Indonesia sites astride one of the world’s most critical submarine chokepoints. A large share of global trade must pass through the critical Straits of Malacca, and the shallow littoral waters around the Indonesian archipelago. That makes for excellent submarine hunting grounds, but Indonesia has only 2 “Cakra Class”/ U209 submarines in its own fleet, relying instead on frigates, corvettes, and fast attack craft.
South Korea’s Daewoo, which has experience building U209s for South Korea, has been contracted for Cakra Class submarine upgrades. Even so, submarine pressure hulls have inflexible limits on their safe lifetime, due to repeated hydraulic squeezing from ascending and descending. The Indonesians have expressed serious interest in buying 3-6 replacement submarines since 2007, with French, German, Russian, South Korean, and even Turkish shipyards in the rumored mix. Other priorities shoved the sub purchase aside, but a growing economy and military interest finally revived it. South Korea was the beneficiary, but further orders may be in store.
Strategic Plans & Contending Designs
Indonesia’s Defence Strategic Plan 2024 calls for a fleet of 10 submarines. By then, its 2 Cakra Class boats are likely to be on their last safe years, if not completely decommissioned. In 2011, Indonesia bought 3 more. The question is whether and when Indonesia’s growing economy, military priorities, and cadre of trained submarine personnel and support will allow further buys.
Broadly speaking, the Indonesians could consider 3-6 potential diesel-electric powered submarine designs, from 5 different countries reported to date. The biggest technical and political question is whether Indonesia wants an Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) addition that allows up to 3 weeks of submerged operation, at low speed. AIP makes diesel-electric submarines harder to detect, but would provoke regional concerns from its neighbors. Indonesia may even decide it prefers a conventional design that “shows the flag” on the surface more often, due to its location and need to maintain good relations.
HDW’s latest export product is the U214, with an AIP system. It is more advanced than the U209, and more expensive. Variants and related designs have been ordered by German & Italy (as the U212A), Greece, South Korea, and Turkey.
Indonesia already operated the U209/1300 variant, and one initial option was to simply buy more U209s with fully modern internal systems. That’s a cost effective option with low additional support costs, and that was Indonesia’s choice. Submarine type was not specified, but their tonnage appears to make them Chang Bogo Class stretched and modernized U209/1200s.
Either one of HDW’s sub types could be manufactured by Germany, South Korea, or Turkey. Turkey tried to play the Islamic card, and trying to get extra work for its shipyard. On the other hand, South Korea had an existing relationship with Indonesia’s submarine fleet, and could play the regional & support angles. South Korea won the initial 3-sub tender, but Turkey will be back and bidding if there’s another one.
France’s DCNS has 3 relevant offerings. The most prominent is its Scorpene Class, which has been ordered by nearby Malaysia and by India. India is assembling its 6 submarines locally, but that has led to delays, and they would be an unproven shipyard for re-export purposes. The Scorpene can be delivered with or without AIP systems, just like its Agosta 90B predecessor that is being built for Pakistan in both configurations. To date, ordered Scorpenes have been the standard CM-2000 variant.
One unique option that DCNS could have offered was its Andrasta Class pocket submarine. This small 855t design is optimized for littoral, shallow water environments like Indonesia. The small submarine uses many Scorpene technologies, but trades shorter cruising range and 6 torpedo tubes that can only be loaded in dock, in exchange for more underwater stealth and lower cost. This would be the least regionally provocative choice, and might be the least expensive per boat, while giving Indonesia a potent threat within its home waters. The question is whether Indonesia was ever interested in that capability set. Vietnam, with similar underwater terrain and frugal budgets, chose to buy full-size Russian Kilo Class submarines instead. Indonesia likewise chose a full-size submarine design.
Russia made a strong play of its own, and has begun supplying Indonesia with a variety of defense equipment in recent years. Most of those buys have been land vehicles and aircraft, but the Indonesian Navy has equipped some of its ships with long-range supersonic P800/SS-N-26 missiles.
Indonesia appreciates Russia’s prices, and lack of interference with how their equipment is used. Russia’s Kilo/ Improved Kilo Class submarines are a good technical choice for Indonesia’s environment, and popular around the world; nearby countries who operate or have ordered these subs include India, Vietnam, and China.
Contracts & Key Events
2012 – 2019
Price hike reported from Daewoo, but deal gets sorted; Cakra refit done; New base; Project will be late.
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Feb 18/14: Industrial. State-owned shipbuilder PT PAL Indonesia will get up to $250 million, as part of the revised 2014 state budget. $150 million will be used for shipyard construction, $30 million for “consultation,” and $70 million on personnel. Indonesia’s state-Owned Enterprises (BUMN) Ministry will oversee the contracts with its characteristic level of rigor and transparency.
The original contract (q.v. Dec 22/11, Aug 2/12) required that PAL’s shipyard be ready by November 2014, which looks like a stretch. Then again, the original contract was slated to deliver 3 submarines in 2015 and 2016. The current schedule will deliver 2 U209 Chang Bogo Class derivatives from DMSE by 2017, and the Indonesian sub from PT PAL in 2019 or even 2020. Navy chief of staff Adm. Marsetio wants to build more submarines at PT PAL, but that state owned firm has been cited for poor work in the past, so we’ll see how it all goes. It doesn’t help that one of the reasons for the current project’s lateness is that Indonesia needs to send 206 technicians and experts to DSME, but PAL has only sent 13 people as of February 2014. Sources: Jakarta Post, “PT PAL gets $250 million to build submarines”.
April 5/13: Basing. Indonesian Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Marsetio opens the Palu Naval Base in Palu’s Ulujadi district, Watusampu subdistrict. KRI Cakra [S401] and KRI Nanggala [S402] have often docked there as a forward base, but it’s about to become a main submarine base for the 3 new U209s from South Korea. A new building has already been finished, and more construction will come.
Palu Bay is 10 km wide, with a 68 km coastline, a deep harbor that quickly drops off to 400m, and natural protection against extreme ocean currents. Its location near Malaysia and the disputed South China Sea is strategic, while remaining near Indonesia’s center. Jakarta Post.
Aug 2/12: Deal sorted. Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro confirms that they have officially signed a contract for 3 new South Korean submarines, under a Transfer of Technology scheme.
The first new submarine will be built by Daewoo in South Korea, with Indonesian personnel present and training. The 2nd will be a collaboration between Daewoo and Indonesia’s PAL. The 3rd will be built in Indonesia. Costs weren’t revealed, but these terms could explain the sudden $300 million price hike reported in March 2012. Jakarta Globe | China’s state-run Xinhua.
July 30/12: Rescue pact. Indonesia and Singapore sign a submarine rescue pact. That’s important to both parties. Singapore deploys modified Swedish Vastergotland Class boats, and has a much more advanced submarine service, so their expertise will be valuable to Indonesia. The RSN will also benefit themselves, by extending the assistance zone throughout a very wide range of sea between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Eurasia Review.
Submarine rescue pact
March 19/12: Price hike. Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News:
“South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering announced on Dec. 22 that it had won an Indonesian deal for $1.1 billion for three U209 submarines. But the company in early February unilaterally told its Indonesian counterparts that the price was too low, and increased it to $1.4 billion.
“Meanwhile, we gave our best offer to the Indonesians on Feb. 7. Now we are waiting for their decision,” the Turkish official recently told the Hürriyet Daily News. “We think we have a chance.”
Feb 20/12: Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reports that Indonesia has been consoling Turkey over the loss of the recent submarine tender, which Turkey apparently lost because they didn’t bid in time. Indonesian Chief of Staff Adm. Agus Suhartono apparently discussed a future submarine tender involving the U214 subs that Turkish shipyards are building in partnership with HDW. The country’s official plan does contemplate 5-7 more submarines by 2024. If economics allows, South Korean shipyards are also building U214s with HDW. With other models on the market and ready to compete, any future Indonesian tender will still be interesting.
The report adds that Indonesia and Turkey are exploring a $100M contract to build military radios from Aselsan, a plan to produce “missiles” designed by Roketsan (likely 122mm and 300mm rockets, or CIRIT guided 70mm rockets), and a possible order for the BAE/FNSS Pars 8×8 wheeled APCs. Neighboring Malaysia has already bought the Pars.
Feb 6/12: Cakra refits done. Indonesia’s other active submarine, KRI Nanggala, returns from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in Busan, South Korea, after a 24-month deep refit overhaul. KRI Cakra received a similar overhaul in beginning in 2006, so this completes work on Indonesia’s current fleet of 2.
DSME replaced the upper structure from bow to stern, some parts of the propulsion system, and the submarine’s sonar, radar, weapons system and combat system. The new combat system allows the Cakra Class to fire 4 wire-guided torpedoes simultaneously at 4 different targets, or launch anti-ship missiles including the French Exocet and American Harpoon. The new structure allows safe dives to 257m, and propulsion improvements raise top speed from 21.5 to 25 knots. Jakarta Post.
Cakra Class upgraded
2009 – 2011
South Korea wins the deal.
Dec 22/11: South Korea wins. Reports surface that The Indonesian Defense Ministry and South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding Marine Engineering have signed a $1.07 billion contract for 3 more submarines. Type is not specified, but their tonnage appears to make them Chang Bogo Class stretched U209/1200s. Reports say that 2 of the 3 submarines will be built in South Korea in cooperation with Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL, while the 3rd submarine will be built at PT PAL’s facilities in Surabaya.
Deliveries are expected in 2015 and 2016. The question is whether the existing Cakra Class boats will have much safe life left in them after that point, even with recent refits. Barring additional purchases, in line with Indonesia’s 10-submarine goal in its “Defence Strategic Plan 2024,” it’s likely that within a few years of receiving the new boats, Indonesia’s submarine fleet will begin dropping back to 4 and then to 3 submarines. Antara News | Chosun Ilbo | Jakarta Post.
South Korea picked
July 23/11: The Turks say one thing about Indonesia’s submarine deal, the Koreans another. Only one can be right. South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo says:
“A [Indonesian] senior government official said Taufik Kiemas, the speaker of the Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly, told [South Korean] Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik on Wednesday morning that Daewoo is virtually certain to get the nod for the [US$1.08 billion submarine] project. “There still are some more processes to follow, but the deal will be struck, unless something comes up,” the official said.”
If either Turkey or South Korea land this deal, however, one thing is certain: the submarines in question will be from Germany’s HDW. Both the Turkish and Korean shipyards have experience building U209 vessels, and both have also signed deals to build new U214s, with Korea’s KSS-II program slightly ahead of Turkey’s.
June 30/11: A Turkish Ministry of Defense official tells Today’s Zaman that a deal with Indonesia for 2 U209 submarines is “very close.” If the expected deal between the two states is signed, Turkey’s Savunma Teknolojileri Muhendislik ve Ticaret A.S. (STM) would partner with HDW to build them in the Golcuk shipyard.
Dec 9/09: The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesia’s submarine buy is at least 4 years away from a contract, given the government’s needs and priorities. Navy Chief of Staff Vice Adm. Agus Suhartono is quoted:
“We will choose a country that can provide us with a product at a competitive price and offers better transfer of technology options,” he said. “The tender process will be open using a credit export financing scheme.” Each submarine is estimated to cost around Rp 3.5 trillion (US$371.85 million).”
July 7/09: The Korea Times is more direct, in “Indonesian Redtape Torpedoes Sub Sale Bid“:
“Three more companies from Russia, Germany and France competed for the deal. But sources said the Indonesian Navy demanded unacceptable terms so Daewoo and the German and French firms dropped out. Only the Russian firm remained, forcing Indonesia to instigate a second round of bidding… Russia is considered its major competitor, since it is backed by well-established political ties with Indonesia and an offer of a $1-billion loan. In another negative sign, the incumbent Indonesian defense minister is said to be pro-Russian.
In the end, the second bid is likely to be a duel between Korea and Russia, according to informed officials, with the other two bidding countries skeptical about Jakarta’s request on price cuts… Daewoo is planning to enter the second round of bidding for the subs, hoping to take advantage of ties cultivated since the establishment of its Indonesian unit in 1976.”
Feb 9/09: Yusron Ihza, Indonesia’s deputy speaker of the House of Representatives’ Commission I on political, security and foreign affairs, confirms the country’s interest in 3 Improved Kilo Class submarines, but offers no details concerning funding. Antara News quotes him:
“There’s always been a plan to purchase submarines and I’ve surveyed a few submarine workshops in Moscow, Russia. This submarine will display our naval strength and allow us to be ready for any armed conflicts… It’s not necessary to own many submarines since they are expensive, just three state of the art units will suffice to safeguard the integrity of our waters,” Ihza said… My colleagues and I at the House have fought for an increase in defense spending, yet unfortunately this isn’t possible now…”
Indeed, only 1/3 of the proposed defense budget was approved. Jakarta Post.
* Naval Technology – SSK Andrasta Coastal Submarine, France
* Naval Technology – SSK Kilo Class (Type 877EKM) Attack Submarine, Russia. The original Kilo Class.
* Naval Technology – SSK Kilo Class (Type 636) Attack Submarine, Russia. Counter-intuitively, this is the “Improved Kilo”.
* DID – Vietnam’s Russian Restocking
* Naval Technology – SSK Scorpene Attack Submarine, Chile. “Chile” should read “France”.
* Wikipedia – Type 209 submarine
* Naval Technology – U212 / U214 Attack Submarines, Germany
* DID – Today’s Special: Turkey Subs. Specifically, U214s.
* DID – Thailand’s New Second-Hand Submarines. Reportedly 6 of the 500t U206As.
* Eurasia Review (Jan 30/12) – Indonesia’s New Submarines: Impact On Regional Naval Balance – Analysis
* Eurasia Review (May 31/11) – Indonesia’s Anti-Ship Missiles: New Development In Naval Capabilities – Analysis. By Singapore’s RSIS. Indonesia and Vietnam have both introduced SS-N-26/ P-800 Yakhont missiles to Southeast Asian seas. India was annoyed that it wasn’t their related PJ-10 BrahMos, but nearby states are more concerned about the missiles’ deployment at sea, instead of in shore batteries like Vietnam. Long-range, modern submarines will add to those tensions.
* DID – Australia’s Submarine Program In the Dock. The country that would be most concerned by Indonesian submarines is finding it hard to operate its own.
* Voice of America (Sept 11/07) – Indonesia-Russia Arms Deal Raises Concern. In the region, as nations like Japan ask Indonesia to explain its intentions. Is Indonesia just buying replacement for worn-out equipment and diversifying suppliers? Putting itself at the center of a quiet Asian arms race? Both?