From: The Military Balance IISS
Indonesia’s efforts to improve its armed forces’ capabilities are guided by the notion of a Minimum Essential Force (MEF), developed after concern that defence-funding levels in the 2000s had fallen below acceptable levels. Political and military leaders in Jakarta recognise the need to provide more substantial defences against external threats to Indonesia’s extensive maritime interests. But they are also aware of the need to avoid being entrapped in a regional arms race and unduly diverting national resources from crucial social and developmental spending.
Civilian governments in Jakarta over the past decade have found it politically expedient to expand naval and air capabilities, as this has moved resources and influence away from the army, which dominated Indonesian politics from 1966–98 under President Suharto. However, the army has sought to retain its extensive territorial structure, which acts as an apparatus for intelligence-gathering and, its critics allege,indirect political influence throughout Indonesia.
The army has also worked to keep its role in maintaining internal security. The separatist wars in Timor Leste and Aceh have been resolved, via independence and political autonomy respectively, but a separatist struggle continues in West Papua and Indonesia’s armed forces are involved in suppressing this uprising.
Indonesia’s broad strategic alignment since the mid-1960s has been towards the West, although the country remains non-aligned. Western military sanctions during Indonesia’s occupation of Timor Leste between 1975–99 significantly affected the international outlook of its political and military elites. One outcome of this is Indonesia’s present reluctance to depend completely on Western sources of military equipment. This has led Jakarta to continue buying equipment from diverse sources, while using technology-transfer agreements with foreign suppliers to develop its defence industry.
During 2011–12, Indonesia reached agreement with the US on the supply of 24 F-16C/D combat aircraft. It will also maintain its Russian-supplied Su-27s and Su-30s while participating in South Korea’s K-FX project to develop an advanced combat aircraft.