TNI officials say they do not have enough fighter jets to patrol the region. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

TNI to Singapore: Fly Away Home


SEPTEMBER 08, 2015

Jakarta. Singaporean fighter jet drills in Indonesian airspace have drawn the ire of the Indonesian Military, or TNI, particularly as local military aircraft are restricted from flying in the same zone.

Singapore has for decades controlled the flight information region (FIR) above some Indonesian regions bordering the city state – such as Batam, Tanjungpinang, Bintan island and Natuna islands in Indonesia's Riau Islands province.

The country also had been allowed to conduct jetfighter drills above these regions and even above northern Sumatra under a bilateral deal on military training areas signed in 1996.

But this agreement has expired since 2001, and it has never been renewed due to Indonesian lawmakers' objection and concerns over national sovereignty, the commander of the Indonesian Air Force base in Tanjungpinang, Lt. Col. I Ketut Wahyu Wijaya, has said.

“The MTA agreement has expired. It hasn't been extended yet, but they've continued to conduct drills over there to date,” Wijaya said in an interview with news portal on Sunday.

He added that the Indonesian Air Force was helpless to stop the situation, as its limited fleet does not compare with Singapore's F-5 and F-16 jetfighters which have often been spotted doing the drills.

“That's why we have to have at least four jetfighters on guard in Riau Islands. The problem is, such a military presence needs supporting facilities, while Tanjungpinang [the provincial capital] is still lacking.”

Wijaya said the problem lies in Singapore's control over FIR in the area, which it has held since 1946.

The city-state believes it has a right to continue conducting military drills in Indonesian airspace within the FIR and Singapore protests Indonesian military aircraft's presence in the zone unless they have secured a clearance from Singaporean authorities.

“They've complained over the phone to the ATC [Air Traffic Control] at the airport in Tanjungpinang, saying, 'What is an Indonesian aircraft doing over there? It's a danger area,'” Wijaya said.

“I told the ATC, 'Why should you be afraid? You're the one who is supposed to throw a machete at them. That is our airspace. How come we have to seek permission from our neighbor to enter our own home.'”

“I told the ATC to tell them that the Indonesian Air Force refused to leave; that that was our territory. In the end they left. That means they felt guilty, right?”

Therefore, Wijaya said, it is completely necessary for the TNI to increase its presence in the area.

“The first thing we need to do is show our force, therefore they'll be worried about coming. That's the early step that we must do to take over the FIR,” he said.

“We, however, have difficulties sending them away because we don't have [enough] jet fighters; although what they've done is an official violation."