The Indonesian Air Force (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Udara or TNI-AU) is the aerial branch of the Indonesian National Armed Forces. TNI-AU has a base on the West Papuan island of Biak, including a detachment of its ground force commando unit, Kopasgat.
Biak air base, West Papua, with Russian and US attack aircraft
The Indonesian Air Force has almost 40 000 personnel and is equipped with around 200 combat aircraft. The inventory includes attack and counter-insurgency aircraft such as the Su-27 and Su-30 from Russia, F-16s from the US, Hawk 200, KAI T-50 and Embraer EMB314 planes. In February 2022, Prabowo signed off on a multi-billion dollar deal to buy Rafale attack aircraft from French weapons manufacturer Dassault. Fighter jets are extremely expensive and have not been used in armed conflict since World War 2. In contrast, attack helicopters, sold by Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin and Rostec (Russia's nationalised weapons dealership), are commonly seen strafing and shelling villages in West Papua.
French heavy duty helicopter, the Airbus H225M, is frequently seen transporting commandos and special forces to highland regions of West Papua
Thales has sold Star Shield and GroundMaster radar systems to the Indonesian airforce, with a further contract to develop aerial suyreillance signed with Indonesian comapny PT Len in 2022
Apache Aviator Integrated Helmet or AAIH*
In 2015 the Indonesian Air Force purchased 300 ‘AAIH’ from Elbit Systems America for $13.2 million USD. The 'Apache' Aviator Integrated Helmet is a key component of the AH-64E's Integrated Helmet and Display Sight System (IHADSS)-21 system for Boeing's 'Apache' Guardian attack helicopter. Essentially it enables helicopter crews to slave on-board guns and missiles to the helmet. Crews aim weapons simply by looking at targets
Indonesia Commander in Chief of the Armed forces with the Air Force commander, trying out the new Elbit helmets.
* We regret the appropriation of so many Indigenous names by weapons companies. This is one of many ways in which weapons corporations display a total lack of respect for First Nations peoples, cultures and lands.
A Boeing 737 is used to transport troops to West Papua in February 2021
Three Boeing 737 aircraft operated by the Indonesian Air Force are used to transport troops in and out of West Papua. The above photograph was taken in February 2021 and show troops departing their home base for deployment to West Papua, where they are expected to gain 'conflict experience'.
The FZ68 rocket motor is part of a rocket system designed to be fired from a helicopter and has a range of 7700m. The FZ68 can be used with a range of warheads such as the FZ71 "high explosive general purpose", FZ319 "high explosive armour piercing" and FZ149 "multidart".
Child in the village of Ogimba holding a Belgian FZ Thales rocket, January 2020
Several photos posted on social media in January 2020 show unexploded parts of FZ68 rockets in the West Papua highlands. Between January and March of 2020 a series of helicopter attacks bombarded villages in the Intanjaya region, using Belgian made FZ Thales rockets. It is not known which warhead was used during these attacks. The rockets caused damage to housing, farms and churches. While no human casualties were reported, the terror caused by aerial bombardment cannot be underestimated.
FZ Thales rocket motor photographed in Intanjaya March 2020
In the 2010s the Indonesian Airforce or TNI-AU received nine Lockheed Martin C-130Hs from Australia, formerly used by the Royal Australian Airforce. Australia gifted four C130s, or Hercules, to Indonesia and sold five at discounted prices.
Lockheed Martin's website declares that “For many years the Lockheed Hercules has served as the backbone of the TNI-AU’s transport fleet, with the service arm having operated 39 different aircraft.”
In 2013 Australia donated four Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transport aircraft to Indonesia. In April 2013 Australia agreed to sell a further five of the aircraft on a discounted basis. These aircraft have been used to transport troops into the highlands, for instance into Intan Jaya in September 2020, areas where frequent human rights abuses by TNI and POLRI are reported.
Lockheed Martin C130s or Hercules, gifted by Australia, load troops in the West Papuan highlands in February 2021
A Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod attached to a Rockwell B-1B Lancer Aircraft
The AAQ-33 Sniper targeting system is a targeting pod for F-16 combat aircraft that provides positive target identification, autonomous tracking, GPS coordinate generation, and precise weapons guidance. Indonesia ordered 16 in 2017, which were delivered in 2019 and 2020.
An Indonesian Airforce Boeing attack helicopter fires a Lockheed Martin Hellfire missile, 2020
AGM-114K HELLFIRE anti-tank missiles were originally designed for use against armour, but have also been used for drone strikes and can be launched from the air, ground, or sea. Each missile costs around $150,000. Indonesia ordered 140 in 2014, which were delivered in 2017/18. Indonesia was also listed as a planned recipient of HELLFIRE missiles in September 2021.
Hellfire missiles mounted on attack helicopter
The F-16C is a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft developed for the US airforce by General Dynamics, who sold the manufacturing arm to Lockheed Martin in 1993. The plane carries a Vulcan 20mm cannon and 11 places for missiles and other equipment. Indonesia ordered 24 in 2012 as military aid, upgraded to block-52 version (manufactured by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin). Pictured above is an Indonesian Airforce F-16 at an RAAF base in Australia. TNI-AL, the Indonesian Airforce, now has a total of 34 of these multi-million dollar weapons. Below, the same fighter jet (with a different registration) lands in West Papua.
F-16C Fighter in West Papua
The AIM-120C AMRAAM is an advanced medium-range air-to-air missile manufactured by Raytheon, and is the world’s most popular missile of its type. In 2016 the US state department approved a $95m order from Indonesia for 36 AIM-120C AMRAAM's, and various related pieces of equipment and services. An additional 236 were ordered in 2017 in two lots, with 136 delivered in 2020.
The AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile entered service in 1956, and its more modern variants continue to be used by many western military powers. In 2015 the US State Department approved a $47 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) request to Indonesia for AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Missiles and associated equipment, parts and logistical support. Indonesia ordered 14 AIM-9X sidewinder missiles in 2017, which were delivered in 2018.