TNI to acquire unmanned spy plane in 2012

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia`s National Defense Forces (TNI) will acquire an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft (UAV) from Kital Philippine Corp in 2012, Deputy Defense Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said.

"It will be a brand new aircraft and be delivered this year," Sjafrie said at the Defense Ministry here Thursday.

The spy plane would have the capability of cruising over a distance of 200 km for 15 hours, he said.

The order for the plane was placed with Kital Pilippine Corp as part of a 2004 military hardware procurement program and the relevant contract was signed in 2006. The defense ministry had already done a technical examination of the plane.

Indonesia badly needed the plane for intelligence operations although it could also be used for other purposes such as weather forecasting, he said.

The TNI had actually called a tender for four UAVs for its Strategic Intelligence Service (BAIS) as early as 2006. The tender was won by Searcher Mk II through a Philippine company, Kital Philippine Corp.

To finance the aircraft`s purchase at the price of six million US dollars per unit Indonesia had already obtained the export credit backing of Leumi Bank of Britain and Union Bank of the Philippines.

But because of strong criticism from the House of Representatives at the time, the program was put on hold.

Indonesia for the first time used a borrowed UAV in 1996 to trace the whereabouts of a foreign researcher taken hostage by OPM (Free Papua Organization) rebels in the Mapenduma region in Papua.

The Israeli-made Searcher Mk II UAV was loaned by Singapore. (*)

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