Indonesia Partners with France’s Naval Group for Submarines

Indonesia Partners with France's Naval Group for Submarines

Indonesia Partners with France's Naval Group for Submarines

Indonesia has entered into an agreement with PT PAL, a local firm, and France’s Naval Group to construct two Scorpene-class submarines, as announced by the latter company. On March 28, the two companies will sign a contract to collaborate in constructing these submarines.

Naval Group’s news release states that the Indonesian Navy’s future submarines will feature Scorpene Evolved Full LiB submarines equipped with lithium-ion batteries. This will make Indonesia’s Scorpenes the first to utilize this battery technology. The French shipbuilder highlighted that the lithium-ion technology enables more efficient energy usage, a reduced snorkeling rate, and a shorter charging time.

The joint news release announced that PT PAL shipyard in Indonesia will construct the submarines, incorporating technology transfer from Naval Group. The assembly of these submarines in Surabaya follows a defense cooperation agreement between Paris and Jakarta in August 2021, as well as a memorandum of understanding signed by the two shipbuilders for two Scorpenes in February 2022.

Kaharuddin Djenod, the president director of PT PAL, expressed that this step demonstrates the Indonesian government’s strong commitment and trust in the capabilities of local engineers to advance defense technology, particularly in submarine technology. He further emphasized that Indonesia expects to master submarine technology in the future.

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Germany and South Korea were also competing for this contract. This recent agreement confirms that Indonesia has decided not to proceed with the 2019 deal to purchase a second set of Nagapasa-class submarines from South Korea.

According to Collin Koh, a senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies with Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, it is interesting that Indonesia did not choose Korean submarines, considering that PT PAL had experience in assembling the Nagapasa class and it would have provided commonality in the fleet. However, Koh believes that France likely offered the best package and offsets.

Koh expressed his belief that Indonesia might have derived advantages from the technology transfer, which could potentially bolster the growth of the domestic submarine industry in the coming years. This is because Indonesia’s ultimate goal is to independently develop its own submarines. He also noted that the French firm was more aggressive in marketing their products.

Under the Korean program, which saw the commissioning of three Nagapasa-class submarines from 2017 to 2021, PT PAL was able to develop a reasonable local capability. However, the French project will allow them to acquire and expand on other technologies.

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PT PAL has already made preparations for local construction. In February 2022, they issued a tender for the development and construction of a ship lift and transfer system capable of moving 2,000-ton submarines.

The value of the most recent contract was not disclosed by the companies involved. However, Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance did approve a request for $2.16 billion in foreign loans for two submarines last year.

These 72-meter-long platforms, manned by a crew of 31 personnel, feature six launch tubes and can carry 18 torpedoes or missiles. Depending on specific configurations, these submarines displace between 1,600 to 2,000 tons, have the capability to remain submerged for a minimum of 12 days, and can undertake missions lasting up to 80 days.

If construction begins next year, the first submarine is expected to be operational by 2033, following the build rate of India’s Scorpene program. The Indonesian Navy aims to acquire a total of 12 submarines.

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