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Indonesia: The Navy
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Organization and Equipment of the Armed Forces > The Navy


The Navy of the Republic of Indonesia (ALRI) became a separate service in 1946, after the National Revolution began. It was initially stocked primarily with craft once operated by European or the Australian navies. Beginning in 1959, the navy began to acquire a large number of craft from the Soviet Union and East European nations. In the aftermath of the abortive 1965 coup, however, the navy suffered a decline in influence within the armed forces and the nation because of suspected involvement in the coup attempt (particularly by the marine corps) and because of its small size in comparison with the army. A large portion of its vessels of Soviet or East European origin were quickly rendered non-operational owing to a lack of spare parts and maintenance expertise. Until the late 1970s, the only major replacements were four frigates acquired from the United States Navy in 1974.

Since that time, the navy has embarked on an upgrading program designed to develop a balanced fleet suited to operations in archipelagic waters. Over the 1978-92 period, it purchased submarines from the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), light frigates from the Netherlands and Britain, and fast attack craft from the Republic of Korea (South Korea). In 1992 the Indonesian government announced plans to acquire thirty-nine used ships of various types from the navy of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany). The navy produced numerous small coastal craft in national shipyards as well. As of 1992, the fleet was composed of more than sixty ships and numerous smaller vessels.

The navy's mission was to act as a territorial force responsible for the patrol of Indonesia's immense coastline. The vast majority of operational ships were stationed at the main naval base at Surabaya, Jawa Timur Province. Whereas the 1970s saw an increase in the fleet's ship inventory, the 1980s witnessed a major effort to improve the navy's armament posture through the purchase of the Harpoon weapons system and the MK-46 torpedo. The 1990s were expected to be largely a period of consolidation and training.

Structurally, the navy comprised the headquarters staff at Jakarta under the overall command of the navy chief of staff, two fleet commands (the Eastern Fleet in Surabaya, the Western Fleet in Jakarta), the marine corps, a small air arm, and a military sealift command. There were about 44,000 uniformed personnel serving in the navy in 1992, including about 13,000 marines. The marines were organized into two brigades, one in Jakarta and the other in Surabaya, and were equipped with light tanks, armored personnel carriers, and antiaircraft guns. Some of the marine elements were believed occasionally to be attached to Kostrad in operational missions.

The navy has maintained a small air arm since 1958. Headquartered at Surabaya, its personnel numbered some 1,000 in the early 1990s. It was equipped primarily for naval reconnaissance and coastal patrol duties, flying three squadrons of light airplanes, as well as several transports and helicopters. The military sealift command coordinated the navy's logistical support systems.

In the early 1990s, naval warships generally were not deployed to a particular region but were grouped in mobile flotillas, to be dispatched where needed. Usually these included eastern, western, and central groups, but activity was most often concentrated in the west in the vicinity of the bases at Belawan in Sumatera Utara Province, Tanjungpinang in Riau Province, near Singapore; and in the east near the base at Manado in Sulawesi Utara Province. This pattern was in keeping with the major missions envisioned for the navy in the 1990s. One mission concerned patrolling the strategic straits through which foreign ships enter and exit the Indian Ocean, particularly the Strait of Malacca. The other mission centered on halting smuggling and illegal fishing, considered to be problems particularly in the areas near the Natuna Islands and in the seas between Kalimantan and Irian Jaya. In support of the second mission, the navy announced plans to construct a number of limited-role bases in isolated areas in the eastern and western sections of the national territory. Patrol activity also increased in connection with the flow of refugees from Southeast Asia, particularly in the area near the Natuna Islands.

The naval shipyard -- P.T. PAL -- was turned over to the civilian government, but it, along with other facilities in Surabaya, continued to be the navy's primary training, repair, and industrial center. Since P.T. PAL's transfer to civilian control and designation as a state enterprise, it developed and implemented improvements for a management and technical upgrade of the shipyard to support the Indonesian fleet as well as to conduct commercial repairs for foreign navies. Small craft construction facilities were located at shipyards in Jakarta, Manokwari, Irian Jaya Province; Semarang, Jawa Tengah Province; and Ambon, Maluku Province.

Because of severe budgetary constraints imposed by the national government, no near-term acquisition of major new weapons systems was planned by the navy in the early 1990s. Continual overhaul of foreign-origin ships was perceived as the primary method to retain an operational fleet. Future projects included plans for an Indonesian-designed frigate and construction of a major naval base at Ratai Bay, Lampung Province. The immense costs involved, however, made achievement of these ambitious goals unlikely.

Data as of November 1992

Last Updated: November 1992

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Indonesia was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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