Monday, 7 November 2022

The Key To Geography: Indonesia Lines Up To Buy Bayraktar TB2s And Akıncıs

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

After the recent success of Turkish unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) in Central Asia, all eyes are now set on the profileration of Turkish drones in Africa. [1] Tunisia has ordered the Anka UAS by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) while Morocco, Djibouti, Rwanda, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Togo and Burkina Faso have all received the Bayraktar TB2. Other Sub-Saharan African countries like Angola and Mozambique have hinted at an acquisition of the TB2. [2] More countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are almost certain to follow as the TB2 is arguably the first UCAV that manages to combine reliability and affordability with devastatingly effective results on the battlefield.
As drone buffs eagerly await any news of the next confirmed international TB2 sale, more countries are already lining up for the acquisition of Turkish drones in the meantime. In a November 2021 interview with SavunmaTR, the Indonesian ambassador to Türkiye Dr. Lalu Muhammad Iqbal revealed that Indonesia is ''discussing the possibility of obtaining UAVs from Türkiye'' and that Indonesia hopes that 'Türkiye will not only supply UAVs, but also participate in the technology transfer and programmes for different UAV types in the future', further adding that ''we are proud to see that Türkiye is being talked about all over the world on this subject.'' [3] A source who spoke to Janes at Indo Defence in November 2022 further confirmed Baykar is in talks with the Indonesian government regarding TB2 and Akıncı. [4]
Relatively few countries in Southeast Asia presently possess an armed drone capability. Only Indonesia and Myanmar have so far acquired UCAVs, with Thailand and Vietnam currently in the process of developing indigenous armed drones with help from abroad. [5] [6] [7] Malaysia is set to receive three TAI Anka medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs from Türkiye in the near future. [8] Though Malaysia isn't yet pursuing an armed drone capability, it might well end up arming its Ankas at some point in the future.

Indonesia for its part currently operates six CH-4B UCAVs acquired from China since 2019. This type fought off competition from the CAIG Wing Loong I and the Turkish Anka-S offered by TAI and PTDI. [8] Indonesia's CH-4Bs can be armed with air-to-ground missiles (AGMs) and have also been spotted with a communications relay or intelligence pod. [9] The country also pursued a domestic U(C)AV programme ran by PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI). [10] Known as the Elang Hitam (Black Eagle), this programme was still several years away from spawning an operational system until it was cancelled in September 2022 after facing developmental difficulties. [11]

The indigenous Elang Hitam (Black Eagle) MALE U(C)AV that was cancelled in September 2022.

Indonesia's unique geographical nature which has most of its population centers separated by seas poses significant challenges towards the defence of the country. The TNI are responsible for patrolling an archipelago of 17,000 islands that extend 5,150 kilometers from east to west. For this purpose, it operates large numbers of patrol craft and maritime patrol aircraft to keep tabs on illegal entries and activies occuring within its territorial waters. As it happens, Dutch colonial forces were once faced with the same question of how to best patrol the immense archipelago.
During the late 1930s the Dutch grew increasingly concerned about the security of the Dutch East Indies, a Dutch colony consisting of what is now Indonesia. Rather than building up a large naval force that would take at least a decade to design and construct, the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force instead came up with the aerial cruiser concept. [12] This concept called for the acquisition of large numbers of bomber aircraft and the construction of forward airstrips in every corner of the archipelago. In case of a Japanese invasion fleet nearing one of the Indonesian islands, large numbers of bombers could then be deployed to airstrips closer to the location of the threat.
For this purpose, the Dutch East Indies acquired 121 Model 139WH and Model 166 bombers (export versions of the Martin B-10) from the United States. Although already dated by the time they entered service in the late 1930s, these were the only types that could readily be acquired. This fleet was later strengthened by bomb-toting Dornier Do-24 flying boats and Douglas Boston bombers, six of which reached the Dutch East Indies before it fell to Japan. [12] Although the old Martins were envisaged to be able to outrun and outgun Japanese fighters, their design parameters were soon overtaken by new Japanese fighter designs like the A6M Zero. Nonetheless, the Martins scored some notable victories and their acquisition was in essence the only viable option to mount a defence of the archipelago.

The aerial cruiser concept could perhaps be brought back to life to meet Indonesia's modern defence requirements through the acquisition of the Bayraktar Akıncı, whose 7,500km range and 24+-hour endurance is more than sufficient to cover each corner of the Indonesian archipelago while based at a centrally located air base. Airports located on other islands could support their operations by acting as forward arming and refuelling points (FARPs), ensuring each Akıncı is never long without fuel and munitions. The Akıncı also comes armed with a variety of standoff weapons, including 275+-km-ranged (anti-ship) cruise missiles and 100+-km-ranged beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAMs), allowing it to mount offensive operations against land, sea and (to a limited degree) air targets.

Indonesia's 100+ airports and air bases that are capable of supporting the operations of unmanned combat aerial vehicles.

The use of manned combat aircraft as aerial cruisers by Indonesia is hampered by their shorter endurance, a lack of (enough) tanker aircraft and their significant acquisition costs. The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) currently operates a fleet of some 100 combat aircraft, including more than 30 F-16s and a dozen Su-30s. Other types include the Su-27, T-50, Hawk 200 and Embraer EMB 314 turboprop light attack aircraft. In February 2021, the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force revealed that the country intends to purchase the F-15EX and Dassault Rafale, likely putting an end to Indonesia's earlier plans to acquire the Su-35. [13] Indonesia is also a partner in the KF-X fighter programme with South Korea, although an actual acquisition of the aircraft by the Indonesian Air Force is all but certain. [14]

Used alongside this exotic inventory of combat aircraft are a number of guided weapon types. The Su-30MKIs can deploy Kh-31P anti-radiation missiles, Kh-59M and Kh-29TE TV-guided AGMs, the F-16s can be armed with up to 100 JDAM guided bombs acquired in 2019 and AGM-65 AGMs, which also arm the T-50 and Hawk 200. Indonesia's CH-4Bs use AR-1 and AR-2 AGMs. All but the AR-1/2 and AGM-65s are relatively poorly suited to provide effective fire-support to ground forces, forcing the TNI-AU to fall back on the use of unguided rockets and a variety of dumb bombs. Although the Indonesian Army (TNI-AD) has recently acquired attack helicopters armed with ATGMs, these are still lacking in numbers, with only eight AH-64Es and seven Mi-24s currently available for deployment in the entire country.

An Indonesian Su-30MKI parked next to most of the weaponry that can arm the type.

An F-16 with a full load of M117 dumb bombs.

Owing to Indonesia's enormous size and the sheer number of islands, the potential for synergy with artillery and multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) is limited. Considering the lack of ground-based fire-support assets that is to be expected during most military operations around the archipelago, airpower is a critical factor in any battle to be fought by Indonesia. A platform that can carry a hefty payload over a long distance is thus a prized asset. The Akıncı features a total of nine hardpoints under its wings and fuselage. The latter is to carry the heaviest ordnance ever cleared for carriage on a UCAV, comprising the 900kg weighing HGK-84 and the 275+-km ranged SOM cruise missile. 
Another crucial aspect that sets the Akıncı apart from other UCAVs is its future capability to carry air-to-air missiles (AAMs). The Akıncı's AESA radar enables it to locate targets at great range, and then engage them with Sungur AAMs, Bozdoğan IR-guided AAMs or 100+-km ranged Gökdoğan BVRAAMs. The armament suite of the Akıncı continues with an arsenal of precision-guided missiles and bombs that gives it long-range strike capabilities, while the carriage of more than 18 MAM-L munitions makes it an ideal asset for providing air support to ground forces. [15] While a possible acquisition of the Akıncı provides the TNI with a long-range strike asset, the smaller Bayraktar TB2 could meet an immediate requirement for additional UCAVs. The option to install satellite communitions (SATCOM) to the TB2 meanwhile means that its range is limited only by its 27-hour long endurance (without SATCOM its range is around 300km). [16]

The Indonesian ambassador to Türkiye Dr. Lalu Muhammad Iqbal clearly voiced his country's wish for Türkiye 'to also participate in the technology transfer and programmes for different UAV types in the future'. [3] Future collaboration could include an assembly and maintenance center for Turkish UAVs in Indonesia. The potential for military and technical cooperation between the two countries extends far beyond the UAV sector, with the Kaplan MT/Harimau medium tank project developed jointly between FNSS and PT PINDAD arguably serving as the best example of what both countries can achieve when they join forces. [17] In late 2021 it was further revealed that negotations had begun on the procurement of warships from Türkiye, while PTDI and TAI are already cooperating on the N-219 and N-245 turboprop passenger aircraft. [18] [19]

In 2012 Türkiye was still actively trying to procure armed drones from the United States to meet its own needs. [20] Only ten years later the number of countries that have ordered Turkish UCAVs stands at 27, 24 of which have ordered UAVs from Baykar Tech. [21] [22] Türkiye has proved that a country doesn't need to be a superpower with an unlimited R&D budget to accomplish impressive feats in the design of advanced technology. Whether Indonesia will acquire UAVs from Baykar or from another Turkish drone manufacturer, it seems that Turkish drones will end up playing a decisive role in Indonesian military capabilities.

[1] Turkish Drones Are Conquering Central Asia: The Bayraktar TB2 Arrives To Kyrgyzstan
[2] Taking Africa By Storm: Niger Acquires The Bayraktar TB2
[3] Endonezya Ankara Büyükelçisi Dr. Lalu Muhammad Iqbal: Türkiye ile Endonezya arasındaki savunma iş birliği artacak
[4] Indo Defence 2022: Baykar in talks with Indonesian government on Bayraktar TB2, Akinci UAVs
[7] Red Star Rising - Vietnam’s Armed Drone Project
[10] An Eagle Takes Shape – Indonesia’s Elang Hitam MALE UCAV
[12] 40 jaar luchtvaart in Indië by Gerard Casius and Thijs Postma
[13] Indonesia definitively closes the door on Su-35; wants Rafale and F-15EX
[14] South Korea rolls out first KFX jet prototype. Will Indonesia still reap benefits from it?
[15] Endless Possibilities - The Bayraktar Akıncı’s Multi-Role Weapons Loadout
[17] Ride The Turkish Tiger: Indonesia’s Kaplan MT Tanks
[18] Market Expansion: Turkey Set To Export Patrol Vessels To Indonesia
[20] Turkey hopeful that US will sell it armed drones
[21] Akıncı TİHA da katıldı, savunma sanayisi ihracatta yüksekten uçuyor  
[22] An International Export Success: Global Demand For Bayraktar Drones Reaches All Time High
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