Indonesian Interception Is An Old Can of Worms

For three times in a month, the Indonesian Air Force, known as the TNI-AU, has intercepted three different aircraft alleged violating their airspace. The first of such was in October 23, when Sukhoi 30s intercepted the Beechcraft VH-R5S on route from Australia to Philippines, just three days after the inauguration of new president Joko Widjojo. Last week, on Oct 28, a Sibu bound VH-PFK own by ST Seropsace, was again intercepted by the similar type fighter, which forced the Beechcraft to land in Supadio Air Base in Pontianak. Both planes were allowed to leave after paying fines and applying for the necessary paperwork. News just in is that a Saudi Gulfstream IV under callsign HZ-103, was also met by Sukhois in the skies and landed in Kupang.

Credits: TNI-AU

Credits: TNI-AU

The VH-PFK incident was apparently caused by the aircraft infringing the Riau airspace, before Su-30s scrambled from Batam intercepted the aircraft south of Natuna and forced it down at Pontianak. The interception of the plane within Singapore Flight Information region and such close vicinity from Singapore and Malaysia is something to concerned about. Now,those familiar with the TNI-AU would know this is probably the closest any Su-30s are situated in the vicinity of the Singapore front yard, and probably the closest from another F-15 base since Cold War?  Frequent movements from these Sukhois recently triggered low level RSAF movements over Singapore, much to the annoyance of many high-rise residents. TNI’s new military expansion plans to base the Sukhoi at Natuna might just usher more Sukhoi movement in the South China Sea. Due to the busy Changi airport and her close vicinity to Batam airport, civil airspace over Riau islands remains under Singapore FIR although First Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto of the Indonesia military was quoted by Merdeka.com as saying: “We hope that the air region known as Singapore FIR will quickly be taken over and taken charge of by Indonesia with the name Jakarta FIR, to uphold our national priorities.”

Due to the the dense and close (in terms of distance) neighbourhood, a number of boundary lines between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore remain grey, although you might wish to know that Singapore and Indonesia has agreed on a territorial boundary on the eastern Singapore Straits just this September. Certain claims by Indonesia in South China Sea remain unrecognised and hence unofficial, similarly toward the south between Australia and Indonesia. It is however uncertain what stance President Widjojo is taking concerning such issues, if interception is related to any new foreign policies or change in command, although interception by TNI-AU planes do happens every now and then throughout the years, most of lower profile. State aircraft, just like the Saudi Gulfstream, applies for diplomatic clearance way before departing, and is usually included in their flight plan, such info can be also transmitted by the pilots to the air traffic controllers on the ground. I remain unconvinced on the TNI’s vague response of violating airspace and flight clearance, until a clear map of boundaries and radar plotting is shown by the authorities.

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