Mod­erni­sa­tion of In­done­sian De­fence Forces

Mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion oc­curs in geo-strate­gic, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic con­texts and is driven not only by tech­no­log­i­cal fac­tors and in­dige­nous de­fence in­dus­try’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties but also by a so­cial and cul­tural con­text


AMOD­ERN MIL­I­TARY IS an im­por­tant tool for a na­tion to pur­sue its for­eign and se­cu­rity poli­cies which get im­pacted by a num­ber of con­tex­tual fac­tors. Not only the mil­i­taries have to guard against the ever chang­ing com­bi­na­tion of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity threats and chal­lenges, the politico-mil­i­tary es­tab­lish­ment of the coun­tries have to also pre­pare in ad­vance for likely wars and con­flicts of the fu­ture which are al­ways in a state of flux. Mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion oc­curs in geostrate­gic, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic con­texts and is not only driven by tech­no­log­i­cal fac­tors and in­dige­nous de­fence in­dus­try’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties but also there is a so­cial and cul­tural con­text.

In­done­sia’s Geostrate­gic Sit­u­a­tion

In­done­sia’s geostrate­gic sit­u­a­tion is unique in that it com­prises 17,500 is­lands with an area of nearly 2 mil­lion square kilo­me­tres. It has coast­line of over 54,000 kilo­me­tres to pro­tect against a wide va­ri­ety of se­cu­rity threats. In ad­di­tion, it has land bor­ders with Malaysia, Pa­pua New Guinea and Ti­mor-Leste. In­done­sia also sits astride the sea lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tions that link the In­dian and Pa­cific Oceans. While Malacca Strait’s sig­nif­i­cance as an in­ter­na­tional water­way can­not be over em­pha­sised; Lom­bok, Ma­cas­sar and Sun­dae Straits in the In­done­sian ar­chi­pel­ago are also sig­nifi-

cant choke points in the mar­itime do­main. Safe­guard­ing lit­toral ap­proaches, de­fend­ing ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity and sovereignty for the In­done­sian armed forces (Ten­tara Na­sional In­done­sia or TNI), in­deed is a Her­culean task. TNI also has to meet the in­ter­nal chal­lenges of in­sur­gency, re­li­gious ex­trem­ism and pro­vide aid to civil power in cer­tain con­tin­gen­cies though some of th­ese chal­lenges are also be­ing met by the para­mil­i­tary and po­lice forces. Meet­ing non-tra­di­tional mar­itime se­cu­rity chal­lenges like piracy, pro­tect­ing the mar­itime ex­clu­sive zone and pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance and dis­as­ter re­lief are some of the ar­eas where TNI is look­ing to fur­ther build their ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

While for long In­done­sia had been fo­cus­ing on in­ter­nal threats, of late it has been siezed with mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion trends in South East Asia. It has been par­tic­u­larly cog­nizant of Malaysia’s ac­qui­si­tions of Scor­pene sub­marines and Sin­ga­pore’s de­vel­op­ment of a mod­ern air force. It is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter that it has been co­op­er­at­ing with them on joint pa­trolling of the Malacca Strait. Jakarta also re­mains con­cerned with China’s ‘nine dash line’ in the South China Sea in ad­di­tion to Beijing’s re­cent as­sertive ac­tions even though it has no di­rect dis­putes with China on the ques­tion of mar­itime bound­aries yet, there is the ques­tion of over­lap­ping ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone (EEZ) be­tween In­done­sia’s Natuna Is­land and Beijing’s claims.

How­ever, the prob­lems of mod­erni­sa­tion of TNI can be said to be more acute as com­pared to some of the other mil­i­taries in the re­gion. The mil­i­tary suf­fers from ob­so­les­cence of plat­forms and sys­tems and a wide va­ri­ety of im­ported sys­tems cre­ate their own com­pli­ca­tions in main­te­nance and ser­vice­abil­ity. In­done­sia also has lim-

The goals of the MEF are to de­velop a Green-Wa­ter Navy, carry out ma­jor up­grades of air com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity, build up a more mo­bile and ag­ile land force, and the de­vel­op­ment of a vi­able do­mes­tic de­fence in­dus­trial ca­pa­bil­ity.

ited in­dige­nous de­fence in­dus­trial ca­pa­bil­ity. In­deed, it will take a long time be­fore some of the mod­ern el­e­ments like, for in­stance, com­mand, con­trol, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, com­put­ers, in­tel­li­gence, surveil­lance and re­con­nais­sance (C4ISR) sys­tems can be in­tro­duced into TNI.

But that aside, based on a Pres­i­den­tial Di­rec­tive of 2008 a pol­icy of de­vel­op­ing ‘Min­i­mum Es­sen­tial Force’ (MEF) over a pe­riod of next 15 years was adopted. To achieve this aim, MEF had been re­struc­tured into a se­ries of three strate­gic pro­grammes with time­frames from 2010 to 2014, 2015 to 2019 and 2020 to 2024 as well as spend­ing of up to 1.5 - 2 per cent of the GDP. The goals of the MEF are to de­velop a Green Wa­ter Navy, carry out ma­jor up­grades of air com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity, build up a more mo­bile and ag­ile land force, and the de­vel­op­ment of a vi­able do­mes­tic de­fence in­dus­trial ca­pa­bil­ity. Though the con­cept of MEF does not in­clude the num­bers of mil­i­tary plat­forms or sys­tems it has been de­fined as “a force level that can guar­an­tee the at­tain­ment of im­me­di­ate strate­gic de­fence in­ter­ests, where the pro­cure­ment pri­or­ity is given to the im­prove­ment of min­i­mum de­fence strength and/or the re­place­ment of out­dated main weapon sys­tems/equip­ment.”

The cur­rent re­forms in the mil­i­tary do­main were ini­ti­ated in 1999 when the mil­i­tary’s dom­i­nant con­trol over po­lit­i­cal and business af­fairs was largely elim­i­nated and the de­fence forces moved to­wards be­com­ing a more pro­fes­sional or­gan­i­sa­tion. The in­ter­ven­ing years have seen a grad­ual trans­for­ma­tion of TNI into a force which has ac­quired some ad­di­tional ca­pa­bil­i­ties but still has a greater dis­tance to travel be­fore it can be called a mod­ern mil­i­tary. The cur­rent mod­erni­sa­tion plans are ex­pected to achieve the ca­pa­bil­i­ties to deal with the se­cu­rity risks such as in­ter­nal con­flicts, bor­der dis­putes, ter­ror­ism and transna­tional se­cu­rity is­sues by end of this year within the limited de­fence bud­get. The next ten years would be ded­i­cated to clos­ing the gaps be­tween the cur­rent and en­vis­aged strength and ca­pa­bil­i­ties in terms of re­mov­ing ob­so­lete tech­nolo­gies, de­fence trans­for­ma­tion and in­duc­tion of mod­ern equip­ment and mil­i­tary plat­forms. Not­with­stand­ing the strate­gic goals of MEF 2024 there is also a pro­jec­tion of ca­pa­bil­i­ties for a fu­ture force in 2050.

Doc­trine and Force Struc­tur­ing

Of the to­tal of around 4,76,000 per­son­nel in the TNI, the Army com­prises of 75 per cent of the strength. There ap­pears to be no change in the an­ti­quated doc­trine of ‘to­tal peo­ple’s de­fence’ which con­sists of a three-stage war: a short ini­tial pe­riod in which in­vader would de­feat a con­ven­tional In­done­sian mil­i­tary, a long pe­riod of ter­ri­to­rial guer­rilla war fol­lowed by a fi­nal stage of ex­pul­sion that in­volves the en­tire pop­u­la­tion of the na­tion. This is some­thing like the doc­trine of ‘peo­ple war’ of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary. There ap­pear to be no plans to cut down the size pos­si­bly be­cause of the con­tin­ued threats and chal­lenges of in­ter­nal se­cu­rity. Nei­ther there are plans to in­crease the num­bers of per­son­nel in a sig­nif­i­cant man­ner. The over­all stress is on in­creas­ing op­er­a­tional readi­ness, com­bat ef­fec­tive­ness, and im­prove­ment in agility and mo­bil­ity and en­hanc­ing the lo­gis­tics ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Th­ese goals are to be achieved in re­spect of all the three ser­vices. It has also been said that In­done­sian armed forces are “un­der­funded, un­der­trained, and un­der-equipped”. The cur­rent ef­forts to mod­ernise the forces are to over­come short­ages of equip­ment as also to im­prove the qual­ity of per­son­nel.

Mod­ernising the In­done­sian Army

The army is look­ing at es­tab­lish­ing new ter­ri­to­rial com­mand units, both at provin­cial and dis­trict lev­els. It is also de­vel­op­ing mo­bile ground units that could de­ploy rapidly in the de­sired ar­eas. The In­done­sian Army (TNI-AD) plans also in­clude im­prove­ments in its air­borne and air mo­bile ca­pa­bil­i­ties, mech­a­nised ca­pa­bil­i­ties be­sides abil­ity to un­der­take spe­cial op­er­a­tions.

In terms of plat­forms the Army is to get 100 used Leopard 2A6 Main Bat­tle Tanks and 50 Marder 1A3 In­fantry Fight­ing ve­hi­cles (IFV) from Ger­many.

Ear­lier there was an op­tion of buy­ing them from the Nether­lands. Rus­sia had also of­fered its T-90 tanks to In­done­sia. De­liv­ery of the tanks is ex­pected by end of this year. In­done­sia has presently in its inventory the

much smaller and ob­so­lete Bri­tish Scor­pion and French AMX13 tanks.

To­wards at­tain­ing its goals in im­prov­ing its air mo­bil­ity ca­pa­bil­i­ties the Army ac­quired 18 MI-17 medium-lift trans­port he­li­copters which would en­able it to carry out heli-borne op­er­a­tions in a va­ri­ety of con­tin­gen­cies. Ac­qui­si­tion of six MI-35 at­tack he­li­copters from Rus­sia would in­crease Army’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties in anti-tank and re­lated op­er­a­tions, though it is a very limited num­ber for a large Army.

The Army has also re­ceived Rus­sian 37 BMP-3F ar­moured fight­ing ve­hi­cles this year that will join 17 al­ready in ser­vice. In fact, In­done­sia has been re­ceiv­ing Rus­sian de­fence equip­ment as part of a bil­lion-dol­lar loan to Jakarta given dur­ing Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin visit to the In­done­sian cap­i­tal in Septem­ber 2007. Rus­sia has also been train­ing In­done­sian Army crews for BMP-3F in its train­ing cen­tre in Rus­sia. Con­tracts for ad­di­tional BMPs are ex­pected to be signed.

Fur­ther, as part of its ar­tillery mod­erni­sa­tion plans In­done­sia has also con­tracted to buy from Avi­bras of Brazil mul­ti­ple launch rocket sys­tems Astros–II Mk6. In­done­sia also signed last year a five-year, EUR 108 mil­lion fi­nanc­ing deal for 34 Cae­sar 155/52mm self-pro­pelled ar­tillery sys­tems.

How­ever, as a grow­ing sign of close­ness be­tween In­done­sia and the US, the Americans agreed to sell eight AH-64D Apache at­tack he­li­copters. The $500-mil­lion deal in­cludes pi­lot train­ing and radars. It is not known as to what would be the weapon con­fig­u­ra­tion but nev­er­the­less it will be a state-of-the-art ad­di­tion to In­done­sian Army’s arse­nal and would strengthen its de­ter­rence ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

In­done­sian Army also has plans to cre­ate a stand­ing peace­keep­ing force of about 10,000 troops which is ap­prox­i­mately twice the size of its present force ear­marked for such tasks.

En­hanc­ing In­done­sia’s Air Power

Though the num­bers of squadrons to be planned for In­done­sian air force have not been ar­tic­u­lated in the MEF there have been in­di­ca­tions that at least 10 squadrons should be oper­a­tive by 2024. In 2010, the De­fence Min­is­ter Purnomo Yus­giantoro an­nounced that In­done­sia would ac­quire 180 Rus­sian Sukhoi fighter jets over the next 15 years. Re­cently, there has been a talk of in­duct­ing Rus­sian twin-en­gine Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role fight­ers to re­place its F-5 Tigers.

The Air Force (TNI-AU) is also aim­ing at in­duct­ing a num­ber of UAVs for surveil­lance and tac­ti­cal support du­ties. Ser­vice­abil­ity of its air fleet is less than 50 per cent and its present inventory has ob­so­lete air­craft like F-5E/F Tiger II air­craft and some old F-16A/B fight­ers. The con­di­tion of th­ese US ori­gin air­crafts had been lan­guish­ing be­cause of the erst­while em­bargo by the US on mil­i­tary equip­ment to In­done­sia due to hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Ti­mor. In Novem­ber 2011 the US agreed to pro­vide In­done­sia with 24 re­fur­bished F-16 jet fight­ers from the Pen­tagon’s used air­craft inventory. It also has six Sukhoi Su-30MK2s were ob­tained from Rus­sia in 2011. It also has some Su-27SKM and Su-30 MK1. For train­ing pur­poses it has hawk jet trainer air­crafts.

In Oc­to­ber this year In­done­sia and South Korea signed a joint en­gi­neer­ing and de­vel­op­ment agree­ment for the Korean Fighter Ex­per­i­men­tal (KFX) 4.5-gen­er­a­tion fighter. The agree­ment is as a se­quel to a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing signed in July 2010 and an April 2011 agree­ment that cov­ered the ini­tial two-year tech­ni­cal de­vel­op­ment phase of the pro­gramme. South Korea will pay 80 per cent of the costs as­so­ci­ated with the joint en­gi­neer­ing and de­vel­op­ment phase of the KFX, with In­done­sia pay­ing the re­main­ing 20 per cent. KFX will be a sin­gle-seat, twin-en­gine, multi-role air­craft equipped with stealth fea­tures, ac­tive elec­tron­i­cally scanned ar­ray radar, and in­ter­nal weapons car­riage. Ear­lier this year Korea com­pleted the de­liv­ery of 16 T-50 air­craft to In­done­sian Air Force which would pro­vide much needed re­place­ments for its fleets of BAE Hawk Mk.53 trainer jets, and OV-10F Bronco for­ward air con­trol/ coun­terin­sur­gency air­craft, as part of an on­go­ing mod­erni­sa­tion ef­forts.

The above mix of a va­ri­ety of air­crafts would cre­ate its own dif­fi­cul­ties in op­er­a­tions, main­te­nance and sup­ply of spares and would also com­pli­cate the train­ing process. Ob­vi­ously, this would lead to ad­di­tional costs. Even though there are plans to en­hance its fighter fleet the Air Force lacks air­borne early warn­ing and con­trol sys­tems that could ex­ploit the in­creas­ing com­bat power. Air­borne re­fu­elling is another area where the In­done­sian Air Force needs to have some ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Green Wa­ter Navy

Ac­cord­ing to Global Se­cu­rity Or­ga­ni­za­tion and many other an­a­lyt­i­cal re­ports there are very am­bi­tious plans in the shape of build­ing Navy to a strength of 274 ships of var­i­ous classes and at least 12 sub­marines by 2024 com­pared to its cur­rent fleet of 118 ships, 2 sub­marines (plus 3 un­der con­struc­tion) and 55 air­craft. Plans in­clude cre­at­ing a naval force of 110 sur­face com­bat­ants, 66 pa­trol ves­sels and 98 support ships. This has been termed as the largest mod­erni­sa­tion plan of the In­done­sian Navy in last four decades. Th­ese are very am­bi­tious plans which would re­quire re­sources that may not be avail­able. Many of the ex­ist­ing old sur­face com­bat­ants, pa­trol boats, ves­sels for anti-sub­ma­rine war­fare, mine war­fare and mine coun­ter­mea­sures are in the process of be­ing phased out as a large num­ber of them are ei­ther aged or in ad­vanced stage of ob­so­les­cence. Here again the TNI-AL inventory’s is less than 50 per cent sea­wor­thy.

Fur­ther, ac­cord­ing to some as­sess­ments the qual­ity of per­son­nel and their train­ing as well as their skill sets also needs to be im­proved. In ad­di­tion, it does not have ad­e­quate lo­gis­tics support that might be needed to be­come a Green Wa­ter Navy which would be more than Brown wa­ter or coastal Navy. Given the man­date of con­trol­ling a num­ber of is­lands and vast stretch of wa­ters, strength­en­ing and en­hance­ment of lo­gis­tics and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties is an im­per­a­tive for TNI-AL. Sim­i­larly, the navy has to work on its anti-ac­cess strat­egy in a num­ber of con­tin­gen­cies based on vi­su­alised mar­itime threats both tra­di­tional and non-tra­di­tional. Thus it has to up­grade its am­phibi­ous ca­pa­bil­i­ties and strengthen its avi­a­tion arm for re­con­nais­sance, surveil­lance and air support du­ties. Largely, the Green Wa­ter Navy’s reach could be said to be up to In­done­sia’s EEZ and a lit­tle beyond so that mar­itime re­sources are pro­tected and ex­ploited with a de­gree of se­cu­rity.

In ad­di­tion to sub­marines, TNI-AL has plans to build and in­duct a new, mod­u­lar 2,300-tonne Sigma class guided-mis­sile de­stroyer by 2017-18. There are plans afoot to ac­quire ad­di­tional and more mod­ern an­ti­ship cruise mis­siles. The navy at present is armed with Rus­sian Ya­hont su­per­sonic an­ti­ship cruise mis­siles, Chi­nese C-802 anti-ship mis­siles and French Ex­o­cet that are fit­ted on navy’s four new 1,700-tonne Dutch Sigma class 9113 corvettes, com­mis­sioned be­tween 2007 and 2009. Its mar­itime pa­trol squadron op­er­ates 20 twin-tur­bo­prop No­mad Search­mas­ter air­craft of 1970 vin­tage and three medium-range CN-235 mari- time pa­trol air­craft. Its mar­itime he­li­copter fleet is also old and is ex­pected to be re­placed by new types of he­li­copters. It has limited am­phibi­ous ca­pa­bil­i­ties which need to be en­hanced and thus are an es­sen­tial part of its Green Wa­ter Navy con­cept.

De­fence Bud­get­ing and De­fence In­dus­try

In­done­sian De­fence Min­is­ter Purnomo Yus­giantoro has stated that un­der its cur­rent mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion plan, de­fence spend­ing in his coun­try has risen to 1.3 per cent of GDP, up from a low of 0.6 per cent in 2001 after the Asian fi­nan­cial cri­sis. The 1.3 per cent level will be main­tained or even in­creased. Ex­pand­ing on the logic and ra­tio­nale for on­go­ing mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion he also ob­served that it is linked to mil­i­tary re­form, based on prin­ci­ples of democ­racy and hu­man rights. Mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion is also mo­ti­vated by In­done­sia’s de­sire to play an in­creas­ing role in UN peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions. While speak­ing at the Shangri La Di­a­logue in May this year he went on to say that “one should be mind­ful of how in­ac­cu­rate per­cep­tions can cre­ate mis­cal­cu­la­tion, mis­judge­ment and mis­trust. Strate­gic trans­parency is thus needed in or­der to avoid a desta­bil­is­ing arms race. Trans­parency be­gins at home with an open and demo­cratic sys­tem of gov­ern­ment”. This ob­ser­va­tion was made by the De­fence Min­is­ter in the back­ground of ris­ing ten­sions in the South China Sea due to China’s as­sertive­ness.

In­done­sia al­lo­cated Ru­piah 83.4 tril­lion ($7.3 bil­lion), less than 1 per cent of GDP, for de­fence spend­ing in 2014. Out­go­ing In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono has an­nounced a 2015 de­fence bud­get of Ru­piah 95 tril­lion ($8.1 bil­lion), a year-on-year in­crease of 14 per cent which is about 0.8 per cent of the GDP. The de­fence bud­get is sup­ported by con­tin­ued growth of the In­done­sian econ­omy which was es­ti­mated to be grow­ing at 5.7 per cent in 2014. Though de­fence bud­gets have dra­mat­i­cally risen over the years from $2.5 bil­lion in 2005 to the cur­rent lev­els of over $8 bil­lion yet, th­ese are still very low as com­pared to the re­quire­ments to raise the en­vis­aged lev­els of MEF by 2024.

So far as the in­dige­nous de­fence in­dus­trial ca­pac­ity is con­cerned it is very limited and the gov­ern­ment has taken some mea­sures to strengthen the ca­pac­i­ties. Like in In­dia a frame­work for de­fence in­dus­try has been ap­proved which en­ables the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to pri­vate de­fence com­pa­nies, gives pri­or­ity to in­dige­nous sys­tems and has off­set guide­lines. How­ever, largely the cut­tingedge de­fence sys­tems would con­tinue to be im­ported that cre­ates its own vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.


While In­done­sian de­fence forces have em­barked upon an all-round mil­i­tary mod­erni­sa­tion given the ear­mark­ing of de­fence bud­gets it does not ap­pear likely that the goals of MEF 2024 can be achieved in the given time­frame. Nev­er­the­less strength­en­ing of In­done­sian de­fence forces would be a sta­bil­is­ing fac­tor for the re­gional se­cu­rity. In­dia and In­done­sia have on­go­ing de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion to meet the common se­cu­rity chal­lenges. The mar­itime se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion is the most sig­nif­i­cant, as both coun­tries share a common bound­ary as lit­torals of the In­dian Ocean. Co­op­er­a­tion in­cludes co­or­di­nated pa­trols, joint bi­lat­eral or mul­ti­lat­eral ex­er­cises and In­dia’s support and train­ing for the In­done­sian Air Force’s Sukhoi fighter jets and pi­lots. A ca­pa­ble In­done­sian mil­i­tary would be a net se­cu­rity contributor not only in the South China Sea but also on the east­ern rim of the In­dian Ocean.


An In­done­sian armed forces pri­vate pro­vides se­cu­rity for his fel­low sol­diers while they iden­tify a po­ten­tial threat as part of C-IED train­ing, the fo­cus of

the field train­ing ex­er­cise dur­ing Ex­er­cise Garuda Shield

An In­done­sian Army para­trooper with the 17th Air­borne Bri­gade takes aim be­hind a ma­chine gun

dur­ing a field train­ing ex­er­cise with US Army para­troop­ers

In­done­sian sol­diers con­duct an area search as part of their counter im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices train­ing

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