In the last few years, Indonesia has been working towards the expansion and modernisation of its armed forces towards a goal of reaching a Minimum Essential Force (MEF) in 2024, however it should be noted that what constitutes a Minimum Essential Force in terms of numbers and strength have not been clearly defined though the Presidential Directive No.7 of 2008 which established the MEF concept defined it as, “a force level that can guarantee the attainment of immediate strategic defense interests, where the procurement priority is given to the improvement of minimum defence strength and/or the replacement of outdated main weapon systems/equipments.”
by Dzirhan Mahadzir
Over the years though, it should be noted that Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and senior Indonesian military officers have made statements as to the numbers of weapon systems and platforms that would meet the MEF requirement. However some of the numbers stated by Indonesia seem unlikely to be attainable given the finances involved. For instance, Defence Minister Purnomo in 2010 stated that Indonesia would be interested in buying up to 180 Sukhoi fighters, a somewhat unfeasible number given the finances involved and the fact that it took almost a decade for Indonesia to procure the ten Sukhoi fighters it currently operates. Still though it is clear that Indonesia is embarking on an extensive modernisation effort with funding backed by an enthusiastic Parliament, in September the Indonesian government committed 99 trillion rupiahs ($11.2 billion) to spend on defense equipment until 2014 but the Indonesian Parliament in October added an additional 57 trillion rupiah for a total of 156 trillion rupiah ($16.2 billion) and a number of procurements have already been announced or are ongoing as part of the modernization efforts. These include the construction of three new submarines, the purchase and upgrade of second-hand F-16s from the United States, trainer aircraft from Brazil and South Korea, the purchase of surplus Leopard 2 tanks and Marder AFVs from Germany, MLRS systems from Brazil and Caesar artillery systems from France among others.
Despite this spending though, Jakarta has been keen to play down such purchases, stating that they are part of a long overdue modernisation of the Indonesian Armed Forces and to a large extent this is the case given the spending squeeze on Indonesia’s military for the better part of a decade following the Asian economic crisis of 1997 and the need for the Indonesian military to recover from the embargoes on military sales and support placed upon Indonesia over East Timor.
Until recently this year, much of Indonesia’s modernisation efforts have been focused towards improving its Navy and Air Force with only minimal purchases made for the Army in the form of the indigenously developed and produced Anoa 6×6 of which 158 were ordered in 2008 with 120 delivered by 2012 and an additional 31 ordered in 2012, the delivery of the final three Mi-35 helicopters (out of a five helicopters order) in 2010 and an order made in 2010 for 22 K-21 IFVs from South Korea. However in late 2011, Indonesia moved towards acquiring a Main Battle Tank capability. Initially Indonesia planned to acquire 100 surplus Leopard 2s from Holland but opposition and delays by the Dutch Parliament in approving the deal led to Indonesia to pull out from the deal and turning to Germany to supply the tanks. A total of 103 Leopard 2s, 50 Marder IFVs and 10 support vehicles are being purchased with an initial delivery of 44 Leopards and Marders in November this year. Also ongoing is a modernisation programme of Indonesia’s AMX-13 light tank, PT Pindad of Indonesia was awarded a contract in September 2011 to carry out work on 12 tanks as an initial beginning with additional tanks to be upgraded subsequently. No details of the modernisation has been revealed but pictures on the internet reveal an upgunning to a 105mm gun for the tank. Indonesia had around 275 AMX-13s in its inventory though the actual number operational is likely half that number.
In addition, it was revealed in September this year that Indonesia had ordered 37 Caesar 155mm artillery systems from France and this was followed by news in October this year that Indonesia has ordered 45 Astros II MLRS systems from Brazil, this order provides a significant boost to the Army’s heavy artillery capabilities which had consisted only of eight 155mm towed FH-2000s along with a large number of towed 105mm guns. The next key procurement for the Army centers upon the purchase of at least eight attack helicopters, initially this was expected to be the AH-64D Apache as in September, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton revealed that the US government had notified Congress of the potential sale of the helicopters,however it appears that Indonesia is reconsidering its options due to concerns on the price of the helicopters. Indonesian media reports state that the cost per unit had risen to $30 million from the initial offer price of $25 million to Indonesia. Reportedly Indonesia is considering other alternate helicopters in the form of the AH-1 Super Cobra or an armed version of the UH-60 Blackhawk.
Given its vast maritime of roughly six million square kilometers, it is not surprising that a strong emphasis has been placed upon expanding and modernising the Indonesian Navy. Still, the numbers posed by the MEF seems to be beyond Indonesia’s financial capabilities, with a requirement for around 300 ships of various classes and at least 12 submarines. With Indonesia’s current fleet standing around 115 ships of various types, including two submarines and an additional three submarines being built, Indonesia would have to carry out an extensive ship building and purchase programme to meet the MEF goal, an unlikely prospect given the costs, particularly for frigates, corvettes and submarines. Coupled to this is also the matter of Indonesia’s aging fleet, some of which date back as far as the Second World War, which further adds to the burden of modernizing and expanding the Navy. Since the commissioning of the four Sigma class corvettes from 2007-2009 and the four Makassar class LPDs from 2007 to 2011, the Indonesian Navy has only commissioned a number of locally manufactured small patrol and attack craft, part of it due to budget constraints which preclude the purchase of large surface ships, but also due to the need to modernise and upgrade existing ships in the inventory. Both the Cakra class submarines underwent overhaul and upgrades to their combat and weapon systems in South Korea with KRI Cakra going through the process in 2006 while the KRI Nanggala completed the process earlier this year. Indonesia confirmed in August this year that an order had been made with South Korea for three submarines with the final submarine to be built in Indonesia. Upgrades were also made to the six Ahmad Yani class frigates with the Harpoon missile systems replaced. There is some uncertainty over the harpoon system replacement, the KRI Oswald Siahaan, from its public firings last year and this year, clearly carries the Russian Yakhont missile systems but pictures of its sister ships indicate replacement launchers that are too small to carry the Yakhont but instead appears to match the Chinese C-802 system.