Asia Defense

Why is Indonesia Upgrading Two Naval Bases?

Sources indicate Jakarta is upgrading two of its naval bases.

Why is Indonesia Upgrading Two Naval Bases?
Credit: US Navy Photo

The Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) is upgrading two of the country’s naval bases as part of a broader boost to the country’s maritime capabilities, according to local military sources.

A source from TNI-AL told IHS Jane’s that it will promote two provincial naval bases to the status of district bases – one located on the island of Tarakan near North Kalimantan (Lantamal XIII) and the other in Sorong (Lantamal XIV) in West Papua – probably by the end of 2015. Such upgrades are important within the context of Indonesia’s two-tier naval basing system as they are indicators of shifting priorities and may signal the greater allocation of resources in the future.

The upgrade of Lantamal XIV is believed to be in line with ongoing preparations for the establishment of a third fleet to be called the Central Fleet. As I have noted previously, Indonesia currently has two fleets – a Western Fleet (KOARMABAR) based in Jakarta and an Eastern Fleet (KOARMATIM) based in Surabaya (See: “Indonesia’s Navy Inducts Missile Craft into Western Fleet”). But Indonesian military officials have said they want to create another fleet as they look to increase the country’s maritime capabilities.

Meanwhile, the TNI-AL source told IHS Jane’s that the upgrade of Lantamal XIII is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen Indonesia’s position in Ambalat sea block in the Celebes Sea, where it has an ongoing maritime dispute with neighboring Malaysia. This, too, comes as no surprise. As I wrote in an earlier piece, Indonesia’s disputes with its neighbors is a significant factor that feeds into its defense planning, even if this is often not adequately appreciated among some outside observers (See: “A New Indonesia Military Base Near the South China Sea?”).

More specifically, of late, Indonesian officials have been accusing Malaysia of conducting increasing incursions into the country’s airspace and waters in the Ambalat area. In June, information obtained from Tarakan airbase showed that Malaysian warships had been spotted illegally entering Indonesian waters off Ambalat in the district of Nunukan on nine separate occasions. In response, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs, Security and Law Tedjo Edhy Purdjianto had said that the country would intensify monitoring and tighten border protection on the sea, land and air borders by deploying aircraft from the Tarakan airbase. The Indonesian Navy has also since stepped up its patrols there.