Following on from the order placed by Kazakhstan for two aircraft in September, Airbus Defence and Space’s A400M airlifter program received another welcome boost on November 18 with the announcement of an order for two aircraft from Indonesia. At the same time the country’s defense ministry lodged a Letter of Intent to buy four more.
When the contract comes into effect next year, Indonesia will become the 10th nation to buy the A400M, and the second in Southeast Asia after Malaysia. The deal includes a complete maintenance and training support package. The Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU, Indonesian air force) will receive the aircraft in multirole transport and tanker configuration, not only boosting the nation’s airlift capabilities but also being able to expand its inflight refueling capacity, which currently relies on a single elderly KC-130B Hercules.
An effort to modernize and increase the TNI-AU’s transport capability was launched in 2018 in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Sulawesi. During the relief effort, the A400M was the first airlifter that could land on the damaged and short runway at Palu, bringing in vital excavators, fuel trucks, food, clothes, and medical supplies. Disaster relief was a prime consideration in the decision to buy the aircraft for the nation, which sits atop the “Ring of Fire” tectonic plate boundary.
“The A400M is a truly multi-role platform and will greatly enhance the Indonesian Air Force’s tactical air-to-air capabilities. This aircraft will play a key role in other key missions including paratrooping and heavy cargo transportation,” said Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s defense minister. “We are also looking at additional A400M acquisition in the near term, with future A400M developments such as firefighting an important capability we are exploring jointly with Airbus. The A400M will become a national asset and the cornerstone for human assistance and disaster response missions, beyond its tactical and air-to-air refueling capabilities.”
Currently, the transport fleet comprises C-130B/Hs and the KC-130B at Malang, C-130Hs at Ujung Pandung, and stretched L-100-30s (commercial Hercules model) and C-130H-30s flying from Halim Perdana Kusuma base in Jakarta. The A400Ms were originally to have been acquired by a commercial third-party operator and then leased to the TNI-AU as required, but that plan has been shelved in favor of a direct air force purchase. The airlift enhancement program has also seen Indonesia order five C-130J-30s from Lockheed Martin, with the first aircraft currently in build at Marietta, Georgia, with initial delivery expected sometime next year.