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Indonesia signs letter-of-intent to buy Airbus A400M transport aircraft

Indonesia signed a letter-of-intent (LoI) to procure A400M Atlas transport aircraft from Airbus Defence & Space (Airbus DS) on March 29.

As per Reuters, the LoI was among several agreements signed by the Indonesian and French governments. The LoI essentially sets the framework for technical and commercial negotiations, which may include work for Indonesia’s defence industry, such as assembly.

Defense Aerospace reports that Indonesia could procure four A400Ms. In January, IHS Jane’s reported that Indonesia approved a U.S. $2 billion budget for five A400M.

However, the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) commander, Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo responded to those reports by asserting that the TNI did not yet decide on procuring the A400M.

The A400M can lift a payload of up to 37 tons, which it can ferry to a range of up to 3,300 km. Indonesia has been seeking a new transport to gradually supplant its aging Lockheed Martin C-130s.

The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) uses the C-130 to transport cargo to Indonesia’s farthest islands as well as engage in frequent humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) missions.

If a deal is finalized, it would make Indonesia the second A400M user in the Asia Pacific region, joining the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF). The RMAF recently took delivery of its fourth A400M. Kuala Lumpur is now pining to become the regional maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) hub for the A400M.

Notes & Comments:

Airbus DS is marketing the A400M as a versatile transport system, one capable of strategic airlift, tactical transport, and air-to-air refuelling (as a tanker). In terms of payload, the A400M sits between the C-130J and Boeing C-17. Airbus DS’ messaging seems to position the A400M as a complete solution, one capable of providing air arms with the capabilities of multiple platforms in one aircraft.

It is certainly costlier than its smaller competitors (e.g. KC-390), but the Atlas has a markedly heavier payload, which can be used to ferry large vehicles and helicopters. This can be a competitive edge (albeit, for those in need of strategic airlift capabilities). However, the A400M is still fraught with uncertainty. The Atlas’ launch customers have been facing technical delays and cost overruns.

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