Leopards, submarines and Sukhois
Lately, there has been much news about procurement of military weapons and equipment, including Leopard tanks, submarines and Sukhoi fighter aircraft. Happily, Indonesia now has the resources to meet the needs of war and defense equipment.
Lamentably, the procurements have been negatively received by observers, politicians and the man in the street. Criticism against the Leopard tanks procurement questioned the decision not to buy from the Netherlands, but from Germany instead. Others have questioned the usefulness of Leopard tanks in Indonesia.
The planned purchase of submarines from South Korea would, it seems, not benefit Indonesian maritime defense as the submarines have insufficient deterrence effects on neighboring countries.
The acquisition of Russian-made Sukhois and used American F-16 aircraft is criticized due to technical specifications.
The problem is that people are not given correct explanations, and whether the procurements are truly necessary or appropriate is never clarified. There is no clear explanation as to why the country requires advanced war equipment to ensure our sovereignty and defend the country.
At present, we face a variety of challenges as a nation and do not have an overview of our military strategy as a whole.
Armed conflict often occurs as a result of border disputes. The Great Wall of China was built to secure the national border territory. Such a wall is obviously impractical in our case and the effort would make no sense since our borders are mostly at sea anyway.
Sea border areas, therefore, should be our priority, due to their importance in safeguarding the country against intrusion, and thus safeguarding national sovereignty as well as defending our national honor. The archipelagic nature of our country without doubt makes formidable naval power of the utmost importance in the critical sea border areas.
Sea power without the support of air defense (indeed air superiority) is a futile defense system. The areas surrounding the Malacca Strait and those bordering Timor Leste and Australia are considered critical areas.
To talk of national sovereignty and honor in terms of arms procurement, is: We are sovereign if any Indonesian citizen can freely fish within the country’s own waters without fear of obstruction from neighboring countries’ navies, whereas illegal forays into Indonesian waters by foreign fishing vessels have long been a problem.
Regarding our land borders, our country’s land sovereignty is ensured simply if the land border remains static.
On the other hand, Indonesian sovereignty over its own airspace over the Malacca Strait, in the form of Flight Information Region (FIR) management, should be returned to us, and at the very least be put under the tight control of our national aviation authority.
As an archipelagic nation, we need our Army, Navy and Air Force to be strong to protect the honor of the motherland.
It will be easier to explain the necessity to procure tanks, combatant ships and fighter aircraft; to protect the citizens and the country’s territory; to defend land, sea and air space sovereignty, when we accept the necessity of integrated effort from the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Jakarta 31 Juli 2012 Jakarta Post.
(The writer is former Air Force chief of staff and chairman of CSE Aviation.)