Indonesia is a unique country, strewn about thousands of islands scattered across the sea. But it just introduced a long-awaited hybrid vehicle called a tank boat into its suite of defense craft.
Tank Boat can patrol 600 miles on one tank of gas, which is ideal for defending a nation scattered on islands. The vehicle can transport more than a platoon of Indonesian Marines, whom it can cover with a gigantic integrated turret.
Tank Boat started sea trials near the coast of Banyuwangi in East Java (opposite of Bali) on April 28, according to an Indonesian defense blog.
Tank Boat is designed for coastal skirmishes
A defense contractor in the country called PT Lundin sold the Tank Boat to Indonesia's Ministry of Defense, the latter of whom plans to buy a lot more units, if it proves effective. And, it just might. PT Lundin developed Tank Boat to excel in Indonesia's uncommon geography. The archipelago nation contains 253 million people living on 17,503 islands, and only 6,000 of them are inhabited. All in all the country has 61,567 miles (99,082 km) of coastline. That's five times the U.S. coastline's length.
And this makes the idea of defending Indonesia from a potential threat two-pronged: in the case of internal piracy, the military defends against organized crime syndicates using the country's wide array of islands as hideouts and staging areas for attacks. For external-defense scenarios, the country's defense forces would need to rapidly deploy troops from one island to another. The sweet spot for Tank Boat deployment is in something called "brown water" (no, not that kind) — coastal regions where the sea meets land. The vehicle uses a catamaran design, enabling a large crew and cargo haul without sacrificing stability in deeper waters, while also maintaining a draft of only 3 ft (roughly 1 m).
Indonesian Marines can travel hundreds of miles to win a battle with only weapons they bring with them
This is significant because a shallow draft means the boat can deliver troops from Indonesia's Marine Corps., called Korps Marinir. Twenty Marines can fit on the Tank Boat, which is 59 ft (18 m) long by 21 ft (6.4 m) wide. Tank Boat uses two 1,200-horsepower MAN engines, along with two waterjets. When the vehicle achieves high speeds, it uses a foil to elevate the hull, which reduces drag and increases its top speed to 40 knots. With a max range of 600 miles, the Tank Boat could travel from Boston to Washington D.C. on only one tank of gas.
Of course, plenty of other boats can do all of this. The definitive difference for Tank Boat is the titular one: it has a big turret developed for heavy fire support of dismounting troops (D-Day could have used this). Indonesian marines could move hundreds of miles to fight an uphill battle and win using only weapons they brought for the transit. In the case of the Tank Boat, that means bringing a Cockerill 105-millimeter gun firing anti-tank and high-explosive shells — in addition to potentially firing upward at a 42-degree angle, like a howitzer at target encampments.
This comes on the heels of a recent tragedy for the Indonesian Navy, which declared one of its submarines sunk with all hands in April, after pieces of debris resurfaced following an extensive and international search. Authorities said the German-built Nanggala-402 submarine was in prime condition when it was lost due to an internal wave. After such a sad incident, the Indonesian military could use a pick-me-up.