The makeup of Indonesia’s Special Operations Forces is not unlike the geography of the archipelago itself, in the sense that it’s comprised from a number of diverse units. To put it in perspective, an operator friend of mine who is a collector of special ops insignia and uniforms was assigned to work with some of the units many years ago. As he was preparing to return to the U.S., the array of “swag” he had accumulated had to be packed in a large shipping container. This column will only explore a handful of these units and their missions, but doing so will provide tremendous insight into the spec ops capabilities of the world’s largest Muslim nation.
The Indonesian equivalent to SEAL Team 6 is Denjaka, which is drawn from the Indonesian Marine Corps’ Recon Battalion. This Denjaka operator, identified by his maroon beret, is armed with a suppressed HK MP5.
The most widely known and, to some extent, most notorious Indonesian special ops unit is the Kommando Pasukan Khusus, abbreviated Kopassus. Founded in April 1952, Kopassus missions encompass direct action, sabotage, counterterror/counterinsurgency, reconnaissance and intel. Because of their hardcore approach to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, Kopassus has often been on the radar of human rights organizations around the world.
A former Dutch colony, Indonesia found their first commander of the forerunner of Kopassus in a Dutch special forces officer who had settled in West Java. Today Kopassus is organized into five groups and has grown in strength to over 6,000. In addition to the five special operations groups, Paspampres, the Presidential Protection Group, is formed of special operators and is considered part of Kopassus. Of the five special forces groups, Group I and Group II are para-commando units. Group III is para-commando qualified and runs the training center for Kopassus. Group IV specializes in clandestine missions behind enemy lines and works closely with the Indonesian Joint Intelligence Unit. Group V, better known as SAT 81, is specifically an antiterrorist unit.
Among the more interesting missions Kopaska’s predecessor swimmers carried out were planned “human torpedo” missions against the Dutch Carrier Karel Doorman during a confrontation in 1960 over Western New Guinea. Here Kopaska combat swimmers practice beach infiltration.