to bolster the Indonesian military's airlift and transport capabilities in 2016, with the need for a heavy-lift capability that can deliver cargo to outlying islands growing increasingly pressing as its C-130 fleet ages.
Airbus says the A400M has a cabin volume of 12,000 cubic feet and can haul a payload of 37 tons, including a disassembled Boeing CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter or palletized cargo and heavy machinery for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions on austere runways.
Indonesia is an archipelago with more than 6,000 inhabited islands containing a population of 258 million people, stretching from the eastern Indian Ocean to Papua New Guinea from east to west, and from Borneo south of the Philippines to the Timor and Arafura seas north to south.
The country is vulnerable to regular natural disasters such as earthquakes and tropical storms, and the TNI is frequently called on to perform HADR missions with a mixed fleet of approximately a dozen Lockheed Martin C-130B/Hs and L-100 Hercules aircraft as its primary airlifter split among two squadrons, including four C-130Hs donated by Australia from 2013.
The Indonesian C-130 fleet has been worked hard flying around the vast archipelago and has suffered accordingly, with at least five aircraft lost since 2000 and several others in various states of unserviceability out of more than 20 delivered since 1960. Australia has sold five more C-130Hs to Indonesia at knock down prices, but these are yet to be delivered.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.