M Zulfikar, Nabil Ihsan, Jakarta – Indonesia's decision to purchase 42 Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft and two Scorpene-class submarines from France is a strategic move to modernize the defence forces, a military expert has said.
"It is not an easy task to modernize our military armament system," Khairul Fahmi from the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS) remarked in Jakarta on Friday.
Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto's commitment to modernizing the nation's defence systems amid public calls to evaluate and modernize the military has been hindered by budgetary constraints and the COVID-19 pandemic, the expert said.
A sufficient allocation from the national budget is crucial to realize the commitment to upgrading the military systems, he added.
"Hence, the decision to purchase the Rafale fighter aircraft and Scorpene-class submarines is appropriate, in view of our current challenges and budget constraints," Fahmi remarked.
Indonesia must continue improving its defence capabilities by ensuring its military equipment have high specifications and can be used in multiple missions, he said.
Current internal and external threats must also spur Indonesia to renew its defence systems, the expert remarked while noting that major countries, such as the United States, China, India, Russia, and the United Kingdom, have continued to boost their defence spending.
"China is even recording a significant increase to its defence spending in the last 26 years. If Indonesia does not have a strong national defence, we will have no bargaining power in facing strategic global changes," Fahmi cautioned.
Despite the existing dilemma in the government, Indonesia must not contrapose the urgency to continue national development with the need to maintain national sovereignty by enhancing military capability, the expert said.
"Developing our defence capability is one method necessary to minimize the potential of war," he added.
Fahmi also urged the government to prioritize strengthening the naval fleet with submarines, which have a high deterrent effect, and bolster maritime defence.
"I believe that Scorpene-class submarines will be appropriate for us," the expert remarked.
Although the government has currently purchased only six Rafale fighter aircraft out of the intended 42, the current procurement is still appropriate as the Defence Ministry must consider the state budget for strengthening the defence forces, he noted.
Indonesia must also target to boost domestic capability in developing defence equipment to enhance the country's independence in fulfilling national defence needs, Fahmi added.