Prashanth Parameswaran, The Diplomat
24 December 2015
Indonesia has still not made a decision on what type of submarines it will purchase, the country's navy chief said last week.
As I have noted previously, Indonesia currently only has two German-built Type 209 submarines, woefully inadequate for the world's largest archipelagic state. Defense officials say Indonesia needs at least 12 submarines by 2024 to police its waters. Indonesia ordered three South Korean submarines back in 2012, and officials had indicated earlier this year that two more new ones would be purchased 'most likely from Russia' even though specifics were still unclear.
On December 16, according to The Jakarta Post, Ade Supandi, the chief of staff of the Indonesian navy (TNI-AL), clarified that while Jakarta had decided to buy diesel submarines, it is still currently reviewing three types of submarines from three countries: Russia, South Korea, and Germany.
"The Navy and the military headquarters are still conducting a strategic review of the matter," Supandi said Tuesday.
Indonesia has a record of purchasing submarines from all three countries. The relationship with Russia dates back the furthest, with 12 Whiskey-class submarines purchased from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Those subs were gradually decommissioned 'the last in 1990. And as mentioned earlier, Indonesia currently operates two German-built Type 209 submarines' which are expected to be decommissioned by 2020; and has ordered three Chang Bogo-class submarines from South Korea. In addition to the three candidates, Indonesia also reportedly had government-to-government talks with France earlier this year regarding the Scorpene-class 1000 diesel-electric attack submarines.
Supandi's comments suggest that key specifics are still yet to be publicly revealed on the submarine purchase. As I wrote back in September, while navy spokesman Comr. Zainuddin had said then that Indonesia may buy Russian submarines, he also had declined to mention key details like which specific submarine type would be purchased and how it would be financed.
The financing point is critical because Indonesia has been struggling to boost its defense budget amid financial troubles in 2015. Supandi himself reiterated that point when he said that the decision regarding which submarines to purchase would be based on the current state of the budget situation. He also added that procurement would take time as it would have to go through three stages: drawing up submarine specifications; planning the budget; and then building the vessels.