Building Up Defenses: Indonesian military officers look at a 62-ton German Leopard Evolution tank during the 2012 Indo Defence Expo in Jakarta last November. The Indonesian Army has purchased 103 Leopard tanks. (agence france-presse)
JAKARTA — Indonesia is preparing for a reconstruction project that will improve the defenses of its capital city.
An Indonesian official said the “urban defense strategy” is necessary to give the country an equal position with neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.
As part of an overall buildup in defense, the Defense Ministry has taken first-stage delivery of 30 Leopard tanks from Germany. Last year, the MoD purchased 103 Leopard tanks, plus 42 Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles and 11 armored recovery and engineering vehicles. According to a news release from Rheinmetall Defence, the deal is worth €216 million (US $292 million).
Jakarta’s reconstruction project will affect strategic spots near the Presidential Palace, including Gambir and Pejambon areas in the eastern side of the Palace, and the compound of the National Monument — widely known as Monas.
The Jakarta administration is expecting to start reconstruction in 2014.
The Army, however, has already begun renovating a military building in Pejambon area. It will serve as a military dorm and the basement will house the Leopard tanks and Marder vehicles.
The deployment of these vehicles in the Pejambon area will allow the Army’s Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) to mobilize forces quickly in defense of the city.
The project also aims to reconstruct and strengthen the asphalt road to carry the 62-ton Leopards and develop underground installations linking three strategic spots: the Palace, the Army’s Pejambon dorm and Monas.
Deputy Defense Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin said the urban defense strategy is necessary to protect Jakarta in times of crisis.
Sjamsoeddin said funding for this project would come from Jakarta’s regional revenue, and not from defense budget.
“The governor agreed to allocate regional funds for this project,” he said.
A Defense Ministry official said that, apart from the reconstruction of these strategic spots, there will be a call to private developers to reconstruct the rooftops of their buildings, making them fit for runway and landing areas for military aircraft.
The project also includes the positioning of several surface-to-air missile units on the rooftops of certain buildings. These missiles belong to the Army’s Aerial Defense Artillery.
Jakarta has not disclosed how much will be budgeted for this project. The Jakarta administration earns around US $3.6 billion per year.
Defense expert Anton Ali Abbas criticized the urban defense plan by saying that Leopard tanks would be more useful if they were deployed along the border.
“The government once said that deployment of Leopard tanks would be in the bordering Kalimantan, as we learned that Malaysia has also deployed its [main battle tanks] nearby that bordering area,” said Abbas, an adviser to an Indonesian legislator of the House of Representatives’ Commission on Defense and Foreign Affairs. “Thus, deployment of the Leopard tanks should be in Tanjung Pura Military Command in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, and in the Mulawarman Military Command in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.”
The purchase of these vehicles has triggered debate in the Army.
“Kostrad wishes to get ‘exclusive rights’ to utilize the tanks,” Abbas said.
Kostrad is the Army’s largest command unit, with 35,000 personnel. It is divided into two infantry divisions: the 1st Kostrad Division,based in Cilodong, West Java, and the 2nd Infantry Division, based in Malang, East Java. Its main headquarters is in Gambir, Central Jakarta.