In an announcement that could have far-reaching implications for South East Asia’s strategic landscape, Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro signalled in January 2012 that the Indonesian military was poised to embark on a major procurement drive. For the last decade, Purnomo said, the TNI had refrained from spending heavily on equipment in order to give priority to political reform. That is now set to change.
At the end of 2011, the finance ministry’s 2012 spending plan revised the annual defence budget upwards to IDR72.5bn (USD8.0bn) – a 50% increase on the 2011 defence allocation. This total should bring the defence budget to over 1% of GDP for the first time in many years, and could make President Yudhoyono’s stated aim of spending 1.5% of GDP on defence by 2015 achievable (though 20-25% increases would be needed in each of the next three financial years to make that happen).
By the time Purnomo made his remarks, the Defence Ministry had already announced at the end of 2011 that it had selected South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine Engineering (DSME) to supply three new submarines under the terms of a USD1.07bn contract. Two of the ordered Chang Bogo-class submarines are to be built in South Korea, with the third to be constructed locally by Indonesian shipbuilder PT PAL. Deliveries are due in 2015-16. Indonesia’s close ally Turkey, which submitted an unsuccessful bid for the submarine requirement, was informed by TNI Chief of Staff Admiral Agus Suhartono that it would have the opportunity to bid for follow-on submarine contracts, with the Indonesian navy planning to procure between five and seven more submarines by 2024. Meanwhile, Indonesia and Turkey are considering co-operation on rocket, armoured vehicle and military radio programmes.
Other significant procurements in the last quarter included the acquisition of: six Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter aircraft (which will increase the size of the air force’s Sukhoi fleet to 16 aircraft); nine C-295 tactical transport aircraft, which are built by Airbus Military and local aerospace firm PT Dirgantara; and four missile-equipped stealth trimarans built by PT Lundin Industry Invest. The navy also launched the second of a new class of fast patrol boat built by local firm PT Palindo Marindo, while the air force inducted a second air defence radar station supplied by ThalesRaytheonSystems to cover the eastern part of the country.
However, two procurement programmes have run into difficulty due to parliamentary interventions: the acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel; and the purchase of ex-Dutch Army Leopard 2 main battle tanks. The latter procurement, which would see 100 tanks transferred to Indonesia for around USD600mn, has become controversial, with lawmakers unhappy with the Ministry of Defence’s lack of communication in explaining why the procurement is necessary. Some analysts have argued that tanks would be unsuitable in Indonesian conditions and that other requirements – such new maritime patrol vessels – should be given priority.
Politically, Indonesia earned praise for ratifying the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in December, and also for bringing accused Bali bomber Umar Patek to trial in February 2011. However, criticism of Jakarta’s handling of unrest in Papua continued. The indictment of five Papuan activists on treason charges drew particular condemnation, with human rights groups arguing that in a democracy individuals should be free to advocate Papuan independence. The fact remains that the East Timor experience has left the Indonesian political establishment highly sensitive to any threats of further separatism, and President Yudhoyono was unrepentant with regard to his Papuan policy, arguing that the security forces there were simply enforcing the law. Nonetheless, the unrest in Papua shows no sign of abating, and the policies of the Yudhoyono administration do not currently appear to be helping to reconcile the Papuans to life within the Indonesian republic.