Subject: Indonesia to buy Australian Hercules

Weekend Australian

October 24, 2009 Saturday 5 - Preprints Edition

Indonesia to buy our Hercules --- DEFENCE - SPECIAL REPORT

Mark Dodd

CANBERRA is negotiating the possible sale of six C-130H model Hercules transport aircraft to Indonesia, a move designed to bolster the country's grossly understrength medium airlift capability.

The Royal Australian Air Force operates 12 C-130Hs with four in deep maintenance.

This week senior Indonesian military sources confirmed Jakarta is negotiating with Canberra for the sale of six of the aircraft although it does not expect to take possession of them until 2011 at the earliest.

It's also understood the US has indicated a willingness to provide the Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) with an unknown quantity of C-130s from a ``secondary market'' although it is not clear from which country.

``Australia is aware that Indonesia is interested in acquiring surplus C-130 aircraft from foreign defence forces including Australia,'' a department of Defence spokesman said. ``During routine dialogue, Australia and Indonesia have discussed ways Australia might assist Indonesia improve its airlift capability.''

Any decision to sell surplus C-130Hs first acquired in 1978 would be a matter for the Rudd government but the fleet is not scheduled for replacement until 2013.

``Individual aircraft may be retired earlier with these decisions a normal part of the annual capability assessment process,'' Defence said.

Australia has supported TNI-AU's airlift capability through the annual Exercise Rajawali Ausindo, designed to improve Australian and Indonesian air transport skills using the C-130 platform to respond to natural disasters.

A Canberra-based Defence spokesman confirmed that the introduction of four C-17 Globemaster heavy transports into the RAAF has allowed it to spread out major servicing of its C-130H fleet with four awaiting that servicing.

A ban on the sale of military equipment and spare parts to Indonesia imposed by Washington in the wake of Jakarta-backed militia violence in East Timor in 1999 has now been partially lifted.

It could not come soon enough. In May Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to increase the military budget after the crash that month of a C-130 in East Java that left more than 100 dead.

Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said the crash highlighted the urgent need for a boost in the country's military budget to provide for more vigorous aircraft maintenance.

Senior Western security analysts in Jakarta say the Indonesian Air Force has no more than nine C-130s in ``flying condition''.

``They [TNI-AU] started off with about 28 C-130s in the early 1980s and that's down to between seven or nine, depending on maintenance schedules.

``Its a very small number and they [TNI-AU] were hugely embarrassed at the time of the [2004] tsunami because they couldn't provide the airlift capability to get aid in to Aceh,'' Indonesian defence commentator John Macbeth says.

The four engine Lockheed-Martin Hercules has been in almost continuous production for more than 50 years and remains the tactical airlifter of choice for most of the world's air forces.

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