Jakarta. Air Force chief of staff Air Marshall Agus Supriatna on Monday defended his plan to import three helicopters for the president and visiting heads of state and not use locally-made aircraft, saying the Air Force already has a list of complaints against state-owned aerospace and defense firm Dirgantara Indonesia.
The four-star officer said the Air Force ordered six Super Cougar helicopters from Dirgantara in 2012 but the firm failed to meet the deadline.
“The Cougar [helicopters] were supposed to be delivered in May 2015,” he said on Monday. “So the contract [with Dirgantara] was amended and the deadline extended.”
Agus also dismissed claims he was being "unpatriotic" with the plan to buy three AW101 helicopters from Anglo-Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland, saying that Dirgantara helicopters, including the AW101 equivalent Super Puma, were made under license from foreign manufacturers.
The Super Puma is under license from France’s Aérospatiale.
“How can DI manufacture helicopters and airplanes in the first place? They buy the license from foreign countries. DI is not capable of producing [helicopters] on its own,” he said.
The remarks were immediately slammed by Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician Tubagus Hasanuddin, who pointed to the fact that the Air Force owns a stake in Dirgantara, with the chief of staff serving as its chief commissioner.
“As a chief commissioner, the Air Force chief of staff should be out there promoting [Dirgantara] to the world,” he said.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Monday joined the chorus of condemnation against the $165 million import plan, calling it “excessive.”
Kalla earlier said President Joko Widodo never proposed for the Air Force to buy new VVIP helicopters. The vice president said Joko would discuss the much-criticized plan after returning from the UN Climate Change Summit (COP 21) in Paris.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Panjaitan said Joko may order the Air Force to buy Dirgantara helicopters instead of their more costly imported counterparts, or cancel the purchase entirely.