Indonesia is seeking to expand its submarine fleet, aiming to triple its current number to 12, Japanese media said, citing multiple Indonesian defense sources. Analysts say this would allow Indonesia to conduct intensive surveillance in areas that are difficult for patrol ships to reach.
“According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Indonesia’s move is a response to repeated incursions by the Chinese Communist Party into its waters. Indonesia will also strengthen its fleet of frigates.
The country originally had five submarines, but one of them, KRI Nanggala-402, was lost off Bali on April 21 while preparing for a torpedo test launch during an exercise. Searchers eventually found the submarine sunken to the bottom of the sea and broken into three pieces. All 53 people on board were killed. Indonesia now has only four submarines left.
Indonesia has the world’s third largest water area within its EEZ, but its submarine fleet is dwarfed by countries like Japan. Japan ranks sixth in terms of water area within its EEZ and has 20 submarines.
Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto said the country will invest more in military equipment after last month’s accident involving the KRI Nanggala-402. As for submarines, Indonesia is seeking a joint production deal with South Korea; while France, Russia and Turkey have offered to export the vessels; and Japan is exploring the idea of selling submarines to Indonesia.
In recent years, Indonesia has been cooperating with South Korea on submarines and is seeking technical cooperation with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Of the four submarines currently in service in Indonesia, two were built in South Korea and one was produced domestically using South Korean technology.
The submarine from Japan will be more advanced than the South Korean submarine, providing more time for underwater operations. But the price will be higher than South Korea’s and will be more sensitive to technology transfer issues.
“According to Nikkei, the KRI Nanggala-402 incident has triggered a sense of urgency to strengthen the state of the country’s submarine fleet. The Chinese Communist Party’s “nine-dash” line intersects part of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone around the Natuna Islands. Chinese fishing boats operate there, and Beijing has deployed maritime police vessels and authorized the use of firepower in February. Indonesia is bracing for possible increased Chinese Communist Party activity in the area.
Khairul Fahmi of the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies, an Indonesian think tank, said that if the number of submarines could be increased to target levels, they could conduct intensive surveillance in areas that would be difficult for patrol ships to reach. Such a move would reduce the presence of foreign vessels around the Natuna Islands.