Australia is being urged to support modernisation of Indonesia’s military so that its capability is shaped in a way that suits our interests.
In a new Australian Strategic Policy Institute study, ASPI analyst Benjamin Schreer says that could include improving Indonesian capability to safeguard its exclusive economic zone.
Maritime surveillance could be shared with Australia providing data from its Jindalee Operational Radar Network which can cover almost all of Indonesia.
The study says Indonesia could share data from its new maritime surveillance systems and Australia could share use of the Cocos Islands for maritime surveillance and patrol operations.
Dr Schreer said a democratic, militarily more-outward-looking Indonesia was in Australia’s strategic interest.
“The Australian government should seek to shape Indonesia’s defence capability in a way that suits out interests,” he said.
Dr Schreer said Indonesia had expressed ambitions for an expanded defence force in the past but the military, known as TNI, was far from reaching its plans.
In its 2010 Strategic Defence Plan, Indonesia unveiled plans for a navy of 274 ships and 12 submarines, a modernised air force including 10 fighter squadrons and a more agile army with tanks and attack helicopters – all by 2024.
Indonesian defence spending is increasing but remains modest – US$7.74 billion in 2012 or just 0.86 per cent of gross domestic product.
Plans to lift defence spending to 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2014 won’t be realised.
Dr Schreer said bold declarations were made about procurement plans regardless of available funding, while equipment was acquired without the ability to keep it in service.
“Consequently for the forseeable future TNI will remain an imbalanced, mostly non-deployable force,” he said.
Dr Schreer said Indonesia’s air force plans were of particular interest, given Australia’s strategic goal of maintaining RAAF superiority over regional air forces.
Over the next 20 years, Indonesia will incrementally improve capacity to patrol its airspace and provide transport within the archipelago.
“Yet, it’s highly unlikely that the TNI-AU (air force) will pose any significant operational challenge for a state-of-the-art air force such as the RAAF any time soon,” he said.