Indonesian Defense Strategy: Military Aircraft Acq Essay

This essay has a total of 3776 words and 18 pages.

Indonesian Defense Strategy: Military Aircraft Acquisition from Russia


A. Background
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri signed a little-publicized deal at the end of
April to purchase four Russia fighter jets and two helicopters as part of a much larger
potential order. The decision to buy from Russia was a subject to a United States ban on
military purchases; this marks a small but significant shift from Indonesia's current
dependence on United States' military hardware. The Indonesian military is suffering from
acute lack of supplies and parts for its heavy amour as well for light equipment. The
United States' imposed embargo on Indonesia since 1999 has rendered the country's military
equipment and apparatus partly redundant, leaving Indonesia, once a military might in the
South East Asian region desperately behind its neighbors. The United States Congressional
bans were first put in place in 1991 after the infamous Santa Cruz massacre of
pro-independence civilian supporters in East Timor. They were further tightened in 1999,
following the involvement of the Indonesian armed forces (Tentara Nasional Indonesia) in
the rampages by pro-Jakarta militia in East Timor.

This is not the first time that Indonesia turns to Russia for military hardware supports,
as it matter of fact, history has recorded the rise and fall of Russian armaments in
Indonesia as an inseparable part of the rise and fall of bilateral relationship between
the two. From late 1950s to early 1960s, Indonesia was mainly dependent on Soviet's arms.
At that time Indonesia was in campaign for the reclaim of West Papua, consequently, it
needed a large number of weaponry. But United States were reluctant to sell any to
Indonesia, because it did not make any sense if they sell weapons that would be used to
fight against Dutch, their own ally. Soviet, on the other hand, was being kind to give
arms support that would be paid in long-term and low-interest rate debt. The military
equipment received from Soviet, especially for the navy, was so enormous that Indonesia
became on of the sea power of Asia. But then, relationships between the two got worsen in
late 1960s, and Indonesia was having a hard time in maintaining its military power,
particularly to keep up with the advance of military technology.

Now, almost a half-century afterward, military friendship between Indonesia and Russia
revived again. In time of need, Indonesia turns again to Russia. As it mater of fact,
Indonesia is facing a hard time dealing with United States' military embargo. Lacking from
military equipment support, Indonesia can no longer continue its reliance to United
States' military assistance. In addition, Indonesia is not yet in stable economic
condition after the crisis that struck in 1998, hence the purchasing power is somewhat
low. But despite those conditions, the need of military equipment to support Indonesian
defense strategy is inevitable. Russia, by being a friend in need, has proved it self to
be a friend in deed.

Time had changed, the Cold War had ended, and security paradigm had shifted and expanded.
Conventional threat that come from military aggression is no longer the become the only
concern; many other danger threatens the well-being and the very existence of a nation
itself. Arms transfer is no longer being conducted in the Cold War framework, with the
rivalries between United States and the Soviet to gain influence. Though the sensitivity
of this issue may no longer be so provoking, but still the acquisition of military
equipment is an important occasion in a state's defense strategy.

B. Problem Identification
From the background noted above, the problem that will be addressed in this paper can be
defined as following: "How does the grand strategy of Indonesia implied in the policy to
strengthen its military power by purchasing military aircrafts from Russia, and what are
the considerations for designing such policy?"


Daniel S. Papp mentioned four different reasons for the widespread desire of states to
improve their military forces, which accelerate further the flow of arms to the Developing
World states. First, most Developing World states face security challenges on or near
their border. The regional rivalries, including disputes on the arrangement of
international boundaries, provide one motivation for arming. Second, internal security
also provides another reason for improving military forces. Weapons have many purposes,
not the least of which is suppressing dissent, because in many cases it involved the
maintenance of authoritarian or dictatorial regime. The third reason is that the military
has been, historically, the measure of a nation's prestige. Last, improving military
forces is believed to be an effort to escape vestiges of the colonial past. Military force
is a viable proof of independence, even if one's economy is controlled or influenced by

Andrew J. Pierre said that arms sales are much further than an economic event, or a
military relationship, or a challenge in arms-control; arms sales are foreign policy writ
large. The deployment of military instruments by states gives rise to two types of threat:
those from the weapons themselves, and those from the fact that weapons are in the hands
of other actors in the system. The first threat is mostly one of destruction, though it
also has a significant element of opportunity cost even if the weapons are not used.

Indonesian national condition is very much influenced by the development of strategic
context, because of the geopolitics of Indonesia as an archipelago, which lies between two
continents (Asia and Australia) and two oceans (Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean). Such
position implies in the interconnection of Indonesia's national interest and the interest
of others. The dynamics of strategic context, in global, regional or domestic scope,
provide the potential threat that has to be dealt in the future. In the traditional forms,
threat can be defined as invasion or military aggression; but there also exist
non-traditional threat, such as terrorism and transnational organized crime. It is less
likely that traditional threat would actually occur, because United Nations and
international community are supposed to have a role in preventing or at least restraining
the use of military force by one state to impose its determination towards others.

As stated in the Pembukaan Undang-Undang Dasar 1945, Indonesia's national interest is to
maintain and protect the state's sovereignty; the territorial integrity of Negara Kesatuan
Republik Indonesia; the nation's security and dignity; and actively involved in the
establishment of world peace. Derived from that purpose, the strategic interest of
national defense is to ensure the achievement of national interests. The strategic defense
interest itself is including permanent strategic interest, urgent strategic interest, and
international cooperation in defense area. The permanent strategic interest is to organize
all national defenses efforts in order to maintain and protect the state's sovereignty,
the territorial integrity of Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia, also the nation's
security and dignity; from any threat that comes from outside or inside. The urgent
strategic interest basically cannot be separated from the permanent strategic interest, to
cope with the particular actual security issues, with the priority to deal with
non-traditional security issues. And as part of international community, Indonesia cannot
escape from relationship with others. Defense cooperation is based on Indonesian foreign
relations principles by government's political decisions; and is conducted for the purpose
of national defense development, also for the purpose of creating regional and
international security stability.

Appraising the threats that Indonesia must face and the interest of national defense,
Indonesia's defense policy in entering the 21st century will incorporate the use of
defense forces, development of defense power, and international cooperation in defense
area. To build the defense power is an inevitable need; urgent security issues will be
able to managed if the capacity and capability of defense that is if Tentara Nasional
Indonesia (TNI) is in adequate situation. The need to build such armed forces is critical
when related to the existing personnel and material condition, with the lack of quality
and quantity, while the responsibility ahead will be much more complex and harder. The
policy to improve national defense strength, involves consideration of geographical
condition; demographical condition; recourses; social condition; state's financial
capability. Improving the national defense strength also inquire technological capability,
especially in the Alat Utama Sistem Senjata (Alutsista); the real and potential threat
posing the country; and the development of strategic context such as ideological,
political, economy and social cultural.


On April 26 Indonesia signed an agreement to buy two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker interceptor
aircraft as well two Su-30 KI fighter-bombers and two M1-35 helicopters plus spare parts
from Russia. Indonesia has an option to purchase an additional 44 aircraft that would
allow it to build four squadrons of 12 planes each. The deal is worth US$197 million, with
US$21 million being paid cash and the rest being paid in counter trade of rubber, tea,
coffee and palm oil. The purchase will appreciably strengthen the Indonesian air force,
which has been badly affected by the US ban on equipment sales. Its existing warplanes are
all US-built, and due to a lack of spare parts, only 17 of the 46 are considered airworthy
and the rest have been grounded. The Indonesian Air Force has been operating at only 40
percent of its capacity because of the embargo and the economic crisis. The acuteness of
purchasing materiel from Russia is prompted by the necessity to modernize the obsolete air
force of Indonesia under the continuing US embargo imposed on materiel purchases.

The Su-27, with a range of 3,000 miles, is reputed to be one of the most sophisticated
fighter aircraft in the world. General Endriartono Sutarto as Indonesia's military chief
indicates that this year purchase is only an initial consignment of two long-range Su-27s
and two Su-30s, at least another 44 planes would be purchased over the next four years.
Ideally, Indonesian air force requires four squadrons of 12 jet fighter planes each, or 48
planes in total.

The purchase was not a sudden move, as it matters of fact, because it was well planned.
Initially, Jakarta had been negotiating with Russia to buy new fighter aircraft in 1997,
but negotiations fell through after the outbreak of the Asian economic crisis and the
overthrow of the Suharto regime in 1998. As a response of United States' military embargo,
General Feisal Tanjung, the military chief at that time was sent to Moscow to observe a
plan of buying two squadrons of Sukhoi. For the last one and a half year, Indonesian
military official had been lobbying the United States' government to revoke its military
embargo, but resulted nothing. Indonesia previously even bought Kalashnikov rifles and
other military hardware from Russia, although it was nothing of this magnitude.

The regional condition of Asia that is rising from financial and economical crisis, can be
mentioned as the reason behind the consideration of enhancing military power, this current
trend is shown by a number of state in Asia. Another reason is the situation in Asia
Pacific that is still under threats of local or regional conflict, also because fear of
the raising potential dominance powers in Asia, namely China and India. From the producer
side, this region had become potential market for their military aircraft products. These
provide background for such arms race phenomena in the region of Southeast Asia.

In 1999, right after the economical crisis, Thailand bought 25 Alpha Jet aircrafts made by
Dassault/Dornier. Meanwhile, Singapore, a small-sized country with solid economic power,
continues to build its defense power. During the 1990-s, Singapore purchased new military
equipment and held join military aircraft exercise with United States, Australia and
France. Singaporean air force also received 42 F-16C/D aircrafts, 4 Boeing KC-135 tankers,
eight Boeing CH-47SD Chinook helicopters, and 8 AH-64D Apache helicopters. Those amounts
are growing each year, and not representing the proportionality of the state's size.
Subsequently, Malaysia that had recovered from severe damage of economical crisis also
enhanced its military power. Last year, Malaysia reached an agreement to order 14 MiG-29
UB aircrafts, and modifying the already operated F-5E, F/A-18 and Hawk aircrafts. Adding
to the two Mi-17 helicopters that were purchased last year, Malaysia plans to buy another
40 including those that would be assembled at Malaysia.

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