â€œArmada Jaya XXX/11â€ Naval Exercise:Â
Indonesiaâ€™sÂ Naval Strategy
By Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto
Indonesia recently concluded a naval exercise close to disputed waters. This serves as a hintÂ ofÂ Indonesiaâ€™s future naval contingency planning and broader military strategy.
THEÂ INDONESIANÂ Navy (TNI-AL) has just concluded a naval exercise codenamed â€œArmada Jaya XXX-11â€ (AJ XXX/11) in waters off Sangatta, East Kalimantan, roughly 330 nautical miles (nm) southÂ ofÂ the disputed Ambalat waters with Malaysia. The exercise, which started from 31 October to 18 November 2011, involved over 4000 naval personnel, including 2500 marines;Â 23 vessels, 11 aircraft, and 93 military vehicles.
The exercise was intended to enhance theÂ TNI-ALâ€™s sea control and amphibious capabilities, which have recently been upgraded with new platforms and weapon systems. Given the proximity of the exercise to disputed waters, andÂ its locationÂ at the Makassar Strait used for international navigation, what does this tell us about the TNI-ALâ€™s future contingency planning? And how does it fit into the broader Indonesian military (TNI) strategy?Â
Armada Jaya XXX/11Â Â Â Â
AJ XXX/11 began with a scenario that an enemy seaborne task force hadÂ infringed Ambalat waters and cut throughÂ theÂ TNIâ€™s Tarakan-Sangatta line of communications. In response, TNI-AL mobilised its assets to retake Ambalat and mountedÂ an amphibious landing at Sangatta to round-up the enemyâ€™s ground forces. TNI-AL also conducted sea controlÂ exercisesÂ en route to the area, such as anti-surface, anti-submarine, and anti-air warfareÂ drills.
This exercise correlates with theÂ TNI-AL strategyÂ ofÂ â€œArchipelagic Sea Defence Strategyâ€ (Strategi Pertahanan Laut Nusantara,Â SPLN), which puts an emphasis on â€œstrategic funnelsâ€ (corong strategis). Simply defined, â€œstrategic funnelsâ€ refer to the bodies of water located at both ends of Indonesiaâ€™s three north-south archipelagic sea lanes (ASLs). TheÂ AJ XXX/11Â was conducted at the northern end ofÂ theÂ second ASL, which runs from the Lombok Strait to Makassar Strait and endsÂ in theÂ Sulawesi Sea.
TheÂ TNI-AL has perceived the strategic funnels as potential future flashpoints, considering its proximity to neighbouring countries, abundant marine resources, and unresolved maritime boundary disputes.Â They are also where naval forces can be effectively concentrated to interdict any enemy fleet.Â Apart from Ambalat, TNI-AL is equally waryÂ aboutÂ the Natuna Sea whereÂ Chinaâ€™s â€œnine-dashâ€ line claim overlapsÂ with Indonesiaâ€™sÂ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Also flanked by Malaysia on both east and west, the Natuna Sea,Â withÂ allÂ theÂ hydrocarbon reserves it contains, is geostrategically Indonesiaâ€™s northern underbelly.
The Natuna and Sulawesi Seas were the main TNI-AL deployment areasÂ inÂ the first TNI quadrennialÂ Yudha SiagaÂ (Ready for War) tri-service exerciseÂ in 2008, conducted along the Batam-Natuna-Singkawang-Sangatta northern defenceÂ perimeter. The AJ XXX/11Â wasÂ also a preparation for the secondÂ Yudha SiagaÂ scheduled for mid-2012.
Indonesian Naval and Military StrategyÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
As an archipelagic country, Indonesiaâ€™s strategic attention is divided between its external and internal maritime security environments. This makes TNI-AL force deployment different from the navies of continental and island states. By virtue of their geographical conditions, the latter can deploy their naval assets exclusively for EEZs and external sea lines of communications (SLOCs) protection, while TNI-ALâ€™s attention remains confined to ASLs and archipelagic waters security.Â There is almost negligible attention to Indonesiaâ€™s external SLOCs. As such, TNI-AL strategy remains solely focused on sea control and power projection within Indonesiaâ€™s territorialÂ seasÂ and archipelagic waters.
WhenÂ facingÂ a stronger fleet, TNI-AL also has its own anti-access/area denial (A2/AD)Â concept. This concept envisages a substantial deployment of naval mines and, in deeper waters, submarines, in and around the strategic funnels to interdictÂ anÂ enemyâ€™s SLOCs in Indonesian waters, prevent enemy seaborne forces from mounting amphibious landings, and deny the enemy a beachhead access. Hence, in the TNI-AL 2005 â€œGreen-Water-Navyâ€ blueprint, mine-laying vessels and submarines are among the top priorities to be acquired by 2024.Â
But, how does the SPLN fit into the broader TNI strategy?Â TheÂ TNI-AL and the Air Force (TNI-AU) will form the spearhead to interdict any hostile adversaries heading toward Indonesiaâ€™s strategic funnels. They make up the first layer of Indonesiaâ€™s concentric defence circles where â€œstrategic offensiveâ€ (ofensif strategis) operations will be mainly conducted.Â In Ambalatâ€™sÂ case, for example, TNI-AU jet fighters from Sultan Hasanuddin Air Force Base in Makassar can provide air support for naval forces deployed in Sulawesi Sea.
A Maritime Defence StrategyÂ Â Â Â
The TNI-AL strategy is essentially defensive. It does not adhere to the Mahanian concept of command of the sea, nor does itÂ attempt to project naval assets beyond Indonesian waters. Rather, itÂ isÂ skewedtoward sea control and amphibious operations conducted within Indonesiaâ€™s EEZs and archipelagic waters.Â However,Â it is assessed thatÂ TNI-AL is preparing the stage for potential contingencies in strategic funnels as far as Indonesiaâ€™s traditional threats are concerned. Considering the maritime nature of these threats, it is perhaps more relevant for the TNI-AL to have a more robust posture and deploymentÂ based on the following considerations:
Firstly, TNI-AL could be tasked solely for EEZs and external SLOCs protection. TNI-ALÂ attentionÂ is currently divided between protecting external SLOCs and EEZs, and policing the ASLs and archipelagic waters. To address this problem one alternative would beÂ toÂ enhanceÂ the Coast Guard capabilityÂ forÂ gradually taking over TNI-ALâ€™s role for ASLs and archipelagic watersÂ security.
Secondly, Indonesia must formulate a maritime defence strategy. This strategy shouldÂ guideÂ TNI-AL and TNI-AUÂ operationsÂ in the strategic funnels and beyond. Accordingly, both services must be tailored for long-range maritime interdiction enabled by more and better in-flight refuelling and naval replenishment capabilities.
Lastly, theÂ TNIÂ Law No. 34/2004 needs to be revised since it limits TNI-AL deploymentÂ toÂ only within â€œnational jurisdictional waters.â€ The revised TNI Law must legallyÂ sanctionÂ regular deployment of TNI-AL units for external SLOCs protection and otherÂ navalÂ operations to support Indonesian national interests abroad.
A maritime approach to defence strategy that encompasses its ASLs, EEZs and SLOCs will enhance Indonesiaâ€™s capability to protect its extensive archipelagic interests and broaden its maritime horizons well into the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto is a Research Analyst with the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He was previously a researcher at the Centre of East Asian Cooperation Studies (CEACoS), University of Indonesia.