Sat, 15 Mar 2003

Navy to buy 22 new vessels

Muninggar Sri Saraswati The Jakarta Post Jakarta

The Indonesian Navy will spend most of its budget this year on the purchase of 22 new warships in a bid to improve its defense capability, chief of staff Adm. Bernard K. Sondakh said on Friday.

Bernard said the purchase would be possible due to an increase in the Navy budget to Rp 700 billion, the lion's share of the state budget allocation to the Indonesian Military.

"The Navy will improve its performance in combating smuggling, poaching and piracy in Indonesian waters," Bernard said after swearing in Rear Adm. Mualimin Santoso as the new commander of the Navy's Western Fleet, replacing Rear Adm. Djoko Sumaryono.

Djoko will have a new job as assistant to the TNI chief for planning and budgetary affairs.

The warships on the shopping list include eight corvettes, two submarines, three landing tank ships and four patrol ships. Currently, the Navy has 117 ships, only 30 of which are operational.

Bernard said that the Navy had received tenders from warship- producing countries South Korea, the Netherlands and France.

"But the Navy will choose a foreign company that is willing to help us develop our shipbuilding industry as we intend to produce our own vessels in the future," he said.

At present, Indonesia is designing its first warship, expected to set sail on Aug. 17, 2005. The warship will be jointly made by state ship company PT PAL, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (LAPAN), ammunition producer PT Pindad and privately owned PT Texmaco, Bernard said.

The Navy, he said, had also allocated some of this year's budget to repair 14 of 39 warships bought from the former East Germany.

Indonesia bought the warships from East Germany in 1993. The government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on buying the ships, most of which turned out to be unseaworthy.

"We won't buy used vessels as we did in the past," Bernard asserted.