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Indonesia accepts South Korea warship donation, despite cost concerns

JAKARTA — Indonesia's parliament on Thursday (June 6) approved a proposal to accept a South Korean donation of a corvette for its navy, despite concern from its defence committee that the ageing vessel needs about US$85 million (S$114 million) worth of maintenance.

Defence Minister and incoming president Prabowo Subianto has been pushing to upgrade Indonesia's ageing military hardware and spend billions on new jets and submarines. Indonesia has long lagged its regional peers in terms of defence spending as a share of gross domestic product.

But Prabowo's decision to procure used hardware has faced resistance, prompting his ministry to ditch a plan to buy used fighter jets from Qatar that had been criticised as too old.

The 36-year old Bucheon 773 corvette, which is 88.3 metres long, will increase Indonesia's military capability, but the navy would need to spend US$85 million for maintenance and other additional costs before it can operate, deputy defence minister Herindra told parliament.

"Ideally we buy a new one but it will take a long time... This is better than we have nothing at all," he said, adding the vessel could be used for the next 10-15 years and a new model would cost US$300 million to US$500 million.

Most members of parliament's commission overseeing defence issues questioned whether the grant would be beneficial.

"Will the ship strengthen the navy or will it just burden them?" commission member TB Hasanuddin said.

The grant comes after Indonesia and South Korea settled a dispute over funding for a joint KF-21 fighter jet project worth at least US$6 billion.

Indonesia proposes cutting payments for South Korea fighter jet project: Report