Submarine deal signals growing ties between Indonesia, South Korea

Submarine deal signals growing ties between Indonesia, South Korea

Tom Abke

The arrival of the KRI Ardadedali 404 submarine in Indonesia in May 2018 marked another step in the growing defense relationship between Indonesia and South Korea. The Ardadedali is the second submarine produced by South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Manufacturing Co. (DSMC) for the Indonesian Navy. A third submarine of the same class will be built in Indonesia using technology transferred to Jakarta by Seoul.

Adm. Ade Supandi, chief of staff of the Indonesian Navy, greeted the arrival of the Ardadedali in Surbaya, home to the country’s Eastern Fleet Command, by praising the transfer-of-technology arrangement between the countries and the capabilities of the 61.3-meter, 1,280-ton diesel/electric vessel, according to a statement from the Navy.

Ardadedali is named after a weapon with a bird-shaped arrowhead used by the mythical Indian warrior, Arjuna, who is popular in Indonesian folklore, Supandi said. “But this weapon,” he said, referring to the new submarine, “when released to the enemy has the privilege of pecking and paralyzing its opponent.”

Four diesel engines and one electric motor propel the Ardadedali a maximum distance of 18,520 kilometers at a top underwater speed of 21 knots, the Navy said. Its weapons systems include 533 mm torpedoes and Boeing Harpoon anti-ship missiles. These Chang Bogo-class submarines have been built by DSMC in South Korea since the early 1990s, and the procurement of three by Jakarta is part of the modernization of Indonesia’s modern primary weapons defense system known as Alutsista, Supandi emphasized.

“These rejuvenation programs must continue,” he said. “Every year, there should be a change of Alutsista within the framework of the Navy posture.”

South Korea is playing an increasingly important role in the ongoing modernization, according to its government-affiliated news agency, Yonhap. The deal with DSMC to produce the three submarines was signed in 2011 for U.S. $1.07 billion. A 2016 deal worth U.S. $7.6 billion calls for the joint development of advanced fighter jets and, like the submarine deal, involves a transfer of technology. In August 2017, Jakarta and Seoul agreed that DSMC would work with Indonesian shipbuilder PT PAL to maintain the first of the three subs, KRI Nagapasa 403.

Construction of the third submarine is underway at the PT PAL shipyard in cooperation with DSME.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo visited Indonesia in January 2018 to discuss defense cooperation with his counterpart in Jakarta, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, Yonhap reported. Song also visited Indonesia’s Eastern Fleet at Surabaya, the base of the first two submarines.

The Ardadedali’s 20-day journey from South Korea to Indonesia took it through the Korean Strait into the East China Sea, the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines and into the South China Sea, navigating its way into the Sulu Sea and then into Indonesian waters before it docked at Surabaya.

Defense Minister Ryacudu was in South Korea on April 25, 2018, to view Ardadedali’s launch, according to Indonesia’s Antara news agency. He said that the new submarines, which increase his Navy’s submarine fleet size to five, “will have a deterrent effect in the region,” and that he hopes to raise the total number to eight. 

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.