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Indonesia, US Deepen Defense Ties Amid Exercises and Arms Deals

October 2, 2013

Defense News September 30, 2013

Indonesia, US Deepen Defense Ties Amid Exercises and Arms Deals


JAKARTA ­ US and Indonesian mil­itary ties are growing as evidenced by US participation in the recent US-Indonesian joint-funded Counterterrorism Exercise (CTX) held Sept. 5-13 at Indonesia’s peace­keeping forces training center in Sentul, West Java.

Invited participants included all special operations forces of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries, plus eight counterpart states: the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, India and Russia.

However, Indonesia’s best special operations force, the infamous Kopassus, was excluded from participating in the CTX due to past US complaints about human rights abuses by the unit during the 1999 East Timor crisis in which civilians were murdered, kidnapped and tortured.

The Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) is implementing military modernization efforts, but excluding Kopassus remains a problem, experts say. The TNI suffered from the US arms embargo after the 1999 crisis. The Kopassus are the best trained and disciplined unit within TNI and exclusion from training opportunities by the US will be difficult.

The US allowed the Kopassus to attend the CTX, but only as observers. The CTX was divided into several programs, including a table top exercise, practical exercise, discussions, information sharing and special simulation.

“Kopassus, just like US special operations, operates according to rule of law and under the direct control by civilian authorities,” said Col. Mike Lwin, US Army, Special Operations Command – Pacific, who led the US team to the CTX. “We know there are some problems in the past, and there are some processes that we are working through on both sides, but I think in general, we look forward to increase engagement over the future in accordance with our po­litical direction with Kopassus. We see the need for increased relation­ships, and we are moving there. But we take guidance, of course, from our civilian leaders.”

Though planning for the CTX be­gan in April 2012, a Kopassus source said the decision to exclude the elite unit from the table top ex­ercise was made only days before the event officially kicked off. The table top exercise was fully funded by the US military.

In the wake of humanitarian as­sistance and disaster relief opera­tions that followed the tsunami in Indonesia’s Aceh in 2004, the US reviewed its restriction on arms sales and military cooperation with Indonesia. The US imposed the restriction after the Indonesian government failed to stop violence from taking place in East Timor amid the 1999 ballot for referen­dum.

The revision was implemented in stages, first by lifting the embargo on US sales of non-lethal equip­ment. Contemporary threats ­ in­cluding terrorism and the rise in tension in the South China Sea ­ were part of the US motivation for change.

“Respecting the rule of law is a must, and countering terrorism should not be left alone to the hand of legal enforcers as it requires to­tal response from all elements of the nation,” Indonesian Deputy Defense Minister Sjafrie Sjam­soeddin told Defense News. “We could achieve success in counter­ing terrorism if we are able to deeply understand the philosophic and universal principle of terror­ism, which has now been able to develop its modus operandi, rang­ing from the low-level to the high­level intensity.”

During his recent visit to Indone­sia, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the US plan to sell a fleet of AH-64E Apache at­tack helicopters to the Indonesian Army for $500 million. As part of the package, the US also offers training to Indonesian pilots on tactics, techniques and procedures for operating the Apache. The TNI expects to receive the first two Apaches by 2014, with final deliv­ery by 2019.

In 2011, the US agreed to sell 24 used F-16 Block 25 fighter aircraft for US $700 million. As part of the deal, the US will upgrade the fight­ers to Block 52, to include supply­ing 18 air-to-ground missiles and 36 captive air training missiles.

The two squadrons of F-16s will join 16 Russian-made Sukhoi fighters ­ eight Su-27s and eight Su-30s ­ for the Indonesian Air Force. Another squadron of Korean-made T-50 Golden Eagle trainers is scheduled to arrive in 2014.

The Indonesian Navy is also un­dergoing modernization. Next year, the Indonesian Marine Corps will receive light patrol vessels, amphibious tanks and rockets. Two Korean-made Chang Bongo­class submarines are also slated to arrive next year, followed by a joint project with Indonesia’s state­owned PT Penataran Angkatan Laut (PT PAL) to produce a similar type of submarine as part of tech­nology transfer agreement with Korea. The submarines’ technol­ogy is an upgrade from the Ger­man- designed HDW 209 and 214 types.

Indonesia requires more than just three submarines to safeguard its maritime coasts and exclusive economic zone. The Malacca Strait is one of the busiest waterways in the world. An ideal number of sub­marines for Indonesia would be 18 to 24 vessels.

On Sept. 24, the Indonesian Army began receiving German­made Leopard main battle tanks. The Indonesian Army has pur­chased 104 Leopard tanks and 50 Marder infantry fighting vehicles and other assorted vehicles from Germany.

The Indonesian government has decided to modernize its weapon­ry systems by allocating a budget of no less than 57 trillion rupiahs (US $5 billion) during the 2010-2014 fiscal period out 156 trillion rupiahs allocated for the defense sector during the period.

Indonesia has pursued two mechanisms for procurement ­ imports and domestic develop­ment. Apart from PT PAL, Indone­sia also has PT Pindad, a state-owned arms producer, and PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI), which produces military aircraft. A number of aircraft for the Indone­sian Air Force has come through the cooperation with PT DI, such as the Bell 412, Bolcow 105 and Cassa 212.

For the Army’s weapons system, PT Pindad has supplied handguns and rifles.

The company also provides am­munition for small-caliber weap­ons as well as an armor vehicle, the Panser APS 6X6. N

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