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