Indonesia to Send Sukhois Down Under
Indonesia is participating in Australia’s largest air combat exercise later this month, with Jakarta saying the two countries’ defense relations have “never been better.”
Indonesia will send its front-line Sukhoi jet fighters to take part in the military training, set to take place from July 27 to Aug. 17.
Indonesian Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Hartind Asrin said the training was the latest in a series of defense exercises between the two countries.
“Later this month, we will send our jet fighters to take part in their biggest military exercise,” the spokesman said on Wednesday. “This is a new era and we have never had such good relations with the Australian military.”
The Air Force has never given the Australian Defense Force access to the Russian-made aircraft, which were built to compete with the United States’ fourth-generation jet fighters.
Now, four of the Sukhoi SU-30s will be flown to the Northern Territory to take part in Exercise Pitch Black 2012, which will include mock combat battles with Australia’s US-made FA-18s in Australian and Indonesian airspace.
The Age reported that US jet fighters would also take part in the exercise, which will be commanded from Australia’s Darwin and Tindal air bases.
Australian media said the decision was also a vote of confidence in defense relations between the two countries after Indonesia expressed concern over US marines operating from a joint facility in Darwin.
Indonesian Air Force spokesman Col. Agung Sasongko Jati, said the Air Force needed to train its pilots in flying the new aircraft before they could be deployed in the joint exercise.
The Air Force has recently been on a buying spree, especially with the purchase of the next-generation Sukhoi planes. It already operates 10 Sukhoi Su-27s and four Sukhoi Su-30MK2 jets, and recently announced an order for six more of the Su-30MK2s.
A joint communique issued after the July 3 meeting between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard encouraged senior defense officials in both countries to “review existing security cooperation.”
Australia and Indonesia are negotiating to establish a Defense Cooperation Arrangement, The Age reported.
John Farrell, an Australia-based military analyst, said Indonesia’s decision to send the Sukhois to Australia would bring defense cooperation between them to an unprecedented level.
“Indonesia has never before been prepared to send its primary air defense asset to a foreign nation,’’ Farrell was quoted as saying by the newspaper.