MELBOURNE, Australia — Indonesia’s Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises looks set to purchase two Airbus A400M airlifters under a unique agreement that will see the aircraft flown and maintained by crews from the Indonesian Air Force.
The Air Force said March 7 in an announcement that the aircraft will be used to assist the state-owned PT Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia, also known as Persero, in the distribution of goods in eastern Indonesia.
Air Chief Marshal Yuyu Sutisna, chief of staff of the Indonesian Air Force, added during a meeting in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta with the director of Persero, Agus Andiyani, that the service was ready to contribute air and ground crew to assist the company in operating the A400M.
Persero’s main business activity is the import, export and distribution of consumer and industrial products throughout Indonesia, and the addition of the A400Ms is intended to improve availability and bring down prices of these items in the country’s remote eastern regions. 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 Sea north to south.
If the deal is concluded, it would see Indonesia become the second country in Asia to operate the A400M after Malaysia, which is flying four of the type.
When contacted for comment, an Airbus spokesperson referred Defense News to earlier remarks by the head of military aircraft at Airbus Defence and Space, Fernando Alonso, who said “the A400M will be an outstanding asset to support Indonesia‘s vision of creating an air bridge to help redistribute wealth and resources across the archipelago as well as providing the basis for the expansion of our long-standing industrial cooperation.”
He added that the “A400M´s advanced design and exceptional performance make it extremely well-qualified to play a key role in creating a safe and robust air transport network for Indonesia.” The company representative saw it as having potential to be the “basis for the transformation of the Indonesian Air Force’s air mobility operation.”
Alonso was speaking in response to Indonesia’s Pelita Air, which is majority-owned by Indonesia’s state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina, having signed a letter of intent to acquire an unspecified number of A400Ms during then-French President François Hollande’s visit in March 2017.
The acquisition of the aircraft by another ministry could be a way for Indonesia’s military to get around its own budget restrictions to operate the A400M.
It had previously expressed an interest in the type to complement its fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130B/H Hercules airlifters, although reports in early January 2017 that the acquisition of A400Ms had been budgeted for were wide of the mark, with the country’s defense budget facing weak growth, increasing by 1.2 percent in 2017 following a reduction the year before.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.