Aircraft Delivery Puts Indonesia-Philippines Defense Cooperation in the Spotlight

A recently complicated deal is testament to the opportunities and challenges that remain for both sides in the defense realm.

Aircraft Delivery Puts Indonesia-Philippines Defense Cooperation in the Spotlight
Credit: Philippine Air Force

Earlier this month, an Indonesian state-owned aircraft manufacturer finally delivered two aircraft to the Philippines. The delivery, which came after years of delays, put into focus the ongoing defense ties underway between Jakarta and Manila despite the obstacles that they continue to confront.

As I have noted before in these pages, as Indonesia tries boost the country’s local defense industry, it has been looking to export some equipment to neighboring states  (See: “An Indonesian Defense Revolution Under Jokowi?”). The Philippines has been one of these markets, with agreements for Indonesia to export aircraft and ships in the coming years as Manila looks to urgently boost its military capabilities.

One of the deals inked was between Indonesian state-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for two NC212i light utility transport aircraft. The NC212i, which represented an upgrade of the previous NC212, is equipped with several features such as a higher carrying capacity and digital avionics and next generation autopilot. The aircraft, which is entirely Indonesian-built, is designed for a variety of missions, including troop transport, maritime surveillance, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

When the deal was initially reached back in January 2014 for the delivery of the aircraft by late 2015, it was hailed as significant not just for its potential ability to help the Philippines realize its defense needs, but also because it represented the first such Indonesian aircraft ordered by Manila. But since then, a range of issues resulted in repeated delays in the delivery of the aircraft. This was the case even as other aspects of the deal, such as associated visits and the certification for PAF pilots, proceeded along the way.

The latest indications were that the aircraft were to be delivered during the first half of 2018. In February, Arie Wibowo, the director of production at PTDI, had said that aircraft would be delivered to the PAF by “this summer” after the certification was completed for the NC-212i’s Genesys Aerosystems S-TEC 5000 digital autopilot system. And in early June, PTDI had said in a statement that the two platforms would be delivered to the Philippines by the end of June, along with three others to Vietnam as well.

On June 14, there appeared to be confirmation that the two aircraft had been delivered to the PAF. According to IHS Jane’s, the twin-turboprop transports were photographed on June 14 after arriving at an airport near the Philippine capital of Manila. That followed earlier reports that had surfaced days prior that the aircraft had already been flown in before their formal receipt and subsequent commissioning.