An officer in Agency For Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) told Antara they have conduct the development for the newly Indonesian genuine made armoured combat tracked vehicle. They will made a reverse engineering for the vital component the Indonesian industry still don’t capable to produce such as gear transfercase. Do we really need a new self made tank?
PT Pindad (Army Industrial Company) made their first debut developed 100 wheeled armoured personnel carrier for Indonesian Armed Forces. Is it time for Pindad to the next level, to build a tracked fighting vehicle or maybe a battle tank? Pindad has involved in reparation program of Scorpion tank and they made some parts of it such as track rubber shoe and link. We don’t argue the capabilities of Indonesian strategic industries to build such a thing. But what kind of tank we need to build?
Indonesian army always operate the light tank weighing not more than 20 tones due to the limitation of our road infrastructure and the nature of Indonesian wet soil. TNI still operates AMX-13 and Scorpions, while Marine Corps rely on the old Sovyet era, the amphibious PT-76. They had acquire the more modern BMP-2 from Ukraine and still waiting for the delivery of 20 BMP-3F from Russia.
We don’t need to build a large 40 tones main battle tank (MBT) just because Malaysia, our nearest neighbour, had a division of PT-90, a copy of Russian T-72, bought from Poland. Malaysia deployed their main battle tank in Johor Bahru, a large industrial district covered with large highway and pavement that can sustain the vehicle monstrous weight.
Johor Bahru face directly to Singapore, former part of Malaya that declare independence in 9 August 1965. Theo Sjafei, former Army general joined the PDIP party said, Singapore has rapid action force capable to invade the whole Johor State within a week. It is the strong point to conquer the whole Malaya. Main battle tank likes PT-90 indeed being prepared to deter threat from Singapore.
Indonesia doesn’t face those kind of threat. The only possible land invasion could be from Malaysia’s North Borneo, Sabah and Serawak States. But they must cope with the Kalimantan’s dense forest and swamp, an environment not suitable for a main battle tank. The other land border is in Papua with the worse condition of mountainous terrain and the thickest tropical jungle.
Most of Indonesian terrain does not support the concept of main battle tank. Even the light tank still can only operates on the normal road if they don’t want to be stuck in the paddy field’s mud or swamp. Indonesian Army doesn’t need full scale MBT but it needs a special lightweight tank to sustain such MBT role, engaging any enemy’s MBT threat in the jungle, swamp, paddy fields or in the middle of palm plantation around Sumatera and Kalimantan island.
Alvis Scorpions seems an ideal tank for Indonesian tropical landscape. But its aluminum body cannot stand against armour piercing ammo from a heavy machinegun. It better serve as support gun platform, instead for the real frontline combat.
Before Scorpions, Indonesian Army rely on French AMX-13 light tank, weighing only 15 tones. AMX-13 was a remarkable big guns platform capable to carry long barrel 90-105 mm cannon. Israeli Defense Force found the best role by deploying AMX-13 as a tank buster in 1960s Arab War. Put AMX-13 on the high ground and smash all enemy’s tank far below. Thanks to its long range guns capable to destroy any Russian main battle tank deployed by Arab countries at the time.
Despite the success story, AMX-13 still cannot play MBT role. The old AMX-13 can only play as support gun platform, the same role as Scorpion. Besides, Indonesian AMX-13 still inherit old gunnery technologies. It must stop to shot precisely. Singapore Army upgrade their AMX-13 but still they are not fit for first tier frontline battle tank.
There are so many type of light tank weighing between 20-25 tones that might capable to play as lightweight MBT. Cadillac Gage and Textron Marine and Land System developed Stingray light tank weighed only 20 tones. It can carry British L7 105 mm rifled guns. Stingray armour could stand against heavy machinegun rounds up to 14.5 mm calibre. It seems one of the best pltaform for Army light tank. Our neighbour Thailand acquired 100 Stingray in 1988-1990.
Indonesia also can learn how Argentine acquire their TAM light tank. Realizing their lack capability to build their own tank, Argentine government asked Germany firm, Thyssen-Henschel, for helping them develop a light MBT suitable for Argentine terrain. Avoid to build from the scratch, Thyysen-Henschel use Marder APC hull as basic platform. They use Leopard 1 MBT style turret. And the result is 30 tones tank mounted with 105 mm cannon.