Mon, 24 Jan 2000

Obselete armaments a cause of concern

By A'an Suryana

BOGOR (JP): Although Indonesia is not at war with anyone, the fact that the Indonesian Military's war equipment is obsolete draws concern from military officers, including those at the Jakarta Military Headquarters.

Journalists, who were invited to cover a joint basic military exercise for units under the Jakarta Military Command in Ciampea district last Thursday, were surprised to find two young corporals spraying grease from two pump spray canisters on an old anti-aircraft cannon S-60 57-caliber.

The move was taken to make sure the cannon would work well when it was fired in a demonstration for Army Chief Gen. Tyasno Sudarto, who was to brief middle-ranking officers.

The large cannon was made in the former Soviet Union in 1946, and has a shooting range of up to 12 kilometers.

Two middle-ranking officers, who conducted a final inspection before the arrival of Tyasno, told the two corporals to stop spraying.

"There is no need to cover up. If the cannon can't operate well, let it be. Our (military) capacity is like that," an officer, identified as Lt. Col. A.R. Effendi, yelled at the two corporals.

"How can we defend the country with that? We can't even defend Tanjung Priok seaport (in North Jakarta) with it," the other officer grumbled, as The Jakarta Post stood next to him.

The officer later said the cannon was not able to combat the latest military armament.

"For example, we have to shoot an enemy's F-16 jet fighter in a battle. While the missile is being shot out of the cannon's barrel, the plane has disappeared from sight," he said in a bitter tone.

"It is probably capable of shooting down an OV-10 Bronco warplane, which was produced about the same time," he added.

The OV-10 Bronco is a military plane bomber, which harvested its reputation during the Vietnam war in the late 1960s.

Two hundred and fifty middle-ranking military chiefs within the Jakarta Military Command took part in the three-day exercise, which ended on Friday.

Combat skill

The officers, with a minimum rank of platoon leader or subprecinct chief, were reintroduced to basic maneuvers to refresh their combat ability. They were also given lectures on human rights and illegal drug use.

The function exhibited various types of military devices, including equipment for deactivating bombs, heavy cannons, heavy and light machine guns and even military vehicles.

Most of the arms exhibited were obsolete and, among other things, there was a 12.7-caliber heavy machine gun, which was produced in the former Soviet Union in 1938.

Another weapon, a portable 7.76-caliber mountain cannon which was produced in the former Yugoslavia during World War II, was also displayed.

"This kind of cannon, with a maximum shooting range of 8 kilometers, was still being used in East Timor until last year," Second Lt. Prasodjo, an officer at the Jakarta Military Headquarters, said.

Officers blamed the obsolete military equipment on the high cost of new arms and on a limited military budget.

"One 5.6-caliber bullet of a FN-C light machine gun costs Rp 2,500 (30 cents)," Col. A. Rachman, chief of the Jakarta Military Command's Arms Division.

Another officer, Col. Irianto, said the state budget for military subsectors was limited from time to time.

"Since the New Order era, the military has received 6 percent of the whole budget, compared with the United States, which gets 26 percent," he said, while citing that neighboring countries abruptly protested when Indonesia planned to hike the military's budget.

Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono proposed a 62 percent hike in the military's budget last November.

Juwono said the hike was necessary to improve professionalism and ensure a corruption-free environment in the military.

Instead of increasing the budget, the government imposed a cut this year.

The 1999/2000 budget allotted Rp 11.6 trillion (1999/2000) for the military subsector, compared to only Rp 5.8 trillion for the draft budget of the 2000/2001 fiscal year introduced by the government on Thursday.

Jakarta Military Commander Maj. Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu said the military had no other choice but to accept the proposal.

"The military has always given in to the government since the New Order era. This year, our government is incapable of increasing the budget as the country is still in economic turmoil. What else we can do?," he said.

Gen. Tyasno said the military must prioritize its expenditures.

"Updating military equipment will need huge funds, but our government doesn't have money presently. We should prioritize our expenditures.

Don't be selfish," he said after briefing the officers.