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Drones: A 'mad thing' for Indonesian future's armaments

Eurasia Review - May 29, 2024

Gufron Gozali and Muhammad Rayhan Faqih Syahfa – After numerous breakthrough contracts with various military equipment suppliers to strengthen up its armaments, Indonesia is currently eying the ANKA, Chinese CH-4, and Bayraktar MALE drone. For a country as big as Indonesia, it only has 6 UCAVs in its 51st Air Force Squadron's storage, all Chinese CH-4B MALE. After sealing a deal with the French for its Rafale jet fighters, and the PPAs with Italy, why are UCAVs still needed? Before we dive deep trying to answer the question, we probably should dig into why Indonesia is interested in those UCAVs mentioned above.


Although it looks similar to the US MQ-9 Reaper, CH-4 is the Chinese home-made recipe excellent for conducting a reconnaissance or offensive operation. With a maximum altitude of 5000 metres and able to carry up to 6 weapons with a maximum of 345 kg payload, it feels like taking a whole Chinese food set-meal and not sharing it with your friends, an absolute satisfaction. Operating at 5000 metres means it could operate safely outside an anti-aircraft gun. While the MQ-9 Reaper have a price tag of $16 million, the CH-4 is tagged with $2 million each making a good deal for countries like Indonesia that want to modernise its armaments.


Although it's not clear which ANKA Indonesia would like to procure, ANKA should not be underestimated. Imagine walking on a sunny day around Istanbul, drinking a cup of tea on the side of the Bosphorus Strait, the feeling of happiness is when you are able to see your foes from 9000 metres altitude undetected. ANKA UAV is mainly for reconnaissance and surveillance, which is crucial for mapping and detecting. However, assuming Indonesia is to procure the newest ANKA-3 UCAV, it would be a banger for the Indonesian side. With a maximum payload of 1,2 tons, it could be carrying multi-operations from 12000 metres (40000 feet). Indeed, too good to be true.


Bayraktar has become a hot topic of conversation when it comes to spearheading Ukraine's efforts to fend off or attack Russian forces. For some experts, the Bayraktar is battle-proven. As we know, Turkey was active in sending TB2 UAVs to Ukraine and also became a lethal weapon in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. With up to 27 hours endurance, pair of hardpoint for ammunitions and 27000 feet maximum deployment altitude, TB2 have been classified as more tactical UAV then merely to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance operation.

Based on those list of UAVs above, we can indeed have a picture of their crucial role in modern conflict; it's unmanned, hard to detect, effective and efficient. Then the question would be, does Indonesia need them?

Defending Indonesia

Indonesia is one of the biggest archipelagic countries in the world with nearly 18 thousand islands, making them one of the biggest maritime countries in the world. In the north, Indonesia borders Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and the South China Sea. Papua New Guinea is in the east, East Timor, and Australia is in the south.

Unlike Australia which already formulated its northern part as the crucial part to be defended, deciding which part of Indonesia should be prioritized for being defended heavily is a hard thing. Not only because they did not have adequate official publications on this subject, uneven distribution and inadequate numbers of armaments also became a contributing factor. Furthermore, much of the terrain in Indonesia is not able to accommodate the Indonesian military vehicles to traverse, making military operations hard to conduct.

Thus, if we are about to use the concept of risk assessment, several conclusions erupted. Simply put variables like capabilities, intentions, and vulnerabilities, we can find out why some defence equipment is urgently needed by Indonesia, especially drones. Col. Myers explained that there is a dynamic relationship between the three variables when applied to both our side and the adversaries. Simply put, if we have high vulnerability due to a lack of intentions and capabilities, the threat level will be higher, and vice versa.

Recalling the Indonesian defence white paper, Indonesia is facing a massive threat due to the presence of both internal and external problems. Let's focus on internal issues such as the insurgency in Papua, the eastern part of Indonesia. There have been many cases of ambushes that have resulted in casualties among Indonesian personnel. As explained earlier, the geographical conditions in Papua is a contributing factor to why military operations are challenging to carry out. Compared to the rebels there, Indonesian personnel are less skilled in mastering the terrain. This situation certainly increases the level of vulnerability of Indonesian personnel, of course, as explained above, it will also increase the level of threat.

Thus, UAVs will be needed to sweep rugged terrain, including reconnaissance and surveillance operations which are very important for counter-insurgency. Of course, this is not to say that Indonesia never deployed its Drone to Papua. Indonesia has been using drones in Papua since late 2023. However, the type of drone they have been using is unknown; what if they're using non-military drones? Will it still be beneficial in terms of deterrence? Would it be as strong as the military drones? Furthermore, defending Indonesia is not only by protecting our territory from the rebels but also from external threats. The South China Sea is a massive area at risk of escalation, and UAVs would be beneficial for Indonesia in maintaining its deterrence. In addition, the proximity of the new capital of Indonesia in Borneo and the South China Sea should be taken into consideration for further protection. The presence of UAVs will be a breath of fresh air to improve a country's military capability, introducing more efficient military operations and reducing threats toward personnel – especially in Indonesia, with its vast territory and threats located in difficult geographical areas.

[Gufron Gozali is a research assistant and Master's in International Relations Program, Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. Gufron has a focus on China's foreign policy, and political and security studies. Muhammad Rayhan Faqih Syahfa, is a master's graduate from Macquarie University on Security and Strategic Studies.]

Source: https://www.eurasiareview.com/29052024-drones-a-mad-thing-for-indonesian-futures-armaments-oped