Indonesia’s Defense: Challenges and Domestic Capabilities

Defense Minister and Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto expressed confidence in Indonesia’s ability to build destroyer warships during a visit to state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL Indonesia on January 24th.1 He emphasized the importance of modernizing Indonesia’s naval fleet and highlighted the progress of the modernization project for 41 warships, led by PT PAL, with 40% of construction now completed.1

Despite concerns raised in the January 7 presidential debate regarding declining defense indicators, Prabowo attributed military performance issues to the COVID-19 pandemic and budget reallocation policies.2 Under the Defense Ministry’s strategic programs, financial resources for defense equipment upgrades, including a significant foreign loan, were secured.2 Here, tensions between the Finance and Defense Ministries have been exposed, with the highly-respected Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati indirectly criticizing Prabowo’s procurement decisions regarding the Mirage-2000 fighter jet procurement project.2


As tensions in the South China Sea heat up, Indonesia’s maritime and broader defense capabilities will increasingly come under focus. Currently, Indonesia’s military capacity trails behind that of other Southeast Asian nations such as Vietnam and Singapore.2 While that may be due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of continuity between the Finance and Defense Ministries, as Prabowo has indicated, the fact remains that Indonesia’s defense capabilities are below that of its neighbours. Furthermore, the impending change of administration in October adds an element of uncertainty to the future direction of Indonesia’s defense posture. While a Prabowo presidency will doubtlessly lead to further investment in defense and defense technologies, other candidates, such as Anies, will instead pair defense investment with international leadership efforts.3PDI-P candidate Ganjar Pranowo, will behave similarly to Prabowo, but he will prioritize new equipment, rather than rebuilding older technologies as Prabowo has done in the past.4

[1] Santoso, Anton, (2024), “Defense Minister Confident Indonesia Can Build Destroyers,” Antara News, January 24. Retrieved:

[2] Sayudha, Karl Gading, and Bakri, Muhammad Rafi, (2024), “Defense Commitment: Between Refocusing and Rivalry,” The Jakarta Post, January 30. Retrieved:

[3] Putra, Erik Purnama, (2024), “Anies Shows Understanding of Smart Defense Strategy in Debate,” Pemilu Kita, January 12. Retrieved:

[4] Purnamasari, Dian Dewi, (2024), “In the Debate, Ganjar Emphasized Prioritizing Strengthening Maritime Defenses,” Kompas, January 8. Retrieved:


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