Upon gaining independence in 1949 after years of armed struggle, Indonesia emerged as the world’s most populous Muslim country. It soon went on an annexation binge, snapping up former European colonies all the way to West Papua.
Almost half a century of continuous dictatorship ended in 1998 with Suharto’s downfall and a viable democracy was reborn. Indonesia’s multi-ethnic makeup encompasses more than 260 million people and its annual GDP is valued at $861.9 billion in 2015.
It isn’t surprising that Indonesia has the region’s largest military, estimated at 476,000 men and women, with a 300,000-strong army. Today’s Indonesian armed forces, the TNI, are far-removed from their decrepitude during the 1990s. The ground forces have Leopard 2 tanks and BMP-3’s.
The air force is quite modest, however, with separate squadrons of F-16’s and Russian Sukhois. Indonesia maintains a large navy of corvettes and missile boats, albeit better suited for patrolling territorial waters, and is readying itself to build its own submarines.
The Indonesian arms industry manufactures small arms and crew-served weapons, munitions, and wheeled armored vehicles. Though not known for its technological prowess, state-owned factories can assemble airframes and small warships. Jakarta’s defense budget is pegged at $8 billion. If it could afford to invest 2.5% of its GDP on defense, Indonesia graduates to undisputed regional power status.