Military Capabilities

Indonesia sends more warships, submarine to Natuna as China backs down

09 January 2020

Vice-Admiral Yudo Margono, commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces Joint Regional Command I, inspecting the military line up at Great Natuna Island on 5 January. Source: Indonesia Armed Forces

Key Points

  • Indonesia has sent more warships and a submarine to the Natuna Islands, even as China appears to have backed down from a stand-off near the area
  • The movements mark Indonesia's largest military deployment into the South China Sea

The Indonesian Navy has deployed more vessels to the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, even as Beijing appears to have backed down from a nearly two-week stand-off over disputed maritime territory in the area.

These deployments are in addition to the two Kapitan Pattimura (Parchim I) anti-submarine corvettes, KRI Teuku Umar (385) and KRI Tjiptadi (381), both of which have been put on heightened operational alertness at Great Natuna Island since early January 2020.

Great Natuna Island is the largest of the Natuna Islands cluster, and it lies about 100 n miles off Beijing's unilaterally proclaimed 'Nine-Dash Line' demarcation.

Indonesia has accused China Coast Guard (CCG) and government-backed fishing vessels of illegally operating within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the cluster of islands between 24 and 27 December. The deployment of the corvettes and more than 600 troops since early January is in response to these alleged incursions.

The Indonesian Armed Forces information office confirmed with Jane's on 10 January that additional vessels that have since joined the corvettes are the Martadinata (SIGMA 10514)-class guided-missile frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332), the Bung Tomo-class frigates, KRI Bung Tomo (357) and KRI Usman Harun (359), the Ahmad Yani-class frigate KRI Karel Satsuit Tubun (356), and the landing platform dock (LPD) KRI Makassar (590).

Also deployed on the island is the Cakra-class diesel-electric submarine (SSK) KRI Nanggala (402), and four F-16C/D fighter aircraft from the Indonesian Air Force's Aviation Squadron 16.

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