Conflicting reports about Bronco’s replacement, but Super Tucano is probable

By Mike Whaley

Recently, various articles have appeared concerning the plan to replace Indonesia’s fleet of OV-10 Broncos within the next three years, alongside other aging American aircraft. Fueling the Indonesian’s desire to seek non-western aircraft and weapons systems is recent history. Prior to East Timor’s independence from Indonesia in 2002, the US answered widespread repression, genocide, and other human rights abuses with an embargo of aircraft parts destined for Indonesia. While the embargo was lifted in 2005, the effects were lasting and degraded the operational effectiveness of the fleet. In addition, UK intervention against using some of the arms that country had supplied has apparently made the Indonesian government keen to find non-western arms suppliers. The Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU), or Indonesian Air Force, would also like to replace their fleet of Hawk Mk.53 jet trainers, but after some discussion have now appparently decided to divorce the two programs and replace each airframe with dedicated aircraft.
However, just what aircraft will replace the Bronco is still up in the air. It was reported last year that they were looking at Chinese and Russian airframes, however it seems that for the Bronco replacement at least, the Brazilians are now the apparent front-runners. The article “Air Force to purchase 16 Super Tucano fighters” from the Jakarta Post on Jan. 24, 2010 states that the Broncos will be replaced by Brazilian-made Embraer Super Tucanos, which are in widespread service in several countries in the COIN role. This article states:

“The Indonesian Air Force plans to purchase a squadron of 16 warplanes widely known as Super Tucanoes to replace the OV-10 Bronco aircraft, which have been in service for more than three decades, says Air Force Chief Marshal Imam Sufaat. … ‘The purchase is part of our effort to improve the Air Force’s weaponry system. We have proposed the purchase to the government with the hope that they will grant the funds,’ he said in Yogyakarta on Saturday.”
Media reports from Brazil’s Investe Sao Paulo in Oct. 2009 indicated that Indonesia had already signed agreements to buy 8 Super Tucanos.

Previous articles (from late 2009) had indicated that Indonesia desired to obtain replacement aircraft from Russia and China, however it appears that this route may now be much more likely to happen with the Hawk’s replacement than that for the Broncos.

An excellent analysis on the situation has been published at Defense Industry Daily on Jan. 25, 2010, entitled “Indonesia Looking for Trainer/Attack Aircraft“. They state:

“There are conflicting reports regarding the presence of a signed Super Tucano contract. If there is no contract, and the Super Tucano sale falls through for any reason, Indonesia would have several options. They could default to a common jet solution for the Hawks and OV-10s, or begin work with a foreign country like China or South Korea to modify an existing aircraft as their OV-10 replacement, or buy a ready-made Super Tucano alternative. Other propeller-driven FAC/COIN options already in the market include Hawker Beechcraft’s AT-6B (modified T-6 trainer, in development, tentatively ordered by Iraq), and the cheaper, sturdier AC-802u Air Tractor (modified and armored crop duster/ firefighter, prototype produced). Both are American products. Korea’s KO-1 Woong Bee armed derivative of its KT-1 trainer is reportedly in limbo, but Indonesia has reportedly already bought some KT-1s; if true, this could make the KA-1/KO-1 a joint development option for the 2 countries.”Will religion shoot down the Super Tucano?

NOW, here’s where it gets weird: A potential stumbling block to Indonesia’s adoption of the Super Tucano is the Muslim world’s refusal to do business with the Jewish state of Israel. Indonesia is the most populous Islamic country on Earth. As it turns out, the Super Tucano’s integrated avionics and weapons management systems are manufactured by AEL… which is the Brazilian subsidiary of Israel’s Elbit Systems. Should the TNI-AU choose to buy the Super Tucano, but refuse to accept the Israeli-developed heart of the airplane’s systems, they will be forced to face significantly higher costs and longer development times… and it’s clear that the country will struggle to find funding for these aircraft in the first place. Moreover, they will likely have to turn to US manufacturers such as Rockwell-Collins for the replacement systems, which brings them back to worrying about future technological embargoes by the West… a primary factor in their desire to replace their existing weapon systems in the first place! It will be interesting to see where this one goes.