Forces: April 13, 2005

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:   Indonesias armed forces are one of the numerically larger forces in Southeast Asia. Only Vietnams is larger. This military is not exactly the most modern, but in some areas, it is powerful, and can hold its own against some threats.

The National Army of Indonesia has primarily found itself engaged in low-intensity conflict against various insurgencies, most notably in Aceh. This force is numerically large (217,000 personnel), divided into ten regional commands, along with a small special operations command (about 2500 personnel) and a strategic reserve (25,000 personnel). The Indonesian military is based on conscription, with conscripts serving two years. The Indonesian Army uses about 700 armored fighting vehicles, primarily centered on the AMX-13 (100 in service) and Scorpion light tanks (50 to 100 purchased in the mid-90s), and the VCI infantry combat vehicle (200 in service).

The Indonesian Air Force is small and primarily based on Java. The backbone of this force is the 26 A-4E Skyhawk light attack planes. These are not much different than the Skyhawks that flew off the decks of aircraft carriers during the earlier portion of the Vietnam War. Indonesia also has 16 Hawk 209 (single-seat) and 8 Hawk 109 (two-seat) light attack planes, 8 F-5E and 4 F-5F fighters, 12 OV-10 Bronco counter-insurgency aircraft, and 12 F-16s. This forces readiness has dropped due to arms embargoes from the United States and Great Britain due to Indonesias use of the aircraft in Aceh. As a result, Indonesia has purchased a small force of Su-27s and Su-30s (two of each plane) and two Mi-35 helicopters.

The Indonesian Navy is one of the largest numerically in ASEAN. There are a total of 17 frigates in five separate classes, the best of which are the six Ahmad Yani-class vessels acquired from the Netherlands in the late 1980s, two submarines (Type 209). The Indonesian Navy also acquired the sixteen Parchim I-class corvettes from Germany after the reunification to go with 27 patrol craft. Other East German vessels acquired include fourteen Frosch-class medium landing ships and nine Kondor-class minesweepers. Indonesia also has seven LSTs and three additional minesweepers. The former East German vessels were acquired relatively cheap, but most of the Kondor-class minesweepers are in reserve and the Parchim I-class corvettes have had major problems in service.

The Indonesian National Police, with 168,000 personnel is also considered part of the  armed services. This is a unit that often deals with traditional law enforcement, although it has been heavily militarized. This force has seen combat against Malaysia in the 1960s, and in East Timor in the 1970s. Although it has been separated from the military, it still remains under the Defense Minister.

Funding for the Indonesian military is different at least from what Americans are used to. Only about 25 to 30 percent of the $1 billion budget comes from the government. The rest of this comes from foundations for each of the services. These foundations often resort to illegal methods of raising funds (like smuggling and poaching). Pay for Indonesian soldiers is also very low and often the soldiers will supplement their income by setting up roadblocks and shaking down drivers. The Indonesian Army is also suspected of illegally capturing and smuggling parrots (this is surprisingly lucrative a baby parrot can go for at least $600 from an aviary and prices of over $1000 are not unheard of). The 2004 tsunami will also have a major effect on the Indonesian economy, and thus the defense budget meaning the foundations that provide most of the funding will have taken a hit. As a result, Indonesias military has quantity, but the quality is severely lacking, and it will look tougher than it really is. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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