Indonesia will begin the process of modernizing its military hardware after a decade of internal reform riding on the back of an improving economy, Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro told reporters on Monday.
“The Indonesian Military [TNI] has been involved in internal reform, such as disengagement from political and business activities,” he told a press conference after a leadership meeting at the ministry.
“All this time, the TNI has refrained from procuring major weapons systems.”
Also attending the press conference were Defense Deputy Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, TNI chief Adm. Agus Suhartono, Army chief of staff Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, Navy chief of staff Adm. Soeparno, Air Force chief of staff Marshal Imam Sufaat and ministry secretary-general Vice Marshal Eris Heryyanto.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Djoko Suyanto attended the leadership meeting and delivered a speech to the participants.
Purnomo said most of the procurement could take a long time to realize from planning to delivery as there were various agencies involved in the process.
“Each individual service will describe their needs to the TNI headquarters, which will submit the request to the ministry,” he said.
“Once agreed, we have to talk with the National Development Planning Board [Bappenas] and the Finance Ministry to find the appropriate funding.”
He said that because most procurement processes required a long time to realize, the funding usually involved a multiyear system.
Purnomo said the ministry had Rp 150 trillion (US$16.41 billion) to spend over five years to procure major weapons systems.
“Rp 50 trillion will be used to accelerate achieving the Minimum Essential Force, Rp 55 trillion for procurement and Rp 45 trillion for maintenance and repair.”
As Indonesia enjoys improving economic growth, the defense budget has gradually been increased over the past few years. This year the budget is Rp 64.4 trillion almost triple that of the Rp 23.92 trillion in 2006.
The ministry’s Defense Facilities Agency chief Maj. Gen. Ediwan Prabowo said most of the shopping list would be sealed in the first half of this year.
“We are still currently looking for candidates for each weapons system. So we have not yet decided the model and pricing,” he told the press conference.
Previous reports have, however, indicated preference among the end users. For the main battle tank (MBT), the Army is said to procure the German-made Leopard 2A6 from the Netherlands, which is abolishing its armored divisions to cut its defense budget due to the global crisis.
Pramono said neighboring countries already have MBTs, including Malaysia, which had the Polish-made PT-91 and Singapore, which had the upgraded Leopard 2A4. “The Army only has light tanks so far and we do need MBTs.”
He admitted that there were other MBTs on the market and that representatives from other countries had offered their own MBTs.
“But we have to buy what we can afford and it has to be battle proven,” he said, adding that the Leopard was used by a dozen other countries.
The plan to purchase MBTs has been criticized, with some saying they would be too heavy for road infrastructure here, with a Leopard weighing some 60 metric tons. Observers have also said that such MBTs do not fit well in Indonesian geographic conditions.
“If we are at war, why would we need roads? Leopards can cross rivers up to 4-meter deep, so there is no problem,” Prabowo said.
Other than MBTs, the shopping list also includes various types of helicopter, howitzer, multiple launch rocket system (MLRS), various types of ship and anti-aircraft missile.
RI’s 2012 shopping list
Main battle tank (MBT)
Multiple launch rocket system (MLRS)
Air defense missiles
Assault and attack helicopters
Anoa armored personnel carriers
Searider rigid-inflatable boat (RIB)
Fast patrol boats
Barque tall ship to replace the existing
Various auxiliary vessels, including fuel and landing ship tank
Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter
EC-725 Cougar helicopter
24 F-16 fighter jets, grant from the United States, to be retrofitted
4 C-130H heavy transport aircraft, grant from Australia, to be retrofitted