Last Updated: Tue May 29 11:17:07 GMT 2007
INDONESIA'S AIR CAPABILITY
Originally published April, 1993
by Carlo Kopp
© 1993, 2005 Carlo Kopp
Editor's Note 2005: Since this article was compiled over a decade ago, the TNI-AU suffered the indignity of a US embargo, post Timor, a change of regime, and more recently acquired a lead in batch of two Sukhoi Su-27SK and two Su-30MK, with a stated intent to field up to fifty Sukhois. Russian reports also claim an interest in acquiring the S-300PMU-2 (SA-10D) or later strategic SAM systems.
The Republic of Indonesia is Australia's closest and often least understood neighbour. The largest Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia is a secular nation state comprised of a diverse range of ethnic minorities, populating an archipelago spread over an area approaching half that of our own continent.
Given Indonesia's proximity to Australia, the question of Indonesia's air capability will be asked. There is a good reason for Australia to ask this question. This is because the Indonesian archipelago is geographically the gateway to Australia, and any hostile invader moving in from the North will have to secure Indonesia before assaulting the Australian mainland. The Indonesians' ability to defend their territory from such an invasion is of major importance as Indonesia becomes a direct buffer zone between Australia and the advancing enemy (eg Japan in WW2). Timor is the nearest readily accessible land mass from which tactical aircraft can hit the Australian mainland, and as a staging area can be said to be the stepping stone to Australia.
Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Indonesia's Armed Forces
Indonesia's path to the present has been politically turbulent, the Indonesian state finding its origins in the Japanese military administration of WW2 which has had a profound influence in the formation of this nation. The ethos of Japan's wartime military state, characterised by political and economic structures permeated with military personnel, produced a model which as historical circumstance would have it, ultimately became much of the mold in which the current Indonesian state is formed.
The Indonesian state separated from the Netherlands in the late forties, after a bitter struggle for independence. Indonesia, under the leadership of the charismatic Sukarno, embraced the non-aligned/pro-Soviet posture which was fashionable in the Third World during the fifties and sixties, this resulting in much military aid being supplied from the Communist Bloc, this including aircraft and SA-2 SAMs.
Political alignment with the communists had its price and this reflected in Sukarno's policy toward his neighbours, namely Malaysia, Australia and Singapore. By the early sixties political posturing had escalated to low level raids against Malaysian territory, in a campaign known as 'Confrontasi' or confrontation. Australia and Britain resisted the would be territorial expansion which never eventuated, but has left a lasting mistrust of Indonesia in the region.
By the mid sixties Indonesia had by any standards a respectable air capability with no less than 22 Tu-16 Badgers, 10 Il-28 Beagles, 35 MiG-21 Fishbeds, 40 or so MiG-17 Frescos and MiG-15UTI trainers and a range of Soviet built troop transports. This capability was arrayed against a RAAF equipped with Sabres and Canberras, and the period saw a perception develop in this country of Indonesia being a formidable opponent in any air war. That perception persists to this very day, unjustifiably so.
Sukarno's flirtation with the communists, the PKI, reached a head in the mid sixties, when he became involved in a coup against the politically influential military (TNI-Tentara Nasional Indonesia). The ultimate intention of the coup was to strip the TNI of its powers and role in wider government. The coup failed and the TNI proceeded in turn to mercilessly slaughter several hundred thousand communists and perceived communist sympathisers. The scale and ferocity of this campaign has few parallels.
The fall of the communists saw the end of support for the TNI-AU's Soviet built aircraft, which began to suffer ongoing serviceability problems with the lack of spares and maintenance support. Eventually the aircraft were put into storage and some scrapped.
Indonesia turned to the West for military hardware, acquiring much of their inventory under a range of aid programs. In February, 1973, the TNI-AU began to receive ex-RAAF Commonwealth Avon Sabres, all Mk.32s, which equipped No.14 Sqn based at Iswahjudi, near Maduin in Eastern Java. These aircraft were supplemented by two other combat squadrons, one with 14 F-51D Mustangs and the other with 16 Rockwell OV-10F Broncos. Indonesia's economy could not support a capability beyond this, a long range offensive air capability could not be sustained without direct support from a superpower.
The seventies and eighties saw modest but sustained growth in capability, with Indonesia acquiring a diverse range of aircraft for transport, maritime recce and tactical roles. The Indonesians wisely have chosen to invest in aviation manufacturing infrastructure, rather than platforms. At this time they are assembling with partial manufacturing of components NBO-105, NBK-117, NAS-332 Super Puma, Bell 214SP helicopters, and CN-235 and NC-212 Aviocar twin engine transports, with full domestic manufacture of the CT7-9C turboshaft engine by the end of this year. Indonesia's domestic manufacturing program includes components for the F-16.
Indonesia's air force, the TNI-AU, is split into two operational commands. The Western command, KOOPSAU1, is headquartered in Jakarta, the Eastern command, KOOPSAU2, is headquartered in Ujung Pandang on the West coast of Celebes. At this time Indonesia is still in the process of creating its integrated air defence network, and is reported to have acquired two Plessey EW/GCI radars, most probably AR-325s, to supplement the existing 14 Thomson-CSF TRS-2215/2230 radars in service. The air defence system will be controlled from a central hardened site at Halim near Jakarta.
Most of Indonesia's air capability is based in Java, which is the most densely populated island of the group, where most of the nation's industrial infrastructure is based. The numerically strongest part of the TNI-AU is its transport force, which in times of crisis would be further augmented by Garuda's and Merpati's substantial fleets of transport aircraft.
The heavy lift component of the TNI-AU is provided by 31 Skwadron, equipped with geriatric C-130B aircraft and a pair of pod equipped KC-130B tankers, and 32 Skwadron, flying a mix of newer C-130H, stretched C-130H-30s and an L-100-30. The C-130s are based out of Halim near Jakarta, and Malang in Eastern Java. These are supplemented by a diverse fleet of medium lift transports which is at this time undergoing a substantial modernisation with the progressive introduction of domestically built IPTN CN.235M transports.
The numerically most common medium lift transport is the locally built Nurtanio/CASA NC.212 Aviocar, a 14,000 lb class STOL twin, flown by the composite 2 and 4 Skwadrons based at Halim and Malang. The TNI-AU follows a practice uncommon in Western air forces, of flying composite squadrons with multiple types. The Halim based 2 Skwadron flies a mix of NC.212, C-47 and several Fokker F-27-400M, and the final survivor of three Shorts Skyvans. With the introduction of the CN.235 it is likely that the older types will be progressively retired.
The TNI-AU also operates a diverse fleet of light transports and liaison aircraft, mainly Cessnas of types more often seen in GA, but also including some Otters and a number of domestically built PZL-104 Wilgas, a Polish design reminiscent of the Fi-156 Storch. A VIP flight operates a Boeing 707-320C and a Lockheed Jetstar 6, based out of Halim.
Heavy rotary wing lift is also the domain of the TNI-AU, which has a respectable capability with no less than a dozen S-58Ts (eq. Wessex 60 series), ten SA.330 Pumas and a growing number of AS.332 Super Pumas, which are being assembled by IPTN. The larger helos are supplemented by about 40 smaller types, including the AB-204 (UH-1), locally assembled MBB Bo-105 and imported Hughes 500.
Indonesia is a maritime nation and this reflects in a substantial by regional standards capability in the area. Three Boeing 737s with Motorola SLAR systems were acquired, these are reported to be in refit at this time, they are supplemented by a C-130H-MP. Several Grumman HU-16 amphibians were operated in the SAR role, but the status and service ownership of these aircraft is unclear. Reports suggest they will be replaced with a newer type, possibly the CL.215T.
Basic pilot training is carried out on the Swiss built AS.202 Bravo at the TNI-AU academy at Djokjakarta-Adisjutjipto in South Eastern Java. Student pilots then progress to the Beech T-34 Turbo-Mentor and then to the BAe Hawk 53, which serves the dual role purpose of interdiction and close air support (CAIRS).
The sharp edge of Indonesia's air capability is somewhat blunt. The most capable type in the inventory are a dozen F-16A and dual control F-16B aircraft. The aircraft are to Block 15 OCU (Operational Capability Upgrade) standard, fitted with P&W F-100-PW-100 23,800 lb thrust fans and upgraded older AN/APG-66 radar. The OCU is an upgrade applied to older USAF and NATO airframes and FMS exports new build and refurbished, and involves the upgrading of the radar and the weapon system software, installation of higher performance fire control and stores management computers, installation of a data transfer unit and fitting a ring laser gyro inertial system, either a Honeywell H-423 or Litton LN-93.
The standard fit FMS OCU aircraft will carry an ALE-40 chaff/flare dispenser and the older USAF standard ALR-69, which is a modified ALR-45 digital radar warning system with added SAM launch command link warning receiver. The presence of antenna scabs on photographed aircraft indicates the TNI-AU aircraft are so equipped. There is no internal defensive ECM, but provisions for the ALQ-131 exist in the standard FMS OCU configuration.
The APG-66 is a modest air intercept radar. It uses a slotted planar array antenna with 32.6 dB gain in its nominal I/J band operating range, with peak sidelobes at -31 dB in azimuth and -26dB in elevation. The radar is a two stage superhet with intermediate frequencies of 670 MHz and 56 MHz, the lower frequency is digitised and handled by a programmable signal processor. The radar is pulse Doppler with low, medium and high PRFs selected for varying target/engagement geometries. The APG-66 has nominal range of up to 80 NM, with an azimuth scan out to +/- 60 degrees.
The OCU upgrades to the radar include a facility to slave the seekers of the all aspect AIM-9P-4 Sidewinder to the antenna boresight for dogfight acquisition, and facilities for datalink control of Amraam and alternately, if fitted, can support a continuous wave illuminator for the AIM-7 Sparrow (or similar CW SARH missile). The radar's basic air-air search modes are Uplook and Downlook Search, the latter providing for the the detection of fighter size targets in clutter at 29 NM or better. There are several acquisition modes. Manual modes are Single Target Track and Situation Awareness (STT combined with track while scan on remaining targets), automatic modes comprise four Air Combat Manoeuvring (ACM) modes. These provide for HUD acquisition, vertical acquisition, boresight acquisition and a slewable 60x20 scan acquisition (modes not unlike those in the APG-65).
Air to ground modes include real beam groundmap, Doppler beam sharpening, ranging, beacon tracking and sea search. These are used to support a range of air-ground delivery modes, including CCIP, Dive Toss and CCRP, with a CEP reported better than 100 ft for low level HUD aimed delivery of unguided munitions.
What this yields is essentially little difference from the early TAC standard F-16A with the low thrust engine. The aircraft is a capable VFR dogfighter with limited IFR air intercept capability, and good VFR capability as a tactical strike aircraft. The limited electronic warfare fit and absence of night vision and designation capability restricts the aircraft's usefulness in the strike role to daylight operations under VFR conditions, in low density environments. The AIM-9P-4 (see TE on Sidewinder) is a Sidewinder with limited aerodynamic manoeuvre performance by virtue of older actuator and engine design, and is inferior to the AIM-9L/M used by the USAF/USN and RAAF. Reports indicate the TNI-AU is interested in acquiring a BVR SARH missile such as the Sparrow or the Skyflash, both types being compatible with the radar should the illuminator be fitted. The lack of such capability will seriously restrict the TNI-AU's capability to stop low level penetrators under IFR/night conditions and is a major weakness in their air defence capability.
The radius performance of the F-16A-15 OCU is similar to that of the F/A-18A and is understandably sensitive to payload and profile. Useful payloads on Hi-Lo-Hi profiles are deliverable out to about 500 NM, the absence of PGM capability is in this context a major failing as it forces heavier payloads and hence limits radius to about 300 NM with 3,000 lb of Mk.82, or slightly better on lesser payload.
Recent reports from overseas, yet to be confirmed, suggest that the ongoing RENSTRA 5 force development plan will see the acquisition of further F-16s, for a target force of 36 single seaters and 12 two seaters, seeing also the phasing out of the F-5 force. Whether financial constraints allow this to happen remains to be seen.
The other supersonic type in the TNI-AU inventory is the venerable Northrop F-5E Tiger II, the US FMS export fighter of the seventies. Powered by a pair of 5,000 lb afterburning J85-GE-21A turbojets, the F-5E is a useful lightweight point defence fighter with excellent handling characteristics. It is however a truly defensive aircraft due its very limited radius performance and rudimentary weapon system.
The core of the aircraft's weapon system is a lightweight Emerson Electric APQ-153 or in later aircraft, APQ-159 radar. The radar is coupled to an ASG-29 or 31 lead computing optical sight, to support attacks with the aircraft's two Pontiac M-39A-2 20 mm cannon, with 280 RPG, or with a pair of wingtip mounted AIM-9P-3 or P-4 AAMs. The radar is very limited in lookdown performance and target handling capacity, and provides a quoted 20 NM detection range.
It is unclear whether the TNI-AU aircraft carry the ALR-46 RWR and ALE-40 dispenser fitted to many FMS export F-5Es. The evidence of such a fit would lie in the scab antenna covers on the forward fuselage. The ALR-46 would provide a useful and adequate warning capability for the aircraft's role.
The F-5E is no match for a teen series fighter or a Fulcrum in a dogfight environment, while its poor thrust/weight ratio and small wing severely restrict its capability as an interdictor, in any event limited to daylight/VFR strikes. With a meaningful payload of 5,000 lb the F-5E is limited to a radius of 120 NM, with a marginally useful load of 1,000 lb (ie 2 x Mk.82) it can range to about 500 NM. The limited accuracy and payload of this type renders its utility outside the point defence role as questionable.
The most useful type by virtue of numbers and radius performance in the TNI-AU inventory is Ed Heinemann's classic, the Douglas A-4. With two squadrons it is the most numerous fast jet in the inventory, most aircraft are reportedly ex-USN A-4Es saved from the graveyard, with the dual airframes ex-Israeli TA-4Hs refurbished in the US.
While the TNI-AU's Skyhawks are universally listed as A-4Es, they are fitted with the avionic 'hump' characteristic of the later A-4F, which suggests either a custom nav-attack upgrade which has not been publicised, or the aircraft are in fact A-4Fs or ex-Israeli A-4Hs, the identity of which has been concealed for political reasons.
The differences between these Skyhawk models are not substantial, all are fitted with versions of the P&W J52 turbojet, either the 8,500 lb P-6A in the E-model, or 9,300 lb P-8A in the F-model and H-model. All A-4s will deliver a useful payload of several thousand pounds beyond 400 NM with a pair of 300 USG tanks, as evidenced in the Falklands. The A-4 is rugged and manoeuvrable, with good tolerance for battle damage, and is easily maintained in the field.
Nothing has been published in the open literature about the avionic fit in the TNI-AU's A-4 fleet. The avionic hump suggests a fit similar to late model USN A-4s, with APN-153 Doppler nav equipment, ASN-41 navigation/attack computer and AVQ-24 HUD or possibly earlier lead computing gunsight. This would limit these aircraft to day VFR or limited IFR strike capability. It is possible the aircraft retained their USN standard early model ALR-45 warning receivers and ALE-39 dispensers, both of which would provide a minimal defensive capability. The A-4 typically did not carry defensive ECM, although some dedicated USN aircraft were wired for AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missiles.
The A-4 provides a respectable VFR strike capability at a useful radius, however the aircraft's limited avionic suite will restrict its ability to deliver accurately under poor weather conditions, while its performance means that fighter escort will be required in contested airspace.
Supplementing the A-4 in the strike role is the Hawk Mk.53, a combat capable fast jet trainer, which serves in either role. The Hawk 53 force was acquired in the early eighties as an advanced jet trainer with a secondary combat role. As such, the aircraft is a respectable performer on a limited 5,300 lb powerplant. Lacking radar and precision nav/attack the Mk.53s are limited to daylight/VFR strike operations, similarly in comparison to the later Hawk 100/200 series the smaller 122 USG gallon drop tanks confer a lesser strike radius, about 300 NM on 2,000 lb of warload. It is unclear whether the TNI-AU's airframes are wired for AIM-9, similarly the absence of the vertical tail mounted warning receiver housings suggests these are not fitted, thus the aircraft are unlikely to survive well without fighter cover.
The Hawk 53 and A-4 will be replaced during the nineties by domestically assembled Hawk 100 and 200 aircraft, although at the time of writing the situation had not been finalised. The Hawk 100 offers slightly better payload radius than the earlier models, and when fitted with warning receivers and suitable nav attack is a useful lightweight strike aircraft. The single seat Hawk 200 is fitted with a lightweight APG-66H radar and has further increased payload and takeoff weight.
The TNI-AU is a force unable to defend its own airspace against a well equipped attacker, due to limitations in the number and capability of tactical aircraft. This is a limitation which will not change with the acquisition of additional fighter aircraft or armed trainers, to acquire a credible air defence and strike capability more air superiority and interdiction aircraft will be required, and the support of a substantial tanker and AEW&C capability will be needed, given the geography of the archipelago.
The TNI-AL is Indonesia's fleet air arm. Concentrated at the major naval facility in Surabaya, the TNI-AL deploys in flights to support naval operations away from the home base. The Indonesian navy is a shadow of the force it was in the Sukarno days, and is a true brown water navy structured about frigates, fast attack boats and patrol boats.
The TNI-AL can be divided into a fixed wing and rotary wing component. The fixed wing component is comprised of two operational squadrons, 800 tasked with maritime recce and equipped with Nomads and CN-235Ms and 600 tasked with transport flying a mix of types, and a single fixed wing training unit which flies several Pipers. The Nomads and CN-235Ms deploy from Surabaya to Tanjung Pinang and Manado for forward operations. In the longer term the fixed wing component will be comprised of the CN-235MPA, a dedicated MR version with APS-504 surface search radar, GEC Flir, Sky Guardian ESM and Trimble TRL 7900 GPS/nav.
The rotary wing element of the TNI-AL is somewhat more potent. The single combat squadron, 400 Sqn, flies a mix of geriatric Wasp HAS.1 ASW helos and a growing force of new Pumas and Super Pumas. The Wasps were acquired from the Netherlands and are usually deployed on the TNI-AL's frigates, nine of which are known to be air capable. The TNI-AL operates a total of 13 frigates, 3 are ex-Netherlands Leanders (Van Speijk), 3 are 1970s built Exocet equipped Fatahillah class boats, supplied by the Netherlands, another three are air capable Tiyahahu class and four are ex-US Samadikun class vessels. Recent reports suggest that the TNI-AL is seeking no less than 20 new build frigates to replace the existing vessels, and further LSTs and patrol boats, all under the RENSTRA 5 force development program.
The frigate force would support amphibious operations by no less than 15 LSTs, many of which are capable of embarking the Puma or Super Puma for ship to shore assault.
The Super Pumas are the pride of the TNI-AL, with the service planning to acquire no less than 22 in total. The radar equipped Super Pumas perform a primary role of surface attack with AM.39 Exocet, with secondary roles of ASW, assault and SAR, in the latter roles supplemented by four older Pumas. A second rotary wing squadron, 200 Sqn, provides transport and liaison services with the Bo.105 utility helo.
The TNI-AU is well equipped for its primary role of supporting army amphibious operations in the Indonesian archipelago, with its force structure of frigates, fast attack craft and amphibious assault vessels. Its weakness is a lack of substantial air defence capability which renders it highly susceptible to air attack. by suitably equipped opponents.
The TNI-AD is Indonesia's land army, by far the largest of the nation's three services with about 200,000 personnel. The army has by regional standards a respectable airlift capability, although in the context of the nation's geography it is rather modest.
Fixed wing capability is split between a mixed force of about a dozen smaller twins, and twenty or so single engine observation types, mostly PZL-104s. The rotary wing force is larger, with Bell 205A-1 and Bell 412 providing the airmobile assault capability, with a small number of domestically built Bo.105 equipped as fire support gunships with rocket pods or guns.
The army has no heavy lift capability and relies wholly upon the air force for handling heavier payloads. Unit allocations of the helicopter force have not been publicised in the open literature.
As noted earlier, the Indonesian archipelago is the geographical path via which any adversary intent upon invading Australia must approach. However, objectives lesser than invasion can be satisfied by the occupation of Sumatra and parts of Java, such as cutting the principal shipping channels between the Indian Ocean and the Far East. While these may be accomplished in the context of grander geopolitical objectives, they would be a serious threat to Australia's economic well being, in that a large proportion of the air and sea traffic to this continent passes through Indonesian territory.
Therefore the defence of Indonesia is as strategically important to Australia as is the immediate defence of the continent. While the Indonesian military is substantial in numbers, it is a force structured largely for purposes of internal security, evidenced by the types in service and their deployment. Indonesia is a nation not unlike the defunct Yugoslavia, and is held intact by force where deemed necessary, as evidenced by recent events in Timor. Timor is such a sensitive issue with the Indonesians, largely as they perceive the independence movement in Timor as communist, and hence a threat to the nation's security on a grander scale. Whether this perception is accurate is open to debate.
What is certain is that Indonesia has a very limited capacity to project air power beyond 500 NM of its national boundaries, definitely in any situation where airspace is contested by a serious opponent. What this suggests is that such an opponent could rapidly cripple the TNI-AU and TNI-AL and thereafter enjoy substantial freedom of movement in the archipelago, securing only those objectives required to attain the desired strategic position, for instance cutting shipping and air lanes in the region.
Australia would have substantial difficulty in rendering assistance under such circumstances, or in protecting its strategic interests, depending on which perspective one takes. This is because existing air capabilities have been developed toward the objective of stopping the opponent in the air-sea gap to the North, and no further out. As a result the RAAF has not been given the inflight refuelling capability required to contest the outer regional air/sea battle. While the government will argue that forward basing at Butterworth is the answer, one must seriously question the rationality of basing high value assets in an area which would be within the reach of hostile strike aircraft. That would be an open invitation.
Forward basing at Cocos or at sites in Java would be a better proposition, as deployed assets could be kept out of the range of hostile tactical air, and with tanker support could contest the outer regional air/sea battle. However, a more substantial tanker capability will be required, including boom refuelling to allow the F-111 (or its eventual successor) to fully exploit its potential. The RAAF's existing tanker force is by all means a step in the right direction, but it is too small to provide support concurrently for 90+ tactical aircraft, and cannot support the F-111 or our regional neighbours' (Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand) F-16 forces. Fitting existing tankers with booms and acquiring further tankers would substantially extend the RAAF's reach and combat persistence at a distance, thus allowing it to spearhead any regional air offensive against a hostile outside party, while also providing the means of stretching the combat radius of other useful regional air assets.
Command, control and communications (C3) become another issue in this context, as the control of a composite multinational force is not a trivial task by any means. The underdeveloped communications and radar early warning infrastructure in the region dictates the use of AEW&C aircraft supplemented by airborne command posts, both assets which are hard to hit and can be moved at very short notice. Having such assets, the latter perhaps located onboard some of the tankers, would provide for the rapid assembly, deployment and coordinated combat utilisation of a composite RAAF/regional air capability. Training together over a period of time would provide a better mutual insight among all participants, which would have to prove of long term usefulness.
One must seriously question whether the money spent on regional aid programs wouldn't be better spent on putting together a multinational capability as outlined in this discussion, the usefulness of existing programs in any collective crisis situation is open to discussion. Spending the same money on interoperable communications equipment and inflight refuelling assets makes far better sense. By the same token AEW&C makes better sense than OTHB radar, in that it can be moved to a hot spot, rather than have to wait for the hot spot to move to it.
Australian politicians should seriously consider where the money is spent, in that a domestic program to provide a substantial tanker and AEW&C capability would create much needed jobs in high technology, high value added industries, and reduce the flow of defence dollars overseas.
The central issue is whether Australia should indulge in the luxury of regional isolationism, and structure its capabilities to repel would be invaders at its very front door, or whether it should structure its capabilities to form the backbone of a larger composite regional force. In the region only Australia has the air capability, technical expertise and political position to perform such a role. Assuming such a leadership position would serve Australia's interests by extending the reach of its offensive capability to engage invaders at a geographically advantageous position, while providing for a much closer relationship with our immediate neighbours.
Whether Australians and Indonesians choose to like each other is irrelevant. We need their geographical position and they need our offensive air capability and expertise. The sooner this is recognised and wholly accepted by both nations, the better. While many Indonesians and Australians perceive the two nations as potential adversaries, the reality is that posturing of this kind only serves the interests of those who wish to resources away from defence, by creating the image of a mutual threat with no serious credibility to it.
Australia has traditionally suffered the dilemma of structuring its capabilities without having a clearly defined threat. This has led to an ill defined sense of direction and force structure, which has in turn provided ample opportunity for the disarmament lobbies inside and outside the DoD to resources and inhibit the development of necessary capabilities. Adopting a policy direction and strategy via which the ADF assumes a central role in a composite regional force structure will provide a central set of objectives for force development which would in no way diminish Australia's ability to defend itself closer to home. This approach would also serve to quash the 'don't get this capability because it will upset our neighbours' argument, which has often interfered in force structure development in highly unproductive ways.
The Gulf War proved the viability of the composite multinational force structure and demonstrated what problems will occur, be they organisational, cross-cultural or political. In spite of these obstacles the campaign was a stunning success with the active participation of some very diverse air forces and aircraft. The unifying element was the cohesive C3 structure, supported by key technological assets, ie a large US/UK tanker force and USAF AWACS which served as command posts. In the this fashion, the USAF and to some degree the RAF formed the backbone of the multinational force.
In the regional context Australia is best equipped to perform such a role, as it has many of the key assets required in place, with others planned for eventual acquisition. What is required is a fundamental change in how we approach the region, and a serious long term commitment to build up the necessary capabilities on the scale required. The world has seen more changes in fundamental strategic relationships in the last 2 years than in the previous 50 years, and Australia should not fall behind in adapting to the new world order. Isolationism is not the answer.
Table 1 Indonesian Air Assets
Table 2 Indonesian Fast Jet Performance Comparison
Table 3 Indonesian Runways
Pic 1 (F-16A)
The F-16A-15 OCU is the front line fighter of the Indonesian TNI-AU. The model has low thrust engines, but carries an upgraded APG-66 OCU radar which can support the AIM-7 Sparrow. Based at Iswahjudi, a total of twelve aircraft provide the only serious air defence capability in the country.
Pic 2 (A-4E)
The A-4 Skyhawk is Indonesia's principal strike aircraft, with a total of 30 in use with two squadrons, one based at Iswahjudi and the other at Pekanbaru. Current reports suggest he A-4 may be replaced with the newer BAe Hawk 200, assembled in Indonesia.
Pic 3 (F-5E)
The aging F-5E was Indonesia's principal air superiority fighter for a number of years, until the F-16A was acquired. Seriously radius limited, the F-5E is a very limited aircraft. Reports suggest Indonesia intends to replace the ageing Tigers with newer F-16As.
Pic 4 (CN-235)
The CN-235 transport is the result of a joint Indonesian-Spanish venture, and this type will assume a central role in the light/medium transport force. A maritime version is now on offer, equipped with radar and Flir.
Artwork, graphic design and text © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Carlo Kopp; Text © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 Peter Goon; All rights reserved.
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