Indonesian Defence Force Sukhoi Su-30 TS-3004 (Image © TNI)

Indonesian Sukhois on forward deployment

The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) forwarded four of its Sukhoi multi-role fighters to the far northeast of the country this week. The four jets operated from Juwata Airport at the island of Tarakan in the Kalimantan region, facing Malaysia’s Eastern Sabah, the Philippines and – further away – the Spratly islands which many countries like to call “mine”.

Squadron 11 provided the jets and crew for the forward deployment, having the Air Force pilots train with the Indonesian Navy in protecting a designated area. Skadron Udara 11 operates five Su-27SK/SKMs and 11 Su-30MK/MK2 jets out of Hasanuddin Airbase in Makassar at South Sulawesi. The deployment package had to hop 600 miles (960 km) to get to its temporary base of operations.

Juwata is the northernmost airfield that the Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU) can operate from in the east of the country. The Air Force’s presence in this region is sparse. The only military air base on or near the big island of Borneo – which Indonesia’s Kalimantan shares with Malaysia and Brunei – is in Pontianak 612 miles (985 km) from Juwata/Tarakan. There Skadron Udara 1 flies the Hawk Mk109 and Mk209 advanced trainers and light attack aircraft. Neither the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) or the Indonesian Army (TNI-AD) have air assets in the area on a regular basis.

The Indonesian Air Force is happy with the Flankers – as the NATO-reporting name for these Russian-made aircraft is. In fact, the TNI-AU’s leadership is seeking government approval to replace the aging Northrop F-5s at Madiun/Iswahjudi Airbase with even Sukhoi Su-35s, aircraft that are even more capable than the current Su-27s and Su-30s. Meanwhile 24 additional Lockheed Martin F-16s are on their way and Jakarta is keen on bolstering its northern defences.

© 2015 editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: An Indonesian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 (Image © TNI-AU)