Struggling Indonesian carrier Merpati Nusantara Airlines has signed an agreement with state-owned aircraft manufacturer Dirgantara Indonesia for 20 C-212 turboprops.

The memorandum of understanding, inked in Jakarta on 19 July, is for the C-212-400 variant, says a Dirgantara spokesman when contacted.

He adds that the "contract should be firmed soon", but that no delivery schedule has been set for the 20 aircraft.

The 26-seat turboprop is priced between $6.5 million and $7.5 million.

A Merpati official says the C-212s will be used to expand the carrier's network in remote regions, including parts of Kalimantan and Papua. He adds that five of the aircraft will likely be delivered and put into service by year end.

Production and assembly of the -400s will all be done in Dirgantara's headquarters in Bandung, following a previous agreement to move the assembly line from Spain. The C-212-200 variant of the turboprop had previously been produced under a licensing arrangement with EADS' Spanish arm EADS Casa.

The carrier has two C-212-200 turboprops.

In May, Merpati had told Flightglobal that it could cancel plans to acquire 40 Comac ARJ21 and 10 Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jets as its new president-director Rudy Setyopurnomo mandated that all new aircraft purchases will be put on hold until load factors hit 90%.

Merpati signed a MoU with AVIC International for 40 ARJ21s at the Singapore air show in February, and was due to firm that up in the next two years.

The carrier also had plans to acquire the Superjet 100, but these were put on hold indefinitely because of Setyopurnomo's directive and partly as a result of the 9 May Superjet crash south of a Jakarta during a demonstration flight.

The Merpati spokesman was unable to give an update on the status of these two potential orders.

The state-owned carrier posted losses of Rp 750 billion ($82.5 million) last year, and also received an Rp516 billion equity infusion from the government to repay part of its debt, reduce cash flow deficit and improve its competitiveness.

The carrier has faced intense competition in recent years from privately-owned airlines that have grown rapidly. To cope, it has tried to shift its focus to operating feeder services in the remote eastern regions of the country

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news