Indonesia's Military Modernization Plan Wins US Defense Chief Support

The United States Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, recently met with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto to discuss the importance of modernizing Indonesia's military. The meeting comes as Indonesia, an archipelago of 270 million people, looks to upgrade its military and replace its aging hardware. For the past decade, Indonesia's defense spending per capita and as a percentage of gross domestic product has been the lowest among Southeast Asia's six emerging market economies.


During the meeting, Austin and Prabowo shared their mutual intention to increase defense capabilities "like fighter aircraft upgrades, new multi-role fighter aircraft, and additional fixed and rotary wing transport aircraft". Indonesia is seeking to upgrade its fighter jets, which currently include U.S-made F-16 and Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 models. On Monday it announced a deal to buy 24 transport helicopters from U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin for an undisclosed fee.


Austin and Prabowo also discussed China's expansive claims in the South China Sea, stating that they were "inconsistent with international law". China claims historical sovereignty over most of the South China Sea via a U-shaped "nine-dash line" on its maps that cuts into the exclusive economic zones of five other countries, including Indonesia. Indonesia's defense ministry said the two countries were committed to keeping peace, security, and stability in the region as well as maintaining "an open, inclusive, and rule-based order".

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This meeting highlights the United States' efforts to shore up ties in Southeast Asia amid geopolitical rivalry with China. It also underscores the importance of modernizing Indonesia's military to ensure regional peace and stability. As Indonesia continues to upgrade its military capabilities, it will be interesting to see how this affects the balance of power in the region.

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