Indonesia tests Spanish Alpha A900 helicopter UAV for artillery and coastal defense

On March 18, 2024, the Indonesian Government proceeded with trials of the Spanish Alpha A900 fuel-powered helicopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at Husein Sastranegara International Airport in West Java. The focus of these trials was to assess the UAV’s performance in target detection and its potential role in supporting field artillery operations.

These trials, which saw participation from the Chief of the Army Artillery Center, along with the Directors of Equipment, Training, and Material and Equipment, are part of an ongoing assessment regarding the potential use of the Alpha A900 UAVs by the Indonesian Coast Guard to monitor maritime sectors and identify anomalies within Indonesian territorial waters. This aligns with the UAV’s potential role in the Indonesian Medan Artillery System, enhancing target identification and location for forward observers.

The application of UAVs like the Alpha A900 by Indonesian maritime services, including the Indonesian Maritime Security Agency (BAKAMLA), reflects a shift towards using unmanned systems for maritime surveillance and interdiction tasks. This transition is viewed as an alternative to the more traditional, and often costlier, shipborne helicopter capabilities. The use of UAVs is expected to affect the allocation of maritime security resources and the operational engagement of Indonesian Navy vessels, particularly in relation to the nation’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.

The integration of the Alpha A900 into the Indonesian military’s resources is aimed at evaluating its comparative effectiveness and technical capabilities against existing UAVs previously developed by the Army Artillery Center’s R&D division. This step is part of a broader effort to review and potentially upgrade the current artillery systems in line with modern operational requirements.

The A900, originating from the Spanish company Alpha Unmanned Systems and set to be assembled in Indonesia in partnership with local companies PT. Global Defense and PT. MS.Tech, is under scrutiny for several technical specifications that are deemed important for its intended operational role. It is equipped to handle operations in challenging maritime conditions, capable of performing automatic landings on moving vessels under sea states 4 or 5 of the Beaufort Scale and managing landings with up to 10º of pitch and roll. The UAV is designed with autorotation and flotation devices for emergency scenarios.

The A900 features protection against electromagnetic interference, an onboard generator supplying up to 150W for payloads, a laser altimeter, and navigation lights. Furthermore, it includes technology for operating in GPS-denied environments, while its control station ensures encrypted communications.

Regarding its capabilities, the A900 offers autonomous Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) from moving vessels, more than two and a half hours of autonomous hovering, and is powered by heavy fuel for extended usage. The UAV maintains a minimal logistical footprint and is equipped with four payload bays, each supporting a 4kg capacity. For safety and operational reliability, it features autorotation, a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of less than 25 kg, a cruising speed between 60 and 100 km/h, emergency flotation devices, a Boxer low vibration engine, and redundant systems for critical operations. These characteristics make the A900 adaptable for varied missions, including Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR), border control, maritime security, search and rescue operations, infrastructure inspection, communications relays, and forward observation.

Source: Army Recognition

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