Indonesia: $125B Plan Seeks to Modernize Defense Arsenal

Ronna Nirmala
Jakarta
2021-06-03
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Indonesia: $125B Plan Seeks to Modernize Defense Arsenal The KRI Nanggala-402 submarine sets out from the naval base in Surabaya, Indonesia, in this undated picture. The sub, with a crew of 53, sank during training exercises off the coast of Bali on April 21, 2021.
Indonesian military handout via AFP

Indonesia has unveiled a plan to spend U.S. $125 billion during the next three years to upgrade and modernize its military arsenal, the same week the Southeast Asian nation halted efforts to retrieve a 44-year-old navy submarine that sank in late April with 53 sailors aboard.

Under the plan, outlined in a draft presidential decree that circulated recently, the government proposes spending $79.1 billion on military equipment, $13.4 billion in interest on 25-year loans from foreign sources, and $32.5 billion on contingencies and maintenance. The spending plan covers a period ending in 2024, the year President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is due to leave office at the end of his second and constitutionally mandated final term.

The document, obtained by BenarNews, states that funding will come from foreign loans, but it does not say what types of armaments the government seeks to acquire.

Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, spokesman for Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, confirmed the document’s authenticity.

“Investment made during the 2021-2024 period will increase Indonesia’s bargaining position to obtain defense equipment at more affordable prices,” Dahnil said in a series of tweets late Wednesday. “In addition, because the investment is made in a relatively short time, it can be ascertained that all equipment purchased will be interoperable.”

Spending priorities include strengthening the domestic defense industry, the communication system, intelligence, border security, as well as guided munitions and air-defense systems, he said without citing specific proposed purchases.

Threats faced by Indonesia include violations of border areas, foreign intervention, separatism and terrorism, the ministry said. Non-military threats include piracy and cyber espionage.

Dahnil said the purchases were expected to be made during the final years of Jokowi’s presidency “to significantly enhance defense equipment readiness in the shortest time possible.”

The defense ministry’s budget for this year is $9.6 billion.

‘Defense systems are aging’

Prabowo responded to reporters’ queries about the draft decree by asking a question.

“How did you know?” he asked before a meeting with the House of Representatives’ defense committee on Wednesday.

Prabowo said the plans were being discussed with the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), the Finance Ministry and other stakeholders.

“Many of our defense systems are aging, so replacing them is urgent,” said Prabowo, a former general who commanded the Indonesian army’s special forces (Kopassus). “This is very important to respond to the ever-changing strategic environment.”

In late April, the defense chief articulated a similar message when Indonesia was frantically searching for the KRI Nanngala-402, a submarine which sank near Bali after diving during a torpedo-firing drill.

Dahnil said the government hoped the nation would reach an ideal defense posture by 2025 or 2026 and after that would no longer need to purchase military hardware until at least 2044.

Loans were expected to come from countries including the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain, Maj. Gen. Rodon Pedrason, the defense ministry’s director general of defense strategy, told local media. The foreign powers, he said, “will not leave Indonesia in the cold.”

“The government plans to secure foreign loans for the modernization of defense equipment that is expensive and high-tech, but lasts long to maintain sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security,” he told CNN Indonesia.

Since taking office in 2019, Prabowo has visited weapons-producing countries including the United States, Russia, China and France to secure defense deals.

In April, he visited South Korea to attend the launch of the first prototype of the KF-X fighter jet, which is being developed jointly by the two nations.

In February, the defense ministry signaled that it was seeking to buy 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets from France and was set to acquire four Boeing F-15EX jets from the U.S. by 2022.

Connie Rahakundini Bakrie, a military analyst at the University of Indonesia, criticized what she called the ministry’s lack of transparency in its plans.

“A defense budget of this size, in three years, what are we going to buy? Who are we fighting?” she told BenarNews.

Submarines

Indonesia’s plan to modernize its military hardware took on new urgency after the April 21 sinking of the KRI Nanggala-402.

On Wednesday, Navy spokesman First Adm. Julius Widjojono announced the end of efforts to salvage the wreckage of the submarine, which was found broken into three pieces at a half-mile below sea level, saying the risks were too great.

He also said the military was seeking to acquire up to eight submarines to add to its fleet of four following the sinking.

“We have submitted the requirement, at least 12 submarines. But the decision rests with people at the top,” Julius told BenarNews.

“How many submarines does Singapore, a small country, have? We, as the largest archipelagic nation, had only two at one point,” Julius said, referring to a time when three of the military’s submarines were out of service.

Indonesia has cooperated with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, a South Korean firm, to build submarines.

Launched in 2019, the KRI Alugoro-405, one of three Indonesian submarines ordered from Daewoo, is the first to be partly assembled locally. 

Meanwhile, Beni Sukadis, a military researcher at Marapi Consulting and Advisory, cast doubt on whether the government could acquire many of the armaments during the next three years.

“Between preparing a contract and delivery can take three to five years, even 10 years, depending on the weapon system purchased,” he told BenarNews.

Indonesia needs corvettes, marine patrol boats, submarines, radar units, maritime patrol aircraft and drones, in line with geopolitical concerns in the South China Sea and threats of abductions by kidnap-for-ransom militant groups in waters near the southern Philippines, he said.

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