A senior legislator has expressed disappointment with the planned purchase of eight Apache attack helicopters from the United States, arguing that the Chinook heavy-lift chopper would be more suitable for domestic military operations.
Mahfudz Siddiq, chairman of the House of Representatives Commission I, overseeing defense and foreign affairs, said on Friday that legislators had long urged the Defense Ministry to purchase the twin-rotor Chinook.
“We at the commission have since last year been calling on the ministry to buy Chinook helicopters through an MFS [military foreign sales] scheme, on the grounds that the Chinook is a more versatile and multifunctional aircraft,” he said.
He argued that a large part of the Indonesian military’s work involved distributing relief supplies to disaster-hit regions, a task where the Chinook would be far better suited than the Apache, he said.
“We’re not disputing the need for attack helicopters like the Apache, but the priority should be the Chinook,” said the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) official.
“If the United States were willing to sell us both, we would be grateful for that.”
Mahfudz was responding to an announcement a day earlier by the US State Department that the United States would sell Indonesia eight Apache AH-64D helicopters, manufactured by Boeing, to strengthen security ties with the largest country in Southeast Asia and the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking during a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Washington, said that Congress had been notified of the intent to sell the aircraft.
“This agreement will strengthen our comprehensive partnership and help enhance security across the [Southeast Asian] region,” Clinton said.
The announcement of the helicopter sale came as Clinton and Marty wound up the third regular US-Indonesia joint commission meeting, with both saying that ties between the two countries had grown stronger over the course of the meetings.
President Barack Obama’s administration has sought to buttress defense ties with Indonesia as it refocuses its attention toward the Asia-Pacific region following long years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The United States has stepped up military cooperation with traditional allies such as the Philippines and Australia, and joined regional efforts to press China to accept a multilateral framework for solving flaring territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
US officials say the delivery of US hardware, including a fleet of F-16 fighter jets, will improve cooperation and information-sharing between the US and Indonesian militaries as they face common security threats in the region.
Additional reporting from Reuters
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa gave a joint press conference on Thursday at the State Department in Washington, where they announced the planned sale of Apache helicopters to Jakarta. AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards