Jakarta– The Indonesian Navy is financing a one-year study into the development of the country’s first locally-made missile as part of a programme to develop an indigenous defence industry.The first prototype of the missile is expected to be ready in 2006.
The Navy will be co-operating withthe National Aeronautics and Space Agency (LAPAN) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) on the project. The missile, which will have a range of up to 25km, will be called Sondakh, in honour of the Navy Chief of Staff.
"I'm making the project one of my priorities as we (the Navy) have been relying far too much on other countries to supply our weaponry. And given the embargo (imposed by the US and its allies), we can't even maintain our equipment," Navy Chief of Staff Bernard Kent Sondakh said after he and LAPAN President Mahdi Kartasasmita signed an MoU on the missile project on Feb 7.
“The missiles will be installed on our patrol boats and warships so that they will be able to defend our vast maritime territory. It must be underlined that the current project is far from being offensive. It is merely motivated by our defence interests," he added.
For years,Indonesiahas procured its defence equipment from theUnited StatesandFrance.Efforts to diversify potential supplier countries started recentlyafter the Indonesian Military (TNI) faced difficulties in securing military equipment following the imposition of an embargo by theUnited Statesin 1999. The embargo was in response to the mayhem inEast Timor– in which the TNI was allegedto have a role - during and after the independence vote there.
While theUSembargo remains in place, military ties between theUSandIndonesiahave been improving in recent months, especially since the Dec 26 tsunami tragedy. TheUShad sent more than 16,000 soldiers to Aceh to help in relief efforts.
"There was, quite frankly, a lot of suspicion when theUSmilitary first arrived," said US Navy Rear Admiral William Douglas Crowder, commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group. The Abraham Lincoln was the backbone of supply lines, delivering some 2.7 million kilogrammes of food, water and medical supplies to Indonesian tsunami victims.
But now “you can't help but feel the kinship that was built in the 35 days that we were there," Reuters quoted him as telling a seminar in Singapore on Feb 8, four days after leaving Aceh.
"The politicians will have to decide, but I think the scene is set for improved relations,” Rear Adm Crowder added.
* Navy goes ballistic over missile project (The Jakarta Post, Feb 9)
* US Navy commander says Indonesiaties improving (The Jakarta Post, Feb 9)