Jakarta, IO – In recent years, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense, under the leadership of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, has taken significant strides in bolstering the country’s defense capabilities. Prabowo’s commitment to strengthening Indonesia’s military prowess and security posture is unmistakable, and his efforts are emblematic of a strategic approach that aligns with Defensive Realism – a theory in international relations that prioritizes self-preservation and security in a complex and ever-changing global landscape.
Prabowo’s tenure as the Indonesian Defense Minister has been marked by substantial acquisitions and collaborations with various nations to enhance Indonesia’s defense capabilities. These initiatives encompass a range of military assets, from advanced fighter jets to cutting-edge submarines and radar systems. This comprehensive approach reflects a commitment to safeguarding Indonesia’s sovereignty and ensuring the country’s preparedness in the face of potential threats.
One of the most notable acquisitions during Prabowo’s tenure is the procurement of six Rafale fighter jets from the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation. The signing of the Rafale contract in February 2022 marked a significant milestone for Indonesia’s air defense capabilities. The Rafale is a highly versatile and sophisticated aircraft, capable of performing a wide range of missions, from air superiority to ground attack. With plans to acquire a total of 42 Rafale jets, Indonesia’s air force is set to receive a substantial boost in its capacity to protect the nation’s airspace.
The Rafale acquisition aligns with Defensive Realism in several key ways. First and foremost, it underscores Indonesia’s commitment to maintaining a robust defense posture. In an era of evolving regional dynamics and geopolitical challenges, possessing advanced fighter aircraft is crucial to deterring potential aggressors and defending Indonesian airspace effectively. By investing in the Rafale, Prabowo’s ministry is sending a clear message that Indonesia is prepared to protect its interests.
Furthermore, the acquisition of the Rafale reflects Prabowo’s pragmatic approach to defense. Defensive Realism emphasizes the importance of rational decision-making, based on an assessment of national security interests. In this case, the decision to acquire the Rafale is driven by the need for a capable and versatile fighter aircraft to meet Indonesia’s defense requirements. It is a calculated move designed to enhance the country’s military capabilities without unnecessary extravagance.
In addition to the Rafale, Prabowo’s ministry has also pursued the purchase of two Scorpene submarines from France. These submarines are part of a broader collaboration between PT PAL Indonesia and NAVAL Group, aimed at enhancing Indonesia’s submarine capabilities. The Scorpene submarines are known for their advanced technology, stealth capabilities and endurance, making them valuable assets for maritime defense.
Again, this acquisition aligns with the principles of Defensive Realism. Indonesia is an archipelagic nation with vast maritime interests, and having a capable submarine fleet is essential for protecting its waters and maritime trade routes. Prabowo’s focus on strengthening the country’s naval capabilities through prudent acquisitions reflects a commitment to safeguarding Indonesia’s maritime sovereignty.
Moreover, Prabowo’s ministry has expanded Indonesia’s airlift capabilities, by procuring two Airbus A400M aircraft from France. These multi-role tanker and transport aircraft provide Indonesia with the flexibility to deploy troops, equipment, and supplies to different locations, including remote and challenging terrain. The A400M’s versatility is a valuable asset in responding to various security challenges and humanitarian missions.
Once again, this acquisition mirrors Defensive Realism’s emphasis on enhancing capabilities that contribute to national security. The ability to rapidly transport personnel and resources is critical for responding to crises and maintaining territorial integrity. Prabowo’s decision to acquire the A400M aircraft underscores his commitment to ensuring Indonesia’s preparedness in the face of diverse threats.
In addition to these acquisitions, Prabowo’s ministry has entered into agreements for the purchase of frigates from Italy’s Fincantieri, tactical vehicles (Rantis Maung) from PT Pindad, and Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets from Qatar. These diverse acquisitions highlight the comprehensive nature of Indonesia’s defense modernization efforts under Prabowo’s leadership.
The strategic rationale behind these acquisitions is clear: to strengthen Indonesia’s defense capabilities across different domains – naval, aerial, ground and beyond. Defensive Realism posits that states must prioritize their security interests, and Prabowo’s approach aligns perfectly with this principle. Indonesia faces a range of security challenges, from territorial disputes to the need to protect vital sea lanes, and these acquisitions are tailored to address these challenges effectively.
Furthermore, Prabowo’s emphasis on domestic defense industry development, as exemplified by the procurement of Rantis Maung, demonstrates a commitment to self-reliance. Defensive Realism acknowledges the importance of self-preservation, and building a strong domestic defense industry is an integral part of this strategy. By investing in indigenous defense capabilities, Indonesia becomes less reliant on external suppliers and gains greater control over its defense assets.
The recent purchase of radar systems from Thales further underscores Prabowo’s commitment to enhancing Indonesia’s defense infrastructure. The Ground Master 400 Alpha (GM400a) radar systems offer extended range and advanced capabilities, significantly improving Indonesia’s ability to monitor its vast airspace. This acquisition not only aligns with Defensive Realism but also reflects a forward-looking approach to defense preparedness in an era of evolving security threats.
Finally, the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the purchase of 24 F-15EX fighter fighters from the United States is yet another big step forward in Indonesia’s defense modernization efforts. These new fighter aircraft, codenamed F-15IDN, will help Indonesia maintain its air supremacy. This procurement demonstrates a commitment to sustaining credible deterrence and safeguarding Indonesian airspace defense.
Last but not least, under the tenure of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia has made considerable strides in strengthening its defense capabilities, through a range of strategic acquisitions and collaboration. These projects are heavily founded on Defensive Realism concepts, which prioritize self-preservation and security in a volatile global setting. Prabowo’s pragmatic and forward-thinking approach to military modernization aligns with Indonesia’s security goals and ensures the country’s capacity to deal with a wide variety of challenges. Under the leadership of a minister who recognizes the importance of a robust military in maintaining the country’s sovereignty and security, Indonesia is improving its defense posture.
M. Raihan Ronodipuro is a Master’s Degree student in the School of Public Policy & Management at Tsinghua University, China. Previously, he was awarded the Chinese MOFCOM Scholarship and earned a Master of Law in International Relations from the School of International and Public Affairs at Jilin University in China. He serves as an Associate Researcher in the Department of Politics and Security at the Center for Indonesia-China Studies (CICS). He is presently a member of the International Relations Commission at the Directorate of Research and Studies for the Overseas Indonesian Students’ Association Alliance (OISAA) 2022/2023.