Earlier this week, a high-level representative from the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries in Turkey paid a visit to Indonesia. While the development was just the latest within the defense relationship between the two countries and few specifics were disclosed, it nonetheless shed light on the ongoing security collaboration between the two countries.
As I have noted previously in these pages, defense cooperation between Indonesia and Turkey has already been ongoing, whether it be on specific equipment, such as radar systems or tanks, or more general exchanges of expertise between their militaries.
But under Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, both sides have been looking at ways to further expand that collaboration. For instance, last year, during Jokowi’s state visit to Turkey, there was a memorandum of understanding inked between Indonesian state-owned aircraft manufacturer Dirgantara Indonesia and the Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) as well as a pledge to increase cooperation in areas like drone and submarine production, apart from other collaboration on terrorism and broader intelligence-sharing.
Last week, defense relations was in the spotlight again with the visit to Indonesia of the vice president of defense industries at the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSB) in Turkey, Serdar Demirel. During his visit, Demirel met with several top Indonesian defense officials at the defense ministry on September 4 including Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu.
In the engagements tied to his trip, the two sides discussed aspects of their defense relationship, including current areas of collaboration as well as future aspects as well. One of the areas of collaboration that got specific focus was on tanks. That was no surprise: a concrete manifestation of the defense cooperation cited by both sides has been the joint production of the KAPLAN medium-weight battle tank, which Turkish armored vehicle manufacturer FNSS and Indonesian defense company PT Pindad have been working on jointly producing since 2015.
According to Indonesia’s defense ministry’s account of the meeting, Demirel said that since the medium tank program had been going well, there was hope that mass production could move forward. While he did not provide much detail, state-run outlet Andalou Agency reported FNSS General Director Nail Kurt as saying in an interview that with successful tests having been conducted over the last few months, the tank was now ready for mass production, with negotiations currently ongoing with several countries and orders for 20-25 tanks expected as early as this year.
Beyond that, Demirel said that there was interest on the Turkish side in expanding cooperation with the Indonesian defense industry moving forward. While he did not offer much in the way of details, he did indicate some areas for joint development, including unmanned aerial vehicles and submarines.
Those areas are in line with what both sides have been discussing. Defense industry talks between the two countries have included areas such as design and technology cooperation for type-214 submarines, joint production of medium altitude long endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft, and other areas such as aerospace and electronics. And just last month, TAI had held a workshop designed to promote efforts with respect to UAVs.
To be sure, the specifics in these areas of collaboration remain to be worked out as Indonesia and Turkey look to maximize opportunities and navigate challenges. But as both sides seek to implement and follow through on progress they have made thus far on the defense side, engagements such as the one we saw last week will be important to follow for insights they may provide about this process.