For those of us covering the world defence exhibition circuit, it’s not unusual to suffer such hardships as traffic jams, badly air conditioned halls and being unceremoniously dumped off stands when someone important arrives – which, given our lowly status (let’s face it, I’m never going to buy my own APC), is not infrequently.
Somehow IndoDefence manages to achieve all of this and more, but you can’t help being somewhat charmed by the experience. Jakarta is a hideous, sprawling mess of a city and the traffic has to truly be seen to be believed (never get in a taxi in rush hour and be prepared to stay wherever you are for the entire time it’s raining). But in all that mess you can see a country that is running at warp speed in the direction of modernity and democracy and for the world’s largest Muslim country shows what can be achieved.
The rapid growth of the country’s GDP (still running at steady 6% or so a year) has translated into an effort to modernise both the armed forces and the domestic defence industry. Probably the best story of the week for me (mainly because I got it first) was the tie up between PT Pindad and CMI Defence on development of the Badak direct fire armoured vehicle (I still can’t call them tanks).
The partnership between the two companies shows how the defence industry can operate at its best.
Saab has a similar ability to work closely with domestic companies and I wouldn’t rule out the Gripen in Indonesia quite yet, although probably the last thing the TNI-AU needs at the moment is to diversify its fleet further. Although to be honest these constant fighter battles that all the AvGeeks get excited about (yes I’m talking to you Ozzie) just make me yawn.
There was one misstep from one of the better operators in the region, the Turks, who were supposed to sign a partnership arrangement on developing a medium tank (although how anything of only 20 tonnes is a medium tank I don’t know).
However, at the last minute the head of Turkey’s SSM pulled out of attending. Whatever the motives of the change of heart it seems to have upset the Indonesians and may well have set that programme back – PT Pindad engineers had expected to almost immediately head out to FNSS to start discussing the project.
Either way, everything these and other national defence industries have in Indonesia (relationships, cultural awareness, willingness to compromise/partner etc), continues to be severely lacking for some.
As is often the case in this part of the world, the US presence was confined to a self-imposed ghetto in one corner of the exhibition hall. Why Americans seem so intent on flying to Asia to spend their time speaking to other Americans is beyond me – maybe they’ve discovered how to sell via mass telepathy.
The UK industrial presence was also, frankly, embarrassing, particularly for a government that continues to laud manufacturing and exports. Please, please can someone take some photos of how other countries do these things and plaster them to the lamp posts around Whitehall?
There is no doubt that there continues to be contracts to be won here in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region.
It is not the saviour of the general Western defence industry that everyone seems to think however. While US and UK companies were feasting on the fat of the protracted conflicts their governments got involved in during the 2000s, other countries were already looking in a different direction.
There is no doubt that they will be the biggest winner, which spells danger for some of the business strategies that have been put together in US and UK boardrooms in recent years.
Time to sign off from yet another defence exhibition for 2014 – my head of sales tells me that in some way, shape or form Shephard Media has been involved in more than 80 aerospace and defence events this year. So a big thanks to all those who’ve provided us with the news that makes the job.
Now, do I risk getting a taxi before 8pm or stay here in the Executive Lounge?