PartnershipsSoutheast Asia

Indonesia hosts Super Garuda Shield 2023 to promote regional stability

Gusty Da Costa

The multilateral, multi-force military exercise Super Garuda Shield 2023 kicked off August 31 in Indonesia’s East Java province.

Seven countries, including Australia, France, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States, together deployed about 5,000 troops and various defense assets. Twelve additional nations sent observers.

Australian Army M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks and various support vehicles arrived by U.S. Army Logistic Support Vessel in Surabaya, Indonesia for the start of Exercise Super Garuda Shield 2023.

“Super Garuda Shield 2023 builds on last year’s tremendous success,” said Gen. Charles Flynn, commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, according to Antara, the Indonesian news agency. “This joint, multinational training exercise displays our collective commitment and like-minded unity, allowing for a stable, secure, and more peaceful, Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” Flynn said.

The exercise aims to strengthen interoperability, capability, mutual trust and cooperation among participants and will conclude September 13.

Indonesian and U.S. interests converge on the issue of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, particularly the territory known to Indonesians as the North Natuna Sea, according to Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations lecturer at Indonesia’s Padjadjaran University.

“We [Indonesia] want freedom of navigation, the U.S. also wants freedom of navigation. We also don’t want to be cornered by China’s territorial ambitions by deploying its fishing boats, its coast guard boats that have behaved highly inappropriately in the sea,” he told FORUM. “We hope that the exercise will indirectly protect Indonesia’s sea territory and protect the sea territory of other ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries.”

Indonesian Army Brig. Gen. Suherlan assists a Soldier with his gear during the Super Garuda Shield 2023 joint training ceremony in Surabaya, East Java. IMAGE CREDIT: INDONESIAN ARMED FORCES

Indonesia and the U.S. launched Garuda Shield in 2007 as a bilateral Army exercise, which has continued to expand over the years. In 2022, the organizers transformed the exercise into Super Garuda Shield with the involvement of more countries and the addition of Air Force and Navy drills.

Among the defense assets participating in 2023, the Australian Defense Force (ADF) deployed M1A1 Abrams advanced tanks and dozens of tactical vehicles.

The Singapore Navy deployed a pair of warships to the exercise: the RSS Endeavour, a 140-meter landing platform dock vessel, and the RSS Vigour, a 62-meter corvette. The Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and the U.S. Armed Forces Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) have also deployed combat vessels, including U.S. Blackhawk and Apache combat helicopters, High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, Humvee heavy utility trucks, and several logistics and medical transport vehicles.

The 2023 exercise included staff exercises at the operational and brigade levels, a small unit tactical field training exercise, a general field training exercise, a combined arms live-fire exercise, and an engineering civic action program (ENCAP).

About 1,900 TNI troops and 2,100 U.S. troops joined hundreds from other participating countries for the exercise. Banongan Beach, Situbondo, Surabaya and Banyuwangi Airport are among the exercise locations for 2023.

Exercise observers included Brunei, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Korea and Timor Leste.

The ENCAP component of the exercise started on August 18, ahead of the formal exercise launch. It involved hundreds of personnel from the Indonesian Navy’s 2nd Marine Force and from USINDOPACOM working alongside community members to renovate an elementary school in Sumberejo Village, Asembagus, in East Java. The teams are working together to construct new classrooms, a library, a teacher’s room, bathrooms and school walls, as well as water reservoir towers to supply clean water to the students.

The ENCAP program exemplifies the “comprehensive approach” that Super Garuda Shield has to offer, TNI said in a statement.

“The exercise does not only bring benefits for both TNI and U.S. Military but also generates a long-lasting and sustainable impact for the local community around the training area,” TNI stated. “The exercise is one of the biggest joint military exercises in the region and has a profound impact on the stability of the region.”


Gusty Da Costa is a FORUM contributor reporting from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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