JAKARTA — Indonesia has signed a deal for the possible sale 24 utility helicopters from US weapons maker Lockheed Martin as the Southeast Asian nation continues to rebalance and strengthen its air force amid increasing rivalry between the United States and China in the region.
The agreement for the Sikorsky S-70M Black Hawk helicopters was by state-owned company PT Dirgantara Indonesia, also known as Indonesian Aerospace, and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky business.
The signing of “an agreement with Indonesian aerospace firm PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) to enter into a strategic partnership to pursue a sales agreement of up to 24 Sikorsky S-70M Black Hawk helicopters for the Republic of Indonesia,” was finalised during Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto’s visit to the United States to meet with defence and industry officials in support of Indonesia’s military modernisation and interoperability efforts.
“This agreement demonstrates our mutual interest with PTDI to provide S-70M Black Hawk helicopters to serve Indonesia’s security needs,” said Jeff White, vice president of Global Business Development at Sikorsky. “The Black Hawk is designed and built to the toughest military standards, and it can quickly and reliably deliver personnel and supplies to geographically-dispersed populations across a large archipelagic area such as Indonesia,” he said in a statement by Lockheed Martin.
“We are confident that this strategic cooperation between PTDI and Lockheed Martin will result in added values gained for PTDI’s capability in integration, customisation, modification and system upgrade for the helicopter’s completion,” said Gita Amperiawan, President Director at PTDI and added, “In addition, with the opportunity to become an official Sikorsky supplier, PTDI will also be able to expand its aerostructure business.”
Minister Prabowo, said the purchase could “increase the strength of Indonesia’s military.” The defence ministry did not give a value for the deal. PTDI’s Gita Amperiawan and Sikorsky’s Jeff White inked the documents.
Should the Black Hawk sale to Indonesia materialise, Lockheed Martin has reportedly indicated that it will involve production of the type at its PZL Mielec subsidiary in Poland, a facility that has already supplied Black Hawks to the Philippines.
First announced with the commercial name S-70i, the S-70M Black Hawk can be used in civilian missions such disaster support and firefighting. In December 2021, the S-70M received FAA airworthiness certification. Another country in the region, Brunei, operates S-70i Black Hawks.
The helicopter deal comes after Indonesia’s defence ministry and US airframe maker Boeing signed an agreement on the sale of 24 F-15 EX multi role fighter jets on Aug 21.
This is not the first time Indonesia’s PTDI has partnered with international airframe makers as PTDI has decades earlier entered into agreements with Bell Textron and Airbus Helicopters in the production, overhaul and maintenance of fixed wing and rotor-wing aircraft locally. Some of the helicopters it has assembled were the Bell 212 and Super Pumas.
Indonesia has increased its defence spending in recent years to modernise its armed forces. The combat air arm of its air force, Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU) includes US-made F-16 and Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 fighters.
In recent months, the country inked an order for 12 new drones from Turkish Aerospace worth $300 million, the latest in a series of purchases aimed at modernising the country’s ageing military equipment which include 12 used Qatari air force Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets in a US$800 million deal. Last year, Jakarta bought 42 Dassault Rafale new multi-role combat aircraft for US$8.1 billion. – shp/adj/mgm (Images: Lockheed Martin)