Indonesia Commissions First Submarine Assembled in Southeast Asia

On March 17, the Indonesian navy commissioned its third Nagapasa-class submarine. The occasion marked the first time in history that a submarine was successfully built in Southeast Asia.

The new KRI Alugoro, pennant number 405, was the last of three diesel-electric attack submarines (SSK) contracted to South Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) in a 2011 deal worth $1.1 billion. In line with a technology transfer arrangement, the agreement with DSME stipulated that while the first two submarines would be constructed in South Korea, the third was to be built at stated-owned PT PAL’s shipyard in Surabaya on the Indonesian island of Java. Components of the Alugoro were fabricated at Okpo shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea before they were moved to Surabaya for assembly. The Alugoro will now undergo additional sea trials before it enters active service.

These submarines offer the Indonesian navy a significant upgrade over its two Cakra-class attack submarines, which have been in service since the early 1980s. In terms of design, the Nagapasa-class is based on South Korea’s Jang Bogo-class submarines but features improvements to its sonar arrays, radar, and navigation systems.

During the handover ceremony for the Alugoro, Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto noted that the country’s military modernization comes at a time when Indonesia faces challenges to its maritime rights. Indonesia has repeatedly affirmed that it is a non-claimant in the South China Sea dispute, but China’s asserted claims do overlap with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. The last several years have witnessed numerous incidents with Chinese fishing boats, as well as Chinese maritime militia and coast guard vessels, around the Natuna Islands.

The delivery of the Alugoro highlights ongoing efforts to bolster Indonesia’s maritime defenses. Last June, heightened security concerns led Indonesia’s Defense Ministry to approve the purchase of military-grade weapons by its primary civilian maritime force, Bakamla. A few months later, in November, the Indonesian navy announced that it would move its combat squad’s headquarters to the Natuna Islands to better protect Indonesia’s maritime interests near the South China Sea.

Special thanks to Jennifer Jun and Katherine Kurata for their research support.

Matthew P. Funaiole is a senior fellow for data analysis with the iDeas Lab and senior fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., is a senior fellow for imagery analysis (non-resident) with the CSIS iDeas Lab and Korea Chair.

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Matthew P. Funaiole
Vice President, iDeas Lab, Andreas C. Dracopoulos Chair in Innovation and Senior Fellow, China Power Project