Indonesia in Airspace Control Dilemma

Tuesday, 13 September 2016 , 12:00:00 WIB - International

Numerous Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) fighters flew above Merdeka Palace and the National Monument (Monas) at the Commemoration of Independence Day in Jakarta, Wednesday (17/8). President Joko Widodo became the Inspector of Ceremony at the celebration of 71st Independence Day of Indonesia in 2016 at the Merdeka Palace. (ANTARA)

JAKARTA, GRES.NEWS - As an archipelagic country, Indonesia has a wide-ranging flight information region (FIR). However, Indonesia hasn't fully controlled its airspace. Some airspaces in Indonesia, particularly in border regions, are controlled by the neighboring countries, Singapore and Malaysia.

The government wants to take control the Flight Information Region (FIR) that are managed by the neighboring countries since President Jokowi came up with the order. However, it's not easy to take over it from Malaysia and Singapore although the flight information region belongs to Indonesia.

The issue is caused by the lack of infrastructures and human resources who will manage the airspace if Indonesia were taking control of the airspace. Besides that, taking over the airspace won't be easy as the management is regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Moreover, the issue involves the interests of three states, so one government's decision can't be based on their power, but they also have to get international legitimation.

Responding to the issue, aviation expert Gerry Soejatman said that a country's airspace control that's managed by another party is a common thing in the aviation world. In this case, Indonesia also manages the airspace of another country like Timor-Leste (for 24,000 feet and above) and Christmas Island territory.

If Indonesia wants to take control the airspace that's currently controlled by Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia also has to act fairly by returning the control of the airspace of Timor-Leste. "Does the government want to release the territory they control? Don't just want to take control their territory (without returning other's territory)," Gerry Soejatman said to, Sunday (11/9).

Regarding the airspace control in Batam, Gerry said that Indonesia had an agreement with Singapore. Although Singapore has the authority over the airspace, it doesn't disrupt the independence of Indonesia as the agreement mentions that Singapore only has the rights to control flight information region (FIR), and there's no limitation for Indonesia to enter the territory, except the flight requirements for safety reason.

As an additional information, there was an issue in 1991, General Benny Moerdani was not allowed to land in Natuna by the Singaporean air traffic controller. After having a debate for 15 minutes, he finally allowed to land. After that, Moerdani asked the government to take control Natuna airspace because he's upset that Indonesia must ask for another country's permit to land on their own territory.

Gerry said that Singapore must be had a reason why they didn't allow him to land at that time. Maybe there was another civil flight so they didn't allow him to land or an accident may occur back then. Although a military aircraft flies in the Indonesian airspace that's controlled by another country, they still have to report to the air traffic controller to avoid a crash with another aircraft.

According to him, Singapore has performed well in controlling the airspace and the agreement between Indonesia and Singapore is clear enough. Singapore always gives the money they earn from the airspace management to Indonesia, and if we insist on taking over the airspace control in Batam, which is currently under Singapore control, it will aggrieve Indonesia.

He considered that Indonesia needs Singapore to control the airspace for regional security. If Indonesia insists on taking control the airspace, Singapore flights will stop. As a result, Indonesia would be opened to strikes as Indonesian airspace control and management still performs poorly.

INCIDENTS - The Indonesian government wants to take control Natuna airspace for a reason. Singapore is found violating regulations in controlling Indonesian airspace. In 2015, Singapore turned the airspace of Indonesia, particularly in Bintan, Natuna-Anambas Archipelago, into their military training area.

Indonesia gets upset as the Singaporean fighters flew above Indonesian air territory with an excuse of training for war. Previously, Singaporean civil and military aviation also committed similar violations. At the end of October 2014, the Indonesian Military (TNI) Sukhoi SU-27/30 MKI Flankers fighter from the 11 Air Squadron had to force down a Singaporean Beechcraft 9L that trespassed the Indonesian Air territory in West Kalimantan.

The Singaporean government always come up with an excuse and said the flight of their military aviation in Indonesian airspace was based on the agreement of airspace utilization they negotiated with Indonesia. However, the agreement to allow Singapore use the Indonesian airspace for their military training area ended in 2001.

After that, Singapore tried to negotiate another agreement by arranging the draft of Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) in 2007, but it got canceled because Singapore asked too much. Therefore, Indonesia ignored the complaint thrown by Singapore via protest note.

ANTICIPATION - To anticipate the violation committed by Singapore, Indonesia has integrated the radar in some regions in Natuna to the system of Jakarta Air Traffic Service Center (JATSC) with the radars in Pontianak and Tanjung Pinang.

The radars in Natuna, Pontianak, and Tanjung Pinang that was successfully integrates were Mode-S Monopulse Secondary Surveillance Radar (MSSR) radars. The Directorate General of Air Transportation, Directorate General of Flight Navigation, and the Indonesian Flight Navigation Service Organizer Bodies (LPPNPI) or Airnav Indonesia are the ones who successfully integrated the radars.

The radar integration is an effort of preparation before the control of Natuna airspace handed by Singapore to Indonesia in the future. JATSC is currently integrated with 14 radars, 9 Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS), 17 Makassar Air Traffic Service Center (MATSC), and 21 ADSB and 3 ADSB Australia (sharing data).