Friday, January 22, 2016

Indonesia, Self-Reliance and Warship Production

Many say that producing a warship is as good as those who are commercial ones. However, it is not. It is much complicated and as well it needs long-term self-reliant posture planning. The good thing is, there are potential lessons to be learned as far as how Indonesia goes about developing its own self-reliant defense posture.


BRP Tarlac LD-601 of the Philippine Navy.
Source: Timawa Forums
BRP Tarlac was built by PT PAL shipyards. It is an Indonesian-owned shipyard. By contrast, most of the big Philippine shipyards are privately owned by foreign entities. What few domestically owned shipyards there are (Herma, Colorado Shipyards, etc) are smaller operations, with limited capacity. None of them have had experience in building warships, with the exception of Propmech and Philippine Ironworks, which jointly built the BRP Tagbanua. It would be interesting to see what the Indonesians did to get to the point where they are not only building their own warships, but now exporting them.


The other warship launched that day together with Philippine's SSV was a guided missile frigate which was built via a technology transfer arrangement with Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding of the Netherlands. Indonesia is only allowed to build these ships for their own use. They are not allowed to export them under the technology transfer agreement with Damen. However, it would be interesting to see what lessons the Indonesians will take away from this experience that they can apply to future warship construction. It would also be interesting to see what was the incentive for Damen to enter into such a technology transfer arrangement. 


Steel production is one of the starting points. Some steel is being produced in the Philippines, but not nearly enough to meet other construction needs, let alone for shipbuilding.

The other big industry that's lacking is the production of engines fo
r the ships. According to the 2 shipbuilding articles I posted above, the number of companies that produce propulsion systems for ships is zero. Zilch, Zip. Shipyards have to import those engines, and the biggest supplier right now is China.

The thing about the local shipbuilding industry is that it has obtained that number 4 ranking in the world mainly because of foreign companies setting up shop in the Philippines, and using imported steel and engines. But even though those companies are in the Philippines, they are mainly here because of whatever tax and economic incentives they can get, and because of the cheap labor. But they haven't been utilizing any technical engineering talent that might be in the country. And they haven't been taking steps to transfer any technical know-how to the Philippines. If all of these foreign companies decided to close all of their shipyards tomorrow, the Philippines would immediately cease to be a shipbuilding nation. Because all of the technical know-how and the management skills to manage a shipyard would be gone, and left behind would be empty shipyards and the cheap labor.

And so taking the next step to constructing warships.......first off, which of these foreign shipyards would want to build them? Most of them are happily making tons of money building simple civilian commercial vessels, without the BS you would have to put up with in constructing military spec vessels -- no complex designs, no extra quality control, no extra security up the ass in the shipyard. If you are thinking in terms of a Philippine-owned shipyard, then the question is who has the facilities and capability to build such a vessel. How much investment, government and/or private, do you need to sink into these locally owned yards to construct larger slipways and construction facilities? And the BS that a private yard owner would have to put up with when building vessels to military spec. Unless that the 
PH Govt decided to buy one of the foreign shipyards and follow the Indonesian model with proper support and as well stable source of resources, this thing will be reflected as the reality on our shipbuilding industry. Besides. these are formerly government-controlled after all.

KRI Martadinata FG-331 of Indonesia.
Source: Timawa Forums


Indonesia's success means something for self-reliance. The success of theirs gives us the insight as to the context of producing weapons that are meant to defend a nation against threats that will mean the survival of the nation like the archipelagic nations like the Philippines and Indonesia. Furthermore, it will help boost one's economy, as Indonesia for the first time exported a warship to a country like the Philippines. It is somewhat an achievement for the country and its citizens, and an inspiration for other nations like those of the Philippines, to do its own version of self-reliant defense posture.

With Notes from Edrick Masangkay


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