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Indonesia Just Ordered New Anti-Aircraft Missiles

November 7, 2017

A $77 million contract for SAMs was signed by Indonesia’s defense ministry and the defense contractor Kongsberg in late October. A press release from the Norwegian manufacturer hailed the deal for its NASAMS air defense system as a breakthrough that opened up new opportunities in the Asia-Pacific. No further details were shared by either party surrounding this acquisition.

The Norwegian advanced surface to air missile system or NASAMS is a medium-range complex intended for defending military and civilian facilities against airstrikes. It can be armed with a selection of missiles, the most common being the dual-purpose AMRAAM. Kongsberg’s NASAMS have been exported to several international customers, including the US. American defense contractor Raytheon will be supplying AMRAAM missiles to Indonesia.

Kongsberg didn’t reveal how many launchers and missiles were ordered by its newest customer but it did mention providing all the relevant equipment for deploying the NASAMS:

The contract comprise delivery of a complete NASAMS system with command posts, radars, launchers, radios and integration, and training and logistics support. AMRAAM missiles will be provided in a separate government-to-government agreement between Indonesia and the United States.

Possessing at least two batteries of the NASAMS allows Indonesia to fulfill its Minimum Essential Force II requirements and, at the very least, have an anti-missile umbrella over its capital in place. Future acquisitions of NASAMS or its analogs could then be used in other major cities along coastal areas.

For Indonesia to acquire the NASAMS couldn’t have come at a better time. Aside from Singapore and Vietnam, who deploy theater air defense batteries of their own, Southeast Asian states have avoided buying expensive SAM systems. This is understandable considering the exorbitant cost involved for importing these weapons and the low risk of a major conventional war breaking out within the ASEAN.

But for Indonesia’s armed fores, the TNI, this capability gap posed by the absence of a modern SAM system could jeopardize national security. At a time when Jakarta is staking its claims amid a drawn out territorial dispute, it matters that a credible deterrent from air and missile attack is in place.

This year is proving a fruitful one for the Indonesian armed forces, whose branches are enjoying a rare period of financial largess. There’s now a program to strengthen and expand the air force with multirole fighter jets from Russia. The navy in particular is being helped by the growth of domestic shipbuilding and an ambitious submarine program. For its Independence Day parade on October 5, the TNI showcased its latest assets, including new Apache helicopters and Leopard 2 tanks.

The arrival of the NASAMS in a year or two shall go a long way in enhancing Indonesia’s national security. It also works as a signal to its immediate neighbors who must realize Jakarta is determined to have the strongest military in the region.

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