Monday, 31 January 2022

A Maritime Striker - Could Indonesia End Up Operating The Bayraktar TB3?

By Stijn Mitzer
Indonesia's stated desire to acquire drones from Turkey could one day also see an interest in the Bayraktar TB3, which was designed as a heavier version of the TB2 that can also operate from aircraft carriers and landing helicopter docks (LHDs). [1] The Indonesian Navy has already experimented with using fixed-wing UAVs from the helicopter deck of one of its Dutch-built Diponegoro-class corvettes. [2] Although the UAV could only take-off from the vessel and had to land at an air base, the effort clearly indicates that Indonesia is interested in operating shipborne fixed-wing UAVs.
The Indonesian Navy currently operates a fleet of seven landing platform docks (LPDs), three of which are outfitted as hospital ships. Most of the LPDs were constructed by state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL Indonesia, which acquired the license to construct the Makassar class from Dae Sun Shipyard in South Korea. In June 2014 PT PAL signed a $92 million contract for the delivery of two LPDs to the Philippine Navy. [3] Although delivered without many of the systems considered standard on contemporary ships in Western nations, the low unit price of some $45m means that these ships are now actually financially attainable for countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.
It is currently believed that the Indonesian Navy intends to procure several landing platform helicopter vessels (LPHs) in the coming decade. In 2018 PT PAL unveiled a 244-metres long LPH design that will likely form the basis of the design that will be offered to the Indonesian Navy. [4] Similar to the Turkish TCG Anadolu LHD, the LPH design features a large aft elevator that can move helicopters and large U(C)AVs to the flight deck or hangar. Designed to be deployed from LHDs and LPHs from the onset, the Bayraktar TB3 could be deployed from Indonesia's LPHs without any design modifications required. Due to their small size and foldable wings, numerous TB3s could be deployed on the ships along with ASW helicopters and other drones to provide Indonesia with its first (unmanned-) aircraft carrier.

A rendering of Indonesia's 244-metres long LPH design.

The TCG Anadolu LHD (and the follow-up vessel the TCG Trakya) are reportedly capable of carrying several dozen Bayraktar TB3s, a number that is only set to increase on Indonesia's larger LPH design. [5] The TB3 can stay in the air for up to 24 hours while boasting a 280kg payload capacity. [6] This could either consist of up to six MAM munitions, including the MAM-T with a 30+km range, a maritime surveillance radar or a combination of both. This enables the TB3 to engage enemy naval vessels, support amphibious landings and carry out maritime surveillance. The expected low unit price of Indonesia's LPHs (similar to its LPDs) in combination with the acquisition of TB3s could open up up entirely new possibilities for the Indonesian Navy.

[1] Endonezya Ankara Büyükelçisi Dr. Lalu Muhammad Iqbal: Türkiye ile Endonezya arasındaki savunma iş birliği artacak
[3] Philippine Navy Commissions New Ships in 118th Anniversary Celebration