Indonesia is on a Major Defense Spending Spree

            Indonesia made major purchase announcements of fighter jets from the United States and French manufacturers this week in the biggest military buying spree in recent years, raising concerns over government spending as the nation rations funds to recover from COVID-19. The procurement plans spotlight a growing arms race in the Indo-Pacific region, following the surprise announcement last year of a security partnership between the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

            The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), an agency under the US Department of Defense, announced the possible sale of F-15ID aircraft and related equipment to Indonesia in a deal valued at up to US$13.9 billion on Thursday, just hours after Indonesia and France signed a purchase agreement for the first six of 42 Rafale fighter jets as part of a contract worth of $8.1 billion. Boeing is the principal contractor for the F-15 jets, the Pentagon’s cooperation agency said in a statement. The package would include 36 jets, spare engines, radar, night vision goggles training, and technical support. The DSCA notified the US Congress of the possible sale on Thursday.

            Military analyst Connie Rahakundini Bakrie said that while the purchase of the Rafales from France has been finalized, Prabowo still needs to explain to the public about the high cost of procuring advanced military equipment at this time. She said the ministry owed it to the people to explain how the government would be paying for up to 78 new fighter jets from France and the US. “Prabowo must explain why he chose these jet planes, what the interoperability will be like, as well as what maintenance, repair, and operational components must be built around them, alongside the logistics system. Shopping is easy, and even though this will be paid for with foreign loans, it is still coming out of taxpayers’ money,” she said.

            While Indonesia’s defense spending has increased significantly in the last few years, the portion of the defense budget to gross domestic product has remained stagnant at 0.7 to 0.8 percent in the last 15 years, argued Andi Widjajanto, senior analyst in political security at Laboratorium Indonesia 2045. As such, he said Indonesia was aiming to maintain its current force and modernize the obsolete weapons systems, but Indonesia will not have any significant breakthrough in its posture.

Feb 12, 2022, The Jakarta Post