Heru Andriyanto, Yeremia Sukoyo, Jakarta – The Indonesian Military needs to modernize its defense system and do it as soon as possible, especially after two military aircraft crashed within days of each other, an expert said on Monday.
The comment came only hours after an Air Force single-seater fighter jet went down in a village in Kampar district, Riau province.
The British-made Hawk 209 jet was on a training mission from the Roesmin Nurjadin Airbase in Pekanbaru when it crashed at 8.13 a.m., the Air Force said.
The pilot, identified as Apriyanto Ismail, rescued himself on an ejection seat and landed safely by parachute. There is no report of casualties or injuries on the ground.
The accident occurred only nine days after a fatal Army helicopter crash in the Central Java town of Kendal killed five of nine personnel on board.
"Seeing our military planes crash not during wartime is certainly not nice. Other countries are watching us very closely," said Muradi, the chairman of Padjadjaran University's School of Security and Political Studies.
"These accidents should offer momentum [to the Indonesian Air Force] to replace their aging aircraft. The government must speed up efforts to acquire or manufacture new and more competitive aircraft," he said in Jakarta.
The Air Force did purchase "two squadrons" of American made F-16 Block 72 Viper fighters, according to then Air Force chief of staff Yuyu Sutisna in October last year. The first delivery of the American jets is expected later this year.
The Air Force was also in talks with Russia to acquire Sukhoi Su-35 jets, Yuyu said at that time. His successor, Fadjar Prasetyo, has not commented on the matter since he was installed on May 20.
Muradi said aging weaponry system not only hampers Indonesia's readiness and responsiveness in facing global security challenges, but also puts men and women in service at risk.
"The ill-fated Hawk has been in service since 1995 and I'm not even sure if we bought it brand new from the UK," Muradi said. "This aircraft shouldn't have been allowed to fly today," he said.
The Air Force has a total of 24 fighter jets manufactured by British Aerospace, comprising eight Hawk 109s and 16 Hawk 209s. They are stationed in the West Kalimantan capital of Pontianak and in Pekanbaru.
While aircraft procurement takes years to materialize, a thorough audit on the weaponry system can start without delay to prevent future accidents, according to Willy Aditya, a lawmaker with the House of Representative's defense commission.
"An audit on our defense system is a matter of urgency right now. All defense equipment and system in the TNI, including military aircraft, must be reviewed to see if they are still compatible with current conditions. The double accidents in recent days must caution us all," Willy said.
"I think the House will approve an extra budget for the weaponry system if it comes out from a comprehensive audit, which should also involve investigations of recent accidents," he added.
Willy warned quite a number of Hawk jets and MI-17 helicopters – the type that crashed in Central Java on June 6 – are still in service. An audit is necessary to make sure if they are safe, or unsafe, to fly.
"We need to know the cause of both accidents. If necessary, those aircraft should be grounded until an investigation is concluded," Willy said.