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Indonesian Small Arms Are Primed For Export

March 7, 2021
Via PT Pindad.

Indonesia’s special forces branch known as KOPASSUS trained with the SS2-V5 A1 carbine in late January as part of their kit modernization. The new small arm is an upgraded SS2 with new furniture and a combination of a side folding and retractable stock. Front and back flip sights are mounted on a length of rail above the receiver and extends the full length of the barrel assembly. The original SS2-V5, itself a shortened version of the TNI’s standard assault rifle the SS2, had a side folding metal stock and a carrying handle doubling as a sight like on the AR-15.

The SS2 represents a successful family of infantry small arms manufactured by the state-owned PT Pindad, which is mainly responsible for equipping Indonesia’s armed forces. Its predecessor the SS1 was a licensed copy of the Belgian FN FNC later adapted to both standard and short variants as well as a battle rifle chambered for 7.62x51mm ammunition. Deliveries of the SS2-V5 A1, itself chambered for ubiquitous 5.56x45mm ammunition, puts Indonesia’s military among the latest operators for new infantry carbines. Asia’s largest militaries are doing the same with locally made carbines and China’s own switch from the PLA’s familiar QBZ bullpup rifle is poised to be significant and very successful.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is indonesia-caracal-ceo-with-sniper-rifle-2021.jpg
The CEO of Caracal LLC is pictured holding an SPR-4 sniper rifle. Via PT Pindad.

PT Pindad’s military products, along with other offerings from national companies, are export approved although their success is elusive, if debatable. Still, a variety of proven models, such as the Anoa wheeled APC based on the French VAB, are being pitched abroad for militaries on a budget. PT Pindad’s infantry weapons and ammunition are getting the same treatment even when customers remain scarce. The main selling point for the SS2-V5 A1, along with its siblings, are familiarity and bulk; previous experience with NATO small arms and a need for the same in significant numbers suits PT Pindad’s export agenda although there’s serious competition from other Asian manufacturers.

To date, India, Iran, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and the UAE all have locally made carbines with modular features to either replace or complement the standard issue rifles of their armies. The biggest incentives for issuing modular carbines to ground forces is the widespread availability of their ammunition and the optics and gear that can be attached to the carbines depending on the operator’s needs. For special forces this often involves an optical sight matched with a suppressor and a foregrip to improve ergonomics. The SS2-V5 does have a detachable foregrip and a quad rail layout around its barrel assembly.

PT Pindad’s catalog of small arms is among the largest in the region and probably rivaled by Vietnam’s secretive state-owned factories. Besides the SS2-V5 A1 there’s an underbarrel grenade launcher, handguns, a heavy machine gun, a light machine gun, mortars, and munitions. Earlier this month PT Pindad welcomed the CEO of Caracal LLC, the leading gunmaker of the United Arab Emirates, in what looked like a scheduled visit to establish a bilateral agreement for transferring production technology. Caracal LLC does boast its own small arms catalog that includes a battle rifle, a marksman rifle, and a submachine gun. Its copy of the popular AR-15/M4 called the CAR 814 is issued to the UAE’s army.

The visit from Caracal LLC’s CEO follows PT Pindad’s foray into the IDEX 2021 arms show, where Indonesian companies occupied their own pavilion, that took place in Abu Dhabi from February 19 to 23. On March 5 the two entities, PT Pindad and Caracal LLC, signed an industrial cooperation agreement in Jakarta whose details weren’t shared to the public. But as such agreements go it usually means one of the parties will supply expertise or materials to enhance the partner’s output. It’s possible PT Pindad is offering its production line for ammunition to Caracal LLC since both have firearms catalogs reliant on NATO calibers. Caracal LLC’s own line of firearms is broad enough and supported by multinational partners anyway.

The extent of Indonesian and Emirati ties can’t be dismissed. Both countries are aspiring regional powers whose territories command vital maritime routes on either end of the Indian Ocean. (The Strait of Malacca for Indonesia; the Srait of Hormuz for the UAE.) For them to build cooperative agreements for their military industries is sensible and profitable in the long run.

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