03 December 2015
Historical experience, archipelagic geography, and strategic imperative make submarines a critical asset for Indonesia’s naval defence in spite of financial and other constraints. Overambitious submarine projects, however, are perilous.
In September 2015, Indonesia decided to cut its defence budget for the first time in five years by 6.3 percent, or IDR7 trillion (US$490 million), to IDR95.8 trillion. Slower economic growth and declining rupiah value are cited as the main reasons. As a result, reductions in military procurements are expected. Amid these constraints, however, the government remains firm to endorse ‘big-ticket’ purchases, including submarines. If that’s the case, why do submarines seem central in Indonesia’s naval modernisation programme and broader naval strategy?
Southeast Asia’s underwater strategic environment is getting more crowded. IHS Jane’s predicted in 2011 that regional countries would acquire at least 13 submarines by 2020. Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam have acquired submarines in the last two decades or so, while Thailand, Myanmar, and the Philippines have declared their intent to follow suit. Given this strategic trend, it’s tempting to conclude that regional countries are simply playing ‘catch-up’ as a reason behind their submarine acquisitions.
… Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto is Indonesian Presidential PhD Scholar with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. He was previously an Associate Research Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 04/12/2015