MELBOURNE, Australia — The first Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter for Indonesia has arrived from the United States as the company continues to market the CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter to the Southeast Asian country.
Sources in Indonesia say the helicopter was flown in by a U.S. Air Force Boeing C-17A Globemaster III airlifter to Semarang on the north-central part of Indonesia’s main island of Java on Monday, having departed the U.S. late last week.
Indonesia requested eight Apache Guardians under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program in September 2012, along with associated equipment and spares that included the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-78 Longbow Fire Control Radar and 140 Lockheed Martin AGM-114R3 anti-tank missiles, for an estimated total value of $1.42 billion.
According to the FMS request, Indonesia will use the helicopters to “defend its borders, conduct counterterrorism and counter-piracy operations, and control the free flow of shipping through the strategic Straits of Malacca.” Indonesia’s previous Army chief of staff, Gen. Budiman, said at least some of the Apaches would be stationed at the Natuna Islands bordering the South China Sea.
The resource-rich area around the islands holds the world’s largest untapped reserves of natural gas, and it is also where China’s “nine-dash line” claim over the South China Sea partially overlaps Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone, or EEZ.
Although not a claimant to the disputed islands in the area, Indonesia has had problems with fishermen from neighboring countries illegally operating within its EEZ and has skirmished with the coast guards of Vietnam and China.
Meanwhile, it was announced last week that Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has met with Boeing Defence and Space’s regional director and vice president for Indonesia and Malaysia, Yeong Tae Pak, at Indonesia’s capital Jakarta where they discussed the potential for cooperation in defense procurement.
According to Indonesia’s Defence Ministry, these included comprehensive details of how Boeing’s offset program can be lined up with Indonesia’s desire to advance its domestic defense industry. The country has sought to broaden its capabilities and participation in this sector, and has entered agreements with several partners in designing, manufacturing and sustaining defense articles that include light tanks and helicopters.
Pak also highlighted the multimission capabilities of the Chinook helicopter in roles ranging from special forces support to disaster relief, according to the ministry’s announcement. Indonesia has previously highlighted its need for a heavy lift helicopter to support Army operations, and the Chinook has been touted as a likely choice; however, this has yet to be translated into an actual sale for Boeing.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.