Despite Financial Constraints, Indonesia Continues to Slowly Modernize its Defenses
Indonesia, although a considerable distance from being a state capable of projecting power, has begun to bring greater focus to its strategic situation, and, at the same time, it is moving toward a consolidation of the Yudhoyono era.
Even absent a blue water/blue skies military projection, continued movement along these paths seems set to give Indonesia greater brown water defensive control over the vast Indonesian island empire, and make it a more significant gatekeeper of the South-East Asian straits linking the Indian and Pacific oceans at a time when those straits are historically becoming more important.
The significant manpower numbers which the Indonesian Armed Forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia: Indonesian Armed Forces, TNI) have maintained historically, since World War II, have been primarily for domestic security purposes. They have to a large extent operated dysfunctionally, although they have often included high-performance units.
The situation, however, began to change during the Presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which began in October 2004 following the nation’s first direct Presidential elections, and greater cohesion, balance, and purpose is now beginning to appear in the TNI. Even though the Indonesian Presidency has become more constitutionally constrained and answerable to the Legislature than in than the Sukarno and Suharto eras, Pres. Yudhoyono has begun to build a distinct new ethos within government, and the TNI, and has begun what could pass for an embryonic dynasty without visibly curbing Indonesian movement toward greater democracy.
The Yudhoyono Adminitration, on December 18, 2009, announced that Maj.-Gen. Pramono Edhi Wibowo, the younger brother of First Lady Ani Yudhoyono, had been inaugurated as the Siliwangi Military commander, overseeing West Java and Banten, a post seen as a stepping stone to the Army’s highest seat. The move followed the inauguration in September 2009 of Lt.-Gen. George Toisutta, a close aide to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as the Army Chief of Staff, sparking rumors of a wider reshuffle to set up allies of the President in key TNI positions.
Maj.-Gen. Pramono’s move from chief of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) to Siliwangi commander is giving credence to speculation that he may go on to higher posts, including chief of the Army’s Strategic Command (Kostrad) and even Army Chief of Staff. Lt.-Gen. George was previously the Siliwangi commander and Kostrad chief before becoming Army Chief of Staff, widely seen as the ultimate career path to becoming the TNI — that is, the overall Armed Forces — chief.
Maj.-Gen. Pramono, a 1980 graduate of the Military Academy, is the first from his year to assume the rôle of territorial commander, with the previous Siliwangi commander, Maj.-Gen. Rasyid Qurnuen Aquary, graduating in the 1975 batch. [Maj.-Gen. Rasyid, meanwhile, was named the assistant to the TNI Commander on intelligence affairs.]
With Pres. Yudhoyono’s other family member, Lt.-Gen. Suryo Prabowo, serving as deputy to the Army Chief, all military chiefs would soon fall under the President’s control.
After serving as Siliwangi commander, it would be easier for Maj.-Gen. Pramono to head up Kostrad then the Army, finally becoming the TNI Commander.
The ultimate goal is to smooth the way for the rise through the ranks of Capt. Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the President’s oldest son, to groom him as the country’s next leader.
Pres. Yudhoyono is not eligible to run for the Presidency in 2014, so the next two years should be expected to see Pramono promoted to a three-star general, then on to become Kostrad commander, and then to become the Army chief of staff.
What is clear, though, is that Pres. Yudhoyono is moving more carefully in building his legacy than the late Pres. Suharto, whose installation of relatives within key Armed Forces and governmental slots was accompanied by significant abuse of power. The President is clearly aware that then-Pres. Suharto’s son-in-law, Lt.-Gen. Prabowo Subianto, had been commander of Kopassus special forces and the Kostrad strategic command forces, but within days of the fall of Pres. Suharto in 1999, Gen. Prabowo’s military career was over.
Meanwhile (and apart from the positioning of presidential family members to secure key posts), the TNI, for the first time, has begun to show signs of more balanced development with the difficult goal (because of budget constraints) of achieving greater regional influence, although it has little or no capability to project sustained or strategic-level power outside its borders. Moreover, while it is clear that the Army remains, at its core, a domestic force, and the TNI Air Force (TNI AU: Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara) is hampered in its ambitions by high capital cost requirements, the TNI Navy (TNI AL: Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Laut) would be a significant and initial component of Indonesia’s ability to project any capability (including shared sea control duties) regionally.
The Indonesian media, for example, reported on December 31, 2009, that the Indonesian Navy was ready to modernize its fleet of vessels and aircraft in 2010 as part of its effort to fulfil the minimum essential force (MEF) capability required by the Government. Navy Chief of Staff Vice Adm. Agus Suhartono said at a press conference on December 30, 2009, that the MEF concept had been designed to fulfil core duties and ensure the existence of certain capabilities to face threats in defending the state ideology and territorial integrity, protecting the nation’s honor and safety, and enforcing the law in Indonesian waters when a threat may be larger than the available force.
VADM Agus said that the Navy had three strategies to reach the MEF capability: to procure new weapons systems by prioritizing domestic strategic industries; increasing the capabilities of existing systems; and phasing out systems which were no longer effective. He noted: “We will be procuring corvettes, landing ship tanks [LSTs], missile-equipped fast boats [KCR], [a] trimaran KCR and training ship. As for aircraft, a contract has been signed to procure three CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft.”
The Navy would replace the German-built sail-training barquentine, KRI Dewa Ruci, which entered service in 1953, with a new and longer (at 105m LOA) tall ship as a training vessel for Naval Academy cadets.
VADM Agus also said that 35 Russian-made BMP-3F amphibious infantry fighting vehicles would be deployed by the Indonesian Marines in 2010. These had been proposed to be ordered in late 2008, alongside a $1-billion loan package from Russia which was to include Mil helicopters and two Kilo-class submarines.
The TNI Navy Chief of Staff also said that the President had, despite the Government’s financial condition, indicated that the Navy could expect to purchase two submarines in 2014. VADM Agus also highlighted the return to taxpayers by investing in the Navy, saying that the Navy managed in 2009 to stem some Rp 13.8-trillion (some $1.5-billion) in potential State losses by preventing illegal activities, slightly more than 2008’s figure of Rp 13.7-trillion. He said Rp 2.4-trillion was saved from illegal fishing, Rp 52.4-billion from illegal logging and Rp 11.3-trillion from various other actions, including policing illegal trafficking in commodities such as granite, coal, tin, fuel, cement, sand, and crude palm oil.
He noted the TNI Navy’s deployment of personnel and task forces to UN missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lebanon, Nepal and Somalia. The Sigma-class KRI Diponegoro has served a six-month monitoring mission under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s Maritime Task Force, and the proposed deployment of d KRI Frans Kaisiepo to Lebanon. [The Sigma class corvette is the most modern element in the TNI AL fleet, consisting of four new-build Royal Schelde corvettes ordered from the Netherlands in January 2004 for delivery beginning late 2006. The third of the class was delivered in November 2008. The vesels are 1,692 ton disp., 90.71m LOA, and are fitted with MM-40 Exocet block II SSM, two quad MBDA Mistral TETRAL SAM, OTO-Melara 76mm main gun, and two torpedo launchers.]
Earlier, on December 21, 2009, VADM Agus had said that the TNI Navy would continue equipping with Chinese (PRC) C-802 cruise missiles, but was also negotiating to acquire C-705 missiles. "Both types of missile will be added to the armament of the Navy`s fast patrol boats and Van Speijk (class) warships," VADM Agus said, noting that Indonesian manufacturers were still unable to produce such systems, although State-owned shipbuilder PT PAL was capable of integrating the systems onto TNI Navy warships. [All six ships of the Van Speijk class, built in the 1960s for the Royal Netherlands Navy as the Dutch variant of the successful Leander-class British design, were sold to the TNI AL in 1986-89 and are still in service (as of 2006) as the Ahmad Yani class frigates.]
"Our main priority now is security in sea border areas and the outer islands of Indonesia," he said, adding that the navy would also replace some 27 of its warships with newer types and better combat capabilities. VADM Agus had previously said Indonesia’s Western waters were prone to various maritime crimes such as smuggling, human trafficking, and poaching. Indonesia has had difficult issues on all of its sea borders with India, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia, he said, adding that the TNI Navy now conducted routine patrols in the Indonesian western waters with its counterparts from India, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. This had led to a significant drop in the maritime crime rate in the western waters, particularly in the Malacca Strait.
The TNI AL will also construct a new corvette at PT Pindad’s dock as well as another Landing Ship Tank (LST). The modernizing of the TNI AL’s landing craft fleet with LST and larger LPDs also highlights the Navy’s continuing domestic mission. On January 2, 2010, for example, the Indonesian Marine Corps deployed 130 personnel from 1st Marine
Force’s 1 Marine Infantry Battalion in Surabaya for security duties in the Ambalat Block region. The 130 marines from X Ambalat Task Force, led by First Lieutenant Imam Syafi’i, boarded KRI Teluk Lampung-540 in Surabaya that day, to replace IX Ambalat Task Force
comprised of personnel from 3 Marine Infantry Battalion, operating on Sebatik Island (Nunukan District, East Kalimantan), near the border with Malaysia.
Meanwhile, on December 18, 2009, it was reported that Rear Adm. Marsetio was promoted to lead the TNI AL’s Western Fleet (Koarmabar) replacing Rear Adm. Soeparno. RADM Marsetio is a 1981 graduate of the Naval Academy and an Asia Pacific Strategic Studies 2007 graduate who served as Navy Combat Force Eastern Fleet Command chief-of-staff in 2004.
At the same time, the TNI AL confirmed the long-expected plans to retire six warships and finally ground its 21 Australian-built GAF N-22 Nomad surveillance aircraft, following a spate of accidents with the ageing aircraft. The Nomads would be replaced by Indonesian-built CN-235 twin-engine aircraft. The TNI AL air wing would, however, retain six Nomads as training aircraft for cadets. The TNI AL It entered an $80-million to purchase three CN-235 maritime patrol aircraft from State-owned aircraft maker PT Dirgantara Indonesia (DI) to replace the Nomads. VADM Agus said that PT DI would develop a more sophisticated surveillance aircraft for the Navy, presumably based on the CN-235 airframe, adding anti-submarine acquisition and weapons capabilities.
VADM Agus, however, said that the TNI AL had not decided whether to replace the six US-built warships, which have been in service for more than 20 years.
On December 28, 2009, The Jakarta Post published a major report, entitled “The rise of the Indonesian strategic industry”. The report noted:
A few weeks ago, Indonesia’s minister of defense officiated the launching of the new Landing Platform Dock (LPD) built by PT PAL for the Indonesian Navy. It marked a new beginning for PT PAL, the largest Indonesian shipyard located in Surabaya, East Java, after having been successful in developing various non-military ships, such as 50,000 ton cargo vessels, large oil and chemical tankers and passenger ships.
In the area of military combat ships, PT PAL has successfully developed various smaller craft such as Fast Patrol Boats in different sizes.
The development of the Landing Platform Dock has been done in conjunction with similar production in Dae Sun Shipyard, Busan, South Korea, which developed two out of four LPDs for the Indonesian Ministry of Defense through the export credit extended by the Korean financial institution.
The export finance was later on extended to PT PAL to develop the remaining two LPDs. PT PAL, under the technical assistance from Dae Sun, has succeeded in building the first ship, and in the process of building the second ship.
The development by PT PAL was done with several refinements in its design. The LPD built by the Korean could accommodate three helicopters in its deck, while the LPD built by PT PAL is able to accommodate five helicopters.
In addition, the refinement in its shaft enabled the ships to improve the speed from 15 knots to 15.4 knots.
The achievement is going to be followed by the development of Sigma-class corvettes and also Guided Missiles Ships currently on the drawing board.
Currently, the maintenance and overhaul of the Sigma-class corvettes is also being done by PT PAL.
The two types of ships are within the capacity of PT PAL to develop.
Another ambition, which is currently enabled by the success in developing the 50,000 tons of cargo ships, is in the form of the building of Helicopter Carriers. In a later stage, PT PAL is also developing submarine building capability.
The rise in the Indonesian shipyard industry is also followed by the rapid development of the Indonesian aerospace industry.
Long time in neglect, the Indonesian aerospace company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI), a metamorphosis of PT. IPTN, has shown its resilience and in fact has shown significant revival.
Recently, the Korean military signed a contract ordering four CN 235-110 MPAs, turboprop aircrafts for the military patrol. The Korean military have acquired these aircraft before, so they have experience using the aircraft.
In fact, this purchase was done after a tight tender process which involved American, Spanish and Israeli aircraft manufacturers. In addition, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense has just issued an order for three similar planes for the Indonesian Navy. These planes, as part of a planned bigger squadron, will replace the Nomad patrol aircraft
that have been planned for its retirement. PTDI also produces helicopters, including the [French-designed] Super Pumas.
The Indonesian aerospace industry, during its hibernation period, continued its contracts with EADS in developing the wings and other parts of Airbus 380 and other types of Airbus planes. Recently, the company received an award for achieving a high-level quality
requirement in supplying the components to Airbus. With such an achievement, PTDI has prepared the ground for further challenges.
Before the monetary crisis in 1998, PTDI, then named IPTN, was in the process of developing its home-grown airplanes called N250. There is a real possibility that such a plane will be revived in anticipation for the upcoming surge in short-haul flights. Further down the road the development of passenger jets are also on the drawing board.
The Brazilian aircraft industry, Embraer, has been successful in developing and marketing its ERJ (Embraer Regional Jets) to the competitive markets of the US and Europe. Such an opportunity is certainly available for the kind of aircraft developed by PTDI. Fifty-passenger aircraft are similar to the size of the famous ERJs.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian defense industry (PT PINDAD) has also succeeded in developing APCs (armored personnel carriers) for the Indonesian Army. The Indonesian Ministry of Defense placed an order for 154 Combat APCs for the Army. The APCs are similar to [are, in fact, based on] the French built Renault APCs which were procured by the Indonesian Army for the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon.
It can be expected that the new capability in developing such vehicles enables the company to develop more complicated light tanks. Neighboring Malaysia has also placed an order for 40 APCs from PT PINDAD.
PT PINDAD also supplies high quality automatic rifles, pistols, grenade launchers and munitions to the Indonesian Armed Forces. The weaponry has now become the standard issue for the military and police forces in Indonesia along with the better known AK47 and M16. Recently some of its products have also been exported, including to the United
The rise of the three companies has emboldened the Government to balance the sourcing of Indonesia’s defense suppliers. Having been the target of a prolonged embargo by the United States, it is believed that self-sufficiency in the defense supplies becomes a necessity in the growing complexity of geopolitics. At the same time, the development of such industries will enable them to attract the skilled human resources that nowadays are scattered across the world.
What is the way forward? These strategic industries very much depend on the orders by the foreign shipping and airline companies as well as orders from within the country. In the past, as what happened with the development of the Landing Platform Docks, these companies also depend on the external finance from the Export Finance Agencies like in
The rise of the Indonesian banking system also enables banks to help extend finance for the purchase of such equipment as long as the Government is responsible for the repayments of the loans. This is basically what has happened now with all the Export Credits, because the Government is fully responsible to repay the debts to these Export
With the increasing capacity of the Indonesian Government Finance, it could be expected that 10 years from now the Indonesian budget would have much greater capacity than what we have now.
Therefore, the current Government can leverage that capacity by placing orders for the military equipment that can be repaid gradually over time. In addition, the government can encourage Indonesian State Owned Companies to place orders in these industries. Pertamina, the Indonesian Oil Company, has at one time purchased a 30,000 DWT oil tanker. The ship, named the Fastron, was delivered by PT PAL in 2005.
Such strategic purchasing could be repeated again in the coming years.
The TNI AL’s growth has not been at the expense of the other services, however. On December 16, 2009, for example, newly-appointed Army Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. George Toisutta introduced three new infantry brigades on as part of the Government’s defense strategy, while the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries announced a three-pronged approach to develop the country’s maritime sector.
Lt.-Gen. George said the new (reduced-size) brigades were the 21 Komodo Infantry Brigade under the Denpasar-based Udayana military command, the 22 Ota Manasa Infantry Brigade under the First Division of the Army’s Strategic Command and the 24 Bulungan Cakti Infantry Brigade under the Balikpapan-based Tanjungpura military command in East Kalimantan.
The Udayana command covers Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, and East Nusa Tenggara provinces, while the Tanjungpura command oversees security in four provinces of Kalimantan. The First Division of the Army’s Strategic Reserve Command is based in Depok, West Java.
Each brigade consists of about 300 soldiers.
The TNI had earlier announced that it planned to establish a military command in West Kalimantan in 2010, while a study for one in Papua was expected to begin in 2010.
The TNI remains, however, extremely challenged in its budget capabilities, and the acquisition in recent years of a handful of poorly-equipped and poorly-supported Sukhoi Su-27SK and (two-seat) Su-30MKK fighters has only given it marginal modernization, rather than any real regional significance. The Indonesian defense budget, at under $3-billion, supporting some 450,000 uniformed personnel, compares unfavorably with neighboring Australia’s $13.5-billion budget, which gives extreme efficiency to less than 60,000 uniformed full-time personnel.
Indonesia’s military support capabilities, too, remain limited, given its historical difficulty in sustaining airlift, vital to the projection of ground forces even within the archipelago.
At some stage, as the TNI relinquishes its civil sector assets (as it is now doing), it will need to streamline its domestic peacekeeping — essentially its policing — functions, so that it can truly modernize. This would entail a substantial force reduction to achieve payroll and overhead changes which could then fund the basic modernization required to effectively respond to the military, national disaster, and civil defense challenges which Indonesia must expect to face from time to time. But addressing major manpower reduction is arguably one of the most significant obstacles the TNI will have to address, and it is not yet ready to do that to any great extent.