Indonesian Navy on the Threshold of Modernisation

Indonesia has a coastline of 54,716 km and maritime claims include exclusive economic zone of 200 nm (about 374 km) and 12 nm (about 22 km) of territorial sea when measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines

Issue: 5 / 2014By Lt General Naresh Chand (Retd)Photo(s): By US Navy, tnial.mil.id

GeoPolitical. Indonesia is an archipelago located in South East Asia. The archipelago contains 17,508 islands (6,000 inhabited) which is strategically located astride or along major sea lanes connecting the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Its natural resources include petroleum, tin, natural gas, nickel, timber, bauxite, copper, fertile soils, coal, gold and silver. It suffers occasional floods, severe droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and forest fires. Indonesia contains the most number of volcanoes in the world, with about 76 still active. It has a coastline of 54,716 km and maritime claims include exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles (about 374 km) and 12 nm (about 22 km) of territorial sea when measured from claimed archipelagic straight baselines. Indonesia maintains close relationships with its neighbours in Asia, and is a founding member of ASEAN and the East Asia Summit. It has also rejuvenated its relations with China after the freeze during the Suharto era. Indonesia was a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation). Indonesia is signatory to the ASEAN Free Trade Area agreement, the Cairns Group and the WTO. Indonesia has also been receiving humanitarian and development aid, particularly from the US, Western Europe, Australia and Japan. US has also been assisting Indonesia on security matters with US Pacific Command overseeing it. US has also been providing Foreign Military Financing for the Indonesian Navy. Joint naval exercises include annual South East Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) exercise which began in 2002, is a US Navy led annual multilateral naval exercise that aims at enhancing information sharing and the coordination of maritime security responses between South East Asian navies against terrorism, smuggling, and piracy and other illegal maritime activities in the region. It includes navies of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and US. Under the broad ambit of this Strategic Partnership, Indonesian Navy (TNI AL) and the Indian Navy have been carrying out coordinated patrolling twice a year since 2002, called Indian–Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) near the International Maritime Boundary Line to keep this vital part of the Indian Ocean region safe and secure for commercial shipping and international trade 24th edition of CORPAT has recently been concluded on September 30, 2014.

Economic environment. Indonesia has had impressive political and economic developments in recent years with the optimistic forecast that it could become the world’s ten largest economies as early as 2030. With India’s poor record of economic reforms in the recent past which has resulted in slowdown of economic growth, many economic experts feel that Indonesia may replace India in BRIC nations. During 2012 Indonesia’s GDP (purchasing power parity) of $1.237 trillion was 16th in the world. The GDP was $868.35 billion (official exchange rate) in 2013. Its GDP in terms of real growth rate in 2012 of 6.2 per cent was 43rd in the world. It is estimated to slow down to 5.7 per cent in 2014 and 6 per cent in 2015.

International maritime disputes. Indonesia has been trying to establish land and maritime boundaries with all of its neighbours. EEZ or maritime boundaries have not been established with Timor-Leste. All borders between Indonesia and Australia have been agreed upon bilaterally but a 1997 treaty that would settle the last of their maritime and EEZ boundary has yet to be ratified by Indonesia’s legislature. Indonesian also challenges Australia’s claim to Ashmore Reef where Australia has closed parts of the Ashmore and Cartier Reserve to Indonesian traditional fishing and placed selective restrictions. Land and maritime negotiations with Malaysia are ongoing and disputed maritime area include the maritime boundary in the Ambalat oil block in the Celebes Sea. Indonesia and Singapore continue to work on finalising their 1973 maritime boundary agreement by defining disputed areas north of Indonesia’s Batam Island. Maritime delimitation talks continue with Palau and EEZ negotiations with Vietnam. Indonesia has some concerns about China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea as China’s ‘nine-dashed line’ which runs very close to Jakarta’s Natuna Islands, and Chinese and Indonesian patrol boats were involved in a few incidents (during 2010 and even in March 2013) near the islands where Indonesian Navy was trying to prevent illegal fishing by arresting Chinese fishermen but were deterred by threat of force by Chinese ships. While Indonesia has no claims in the South China Sea, China’s ‘nine-dashed line’ does overlap with the Indonesian EEZ when demarcated from the Natunas. This line refers to the demarcation line used by the governments of China and Taiwan to stake their claims in the South China Sea. Indonesia expects that such incidents are going to increase in the future and thus has to develop its Navy to counter them.

Armed Forces

Indonesian armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) include Army (TNI-Angkatan Darat [TNI-AD]), Air Force (TNI-Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU)), National Air Defense Command (Kommando Pertahanan Udara Nasional [Kohanudnas]) and Navy (TNI-Angkatan Laut [TNI-AL]) which includes marines (Korps Marinir, KorMar) and Naval Air Arm.

Defence budget. Modernisation of armed forces is expensive and Indonesia’s defence budget so far has been modest. In terms of percentage of GDP, it has been 0.78 per cent in 2010, 0.67 per cent in 2011 and 0.78 per cent in 2012. In 2013 procurement budget was estimated to be around $1.67 billion, while in 2014 it is likely to rise to $1.8 billion. To give impetus to the modernisation of defence forces, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised in 2010 to increase defence spending to 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2014. If that happens, Indonesia will have a defence budget of $14–15 billion range or more, subject to its economy continues to grow by 6 to 7 per cent annually. If this happens then Indonesia will become the largest defence spender in South East Asia.

Indonesian Navy

The Navy faces non-traditional maritime security challenges in Indonesia’s EEZ, such as illegal fishing, piracy, human and drug trafficking. Due to the frequent disasters, the Navy also prepares seriously to improve its capability for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief. The example of Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 with its epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, resulting in the confirmed death of 1,30,736 in Indonesia alone with countless missing or homeless; still haunts the country. The Indonesian Navy is the largest navy in South East Asia based on the number of active personnel and ships. All commissioned ships of the Navy have the prefix KRI (Kapal Perang Republik Indonesia), which means Republic of Indonesia warship.

Background. The Indonesian Navy was established on August 22, 1945, following the Indonesian Proclamation of Independence. It was formed as the Agency of the People’s Security Sea Service with only a small assortment of wooden ships, landing crafts and whatever systems Japan left after its surrender. During the war of independence war (1945-49), predecessor of TNI-AL was able to conduct sea expeditions to various areas out of Java to establish naval establishment including naval bases. These naval operations helped in encouraging resistance against the Dutch and establishing armed forces. After Indonesia achieved independence in 1949, it started consolidating its Navy with the induction of ex-Koninklijke Marine (KM) ships, corvettes and destroyers. On December 5, 1959, ALRI established a fleet to organise, operate and increase its resources. The establishment of a fleet was a milestone which was achieved in December 1959. The promulgation of the Indonesian EEZ in the 1980s gave further impetus for Indonesia to modernise its Navy. To develop its Navy into a more professional, effective and modern navy, Indonesia initiated a development and management programme, including the maintenance of forces through an integrated fleet weapons system. To achieve minimum maritime capability for sea denial, the fleet was expanded by acquiring ships from Netherland, erstwhile Yugoslavia, UK and Germany. The national shipyard PT PAL also started producing fast patrol boats (FPB).

Organisation. The Navy’s headquarters is at Jakarta under the overall command of Chief of Staff. It has the Eastern Fleet located at Surabaya and the Western Fleet at Jakarta which were established in 1985. It also has a marine corps, a small air arm and a military sealift command.

Naval Force levels and Modernisation

Currently the Indonesian Navy is focusing on ‘Green Water’ capability, due to its maritime environment, by acquiring small size, modern frigates and corvettes equipped with anti-ship missiles reinforced by a large number of FPBs and guided-missile attack craft. Effort is also on to increase its coastal combatants and improved capability to rapidly deploy troops within the archipelago. Currently there are some critical gaps in long-range maritime surveillance, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), mining/countermining and subsurface capability. Future plans include acquisition of limited ‘Blue Water’ capability for local force projection, protecting its EEZ against other nations like China.

Current force level. The Indonesian Navy has approximately 213 ships of all types, consisting of 11 major surface combatants, 72 patrol and coastal combatants, 11 ships for mine warfare and mine countermeasures, 5 major amphibious ships, 26 landing ships, 54 landing craft, 2 submarines and 32 logistics and support vessels. However many of them are obsolete and need urgent replacement.

Force accretion. All navies have to build minimum maritime capability for sea denial, to ensure national security. To achieve such a capability Indonesian Navy is carrying on modernisation by acquiring modern, high technology naval ships from multiple countries, including Netherland (Fatahilah class corvettes, ‘Van Spijk’ frigates, and Tripartite class minehunters), former Yugoslavia (destroyer escort training ship KRI Kihajar Dewantara 364; Korea, (‘Patrol Ship Killer-Missiles and Tacoma class landing ship tank), UK (ex-Tribal class) and Germany (209 class submarine). PT PAL is Indonesia’s main shipyard with expertise in merchant and naval vessels production, general engineering, nautical repair and maintenance. In 1983, under licence from Frederick Luerssen-Werft Germany, the Company initiated a FPB building programme for navy, customs and police. This capability continues to be evolved to bigger FPBs from 28 m to 57 m and yachts of 60 m. The shipyard also started making tankers of 3,000 DWT to 3,500 DWT with technology transfer from Japan. They have also made Landing Platform Dock 125m, Landing Craft Vehicle and personnel, Landing Craft Unit etc. This year the company has already signed the contract to supply a total of two strategic sealift vessels to the Philippine Navy. Other developments are:

  • In April 2011, PT PAL, jointly with Netherland, started designing a new light frigate for ASW purposes. It will be the largest warship built by PT PAL. The first steel cutting ceremony was held in January 2014 and order for two PKR ships is confirmed. They will be equipped with VL Mica missiles and Oerlikon Millennium Close-in weapon system.
  • Indonesian Navy has accepted a grant of two British made, used patrol boats equipped with guided missiles from Brunei.
  • During January 2012, the Navy had confirmed the order for the 24 guided-missile fast boats for deploying in shallow waters. In December 2013 Indonesia had inducted 4 KCR-40s (40 m Fast Missile Boat).
  • Indonesian Navy also plans to acquire three new British corvettes. Initially they were built for Brunei but were rejected as they did not meet their requirements and are available at discounted prices.
  • The Navy has a modest air arm which was primarily equipped for naval reconnaissance and coastal patrol duties. It has already received the first of the three maritime patrol aircraft CN235 MPA version (jointly developed by CASA of Spain and Indonesia) and plans to buy 11 anti-submarine helicopters in 2014 which may be Seasprite or Agusta.
  • The US had provided Indonesia with 12 surveillance radars for the surveillance of the Malacca Strait and the Makassar Strait during 2008. US has also funded an Integrated Maritime Surveillance System which includes coastal surveillance stations, ship-based radars, regional command and two fleet command centres.
  • Indonesia also maintains a small marine corps with amphibious capability. It has also established an independent body, the Indonesia Sea and Coast Guard (KLKP) in 2009.

Submarines. Indonesia is located along one of the world’s most critical submarine choke points due to the Strait of Malacca through which a large percentage of the shipping trade moves. Add to this the shallow littoral waters around the Indonesian archipelago and the area becomes ideal submarine hunting grounds however Indonesia has only 2 “Cakra class”/ U209 submarines and thus has to rely on its surface fleet for maritime security. Indonesian Navy has projected a force level of 10 submarines by 2024 when its 2 Cakra class submarines will also be obsolescent if not obsolete. Daewoo Shipbuilding of South Korea had won a contract during December 2011 for $1.07 billion to provide three 1,400-tonne Type 209 Chang Bogo class submarines, two of which are to be built in South Korea, while the third one is to be assembled in Indonesia by PT PAL. The first two boats are to be delivered in 2015 and 2016; the third has been scheduled for 2018. The project is lagging behind and revised schedule is for two submarines to be delivered in 2017 and the submarine from PT PAL in 2019-20. PT PAL has also been allotted $250 million to upgrade its facilities.

Kongsberg Defence Systems’ Naval Systems & Surveillance division has been awarded a $55.5 million contract by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) for the supply of MSI-90U Mk 2 submarine command and fire control system components for three new submarines under construction. Kongsberg’s relations with the Indonesian Navy and DSME go back to January 2010 when it was contracted by DSME for the upgrade of Indonesian Navy Type 209 submarine KRI Nanggala for replacing the legacy Signaal SINBADS weapon control system with two multifunction common consoles and a TBI 110A torpedo board interface.

Kongsberg’s MSI-90U Mk 2

Submarine command teams must have the best tools while dealing with the massive volume of data that is produced by the submarines’ more and more sophisticated sensors. MSI-90U Mk 2 Submarine Combat Management System is designed specifically for this. It is based on a fully distributed, easily-upgradeable open computer architecture, laid out around a high-bandwidth data bus and employing state-of-the-art software. The standardised multi-function operator consoles, equipped with the latest flat-screen LCD displays, offer the most user friendly human-computer interface available today. MSI-90U Mk 2 is a further development of the successful MSI-90U system. The MSI includes application functions like sensor integration, sensor administration and control, contact/target correlation, target motion analysis, classification and identification. It can carry out decision support and advisory functions, Tactical functions and weapon functions include torpedo preparation firing, and control, as well as missile preparation and firing, mine functions and torpedo counter-measures functions. The MSI-90U Mk 2 system is capable of performing simultaneous automatic and operator-in-the-loop target motion analysis computation for more than 100 targets. The system can prepare and control up to eight torpedoes (Type DM2A3, Type DM2A4, Type A184 Mod. 3, Black Shark/NSP or SUT) simultaneously in the water. The system is prepared for firing and control up to four missiles (UGM-84 SubHarpoon, SM 39 Exocet). Development activities are on to integrate the IDAS (Interactive Defence & Attack System for Submarines) missile.

Indra of Spain has tied up with DSME to provide the three submarines with its radar signal detection system and a Low Probability of Intercept radar system. The value of the contract is in excess of $12.9 m. Indra’s system will help submarines to detect and analyse any radar signals that might be in their surroundings and identify the emitter by type of vessel, submarine or aircraft.

Modernisation Plans

In 2010 Indonesia formulated Strategic Defence Plan for developing a ‘Minimum Essential Force’ (MEF) 2024 which includes ambitious plans like acquiring a 274-ship navy and 12 new diesel–electric submarines. 274 ships include 110 surface combatants, 66 patrol vessels and 98 support ships. The focus still remains the development of ‘Green Water’ capability which will concentrate on developing maritime anti-access capabilities—such as anti-ship missiles, fast attack craft, submarines, shore-launched missiles, land-based tactical fighter aircraft, sea mining and amphibious warfare assets. These plans take into account the security of its EEZ and 13,000 islands stretching from the Andaman Sea and India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands to Timor and Arafura Sea with close proximity to Australia.


Editor’s note: Recently Indonesia has elected a new President ‘Joko Widodo’. Considering that Indonesia is the world’s biggest Islamic nation, its strategic location straddling the sea lines of communications and President’s Joko’s focus on maritime affairs it is essential that Prime Minister engages Indonesia in a big way.