Commentary: Using Drones to Project Indonesia's Maritime Power 
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as "drones," has become 
popular in recent times. Drones are increasingly being used by armed forces due 
to the rise of asymmetric warfare in modern combat. Nowadays, the revolution in 
defense technology has created weapons that are more sophisticated and 
automated, or unmanned. 

Responding to the global development of weapons technology, especially in view 
of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's vision of a global maritime axis, the 
Indonesian Military (TNI) must have drones at its disposal. 

In the implementation of maritime policy, drones are the most effective means 
to conduct surveillance in the vast Indonesian waters. Jokowi has an ambition 
to make Indonesia strong again at sea, such as during Bung Karno's era, or even 
to the likes of the ancient Majapahit and Srivijaya kingdoms, whose maritime 
fleets were well known in the region. 

In modern times, drones would be a favorable choice for Indonesia, because they 
can be used to strengthen the country's bargaining position internationally. In 
his inaugural speech two years ago, the president uttered the slogan "Jalesveva 
Jayamahe," which means "on the sea we are victorious." It shows that Jokowi's 
policy will be aimed towards maritime issues. 

Some classic studies of sea power and politics show that the world powers 
largely gained their strength through control of the seas. Vicissitude in world 
leadership is also associated with a shifting of power distribution in the sea. 
This is what Jokowi is after; a change of global political constellation, in 
order to compete and beat major maritime powers such as the United States and 
China. History has proven that we were able to do that, so why not repeat it? 

Rise of Warfare Technology 

The revolution in military affairs is no longer limited to alteration in a war 
paradigm, from man only to man and machine, but also be unmanned machine. The 
use of drones marks the world's entry into what the writer called, "robot 
civilization." We often see it in Hollywood movies, such as Terminator, 
Oblivion and Star Trek. We need to know as well that drones in this context are 
not just referring to surveillance drones, but also armed drones. Whoever 
controls this technology can change the international system, as the regulation 
has not yet been determined. 

It is difficult to know how many states already use drone technology due to its 
confidential nature, especially armed drones. Several countries believed to 
have armed drones refuse to disclose information for national security reasons. 
Although, some vividly exhibit their drone capability in combating terrorism, 
or mostly just for prestige. Until now, only the United States, Israel and 
Britain have been using armed drones overtly in their engagements. 

According to data from US-based aerospace and defense company the Teal Group, 
in addition to Israel and the United States, China and Iran are countries that 
already have the ability to launch armed drones. Furthermore, two nuclear 
countries – India and Pakistan – have also begun to develop their drone 
technology to deal with terrorist threats on home soil. 

Meanwhile, Australia, Japan and Singapore, which are our neighboring countries, 
already have unarmed surveillance drones, which could also be used for military 
purposes. For example, Japan uses it to keep tabs on China's movements around 
the disputed Senkaku Islands. In terms security and defense, a country's 
possession of drones could trigger suspicions from other countries, especially 
neighboring ones. Based on the principle of a security dilemma, a country would 
feel threatened if other countries improve their military capabilities. 

>From an optimistic perspective, if Indonesia has the technological 
>capabilities to obtain and operate drones, especially armed ones, we can 
>imagine how uneasy Singapore, Malaysia and Australia would be. Indonesia would 
>be a dominant force in the region. The balance of power in the Asia-Pacific 
>region, especially within Southeast Asia, would be different with our maritime 
>superiority. Even though it might lead to military conflict, the balance of 
>power in the region will be preserved. No countries would have the audacity to 
>start a fight and risk total war. 

However, from a rather pessimistic point of view, the use of drones is more 
complicated than it appears. Drones are not just small unmanned aircraft. 
Modern drones require more than just a "pilot" who controls it remotely. The 
use of drones involves sophisticated communications technology, complete 
satellite access, complex machinery systems and accurate data. Not every 
country has these abilities. 

Countries that have mastered drone technology are those who already have 
state-of-the-art military technology, such as nuclear weapons and 
communications satellites. 

Therefore, it is obvious that when the United States, Israel and Britain 
decided to develop this technology for their national interests, they already 
had the necessary supporting components. Using drones are not just a retail 
purchase, especially if you want to use it for security and defense. 
Indonesia's defense industry is still not able to support the use of this 
powerful tool, especially on a limited defense budget. 

The paradigm of the Indonesian defense industry unfortunately is still 
pragmatic. We prefer to purchase weapons systems, or alutsista, from other 
countries instead of self-producing it, such as the procurement of Sukhoi 
fighter jets and Leopard main battle tanks. 

Former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's regime brought a significant 
increase in the Indonesian defense budget, from Rp 21 trillion ($1.6 billion) 
in 2004, up to Rp 104 trillion next year, according to the 2017 draft state 
budget. However, if Jokowi wishes to develop drone technology, our defense 
budget must increase to at least half of the current US defense budget, which 
was around $601 billion last year. We have a long way to go. 

The president should also remember that the use of drones is merely to maintain 
a nation's sovereignty, especially in the maritime sector, and that it will not 
be used to apply the concept of absolute security, as implemented by the United 
States in its war against terror. Indonesia is a peaceful country that will 
preserve its free and active foreign policy doctrine, with the use of force 
only when necessary. That's why we need the drones! 

Jerry Indrawan is a lecturer in international relations at Paramadina 
University. He can be reached at

Kirim email ke