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Unofficial page of the Indonesian Air Force

The History of the TNI-AU

Below is a short history of the Indonesian Air Force, how it was formed ,how it grew and how it became the force that it is today.

The Air Force of the Republic of Indonesia, TNI AU (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara), was established in 1946. The force was originally set up as the aviation division of the People's Security Forces (BKR) during the early years of Indonesia's independence. The Air Force originally had only a few pilots, and they were extremely lacking in aircraft and equipment. Nevertheless, it assumed responsibility for the air defense of the republic and took over all existing Dutch airfields and equipment. They were also operating ex-Japanese aircrafts from the World War II.

Between 1958 and 1964, the force expanded rapidly, purchasing numerous aircrafts from the Soviet-bloc, for example more than 100 MiG-17 fighters, Il-28 bombers, Tu-16 bombers, and other aircraft from Soviet and East European sources. Personnel strength doubled. By the early 1960s, the Indonesian air force was the best equipped air arm in Southeast Asia.

The influence and capability of the air force fell sharply after the 1965 attempted coup, the abrupt turn away from the Soviet bloc ended the flow of equipment badly needed by the Air Force, and as a result most of the aircraft in the Air Force quickly fell into disuse and disrepair.

In the late 1970s, the TNI AU acquired the F5 and A-4 fighter aircraft from the United States, giving itself an extra boost it badly needed to ensure that the Air Force is fit to defend Indonesia. In subsequent years, more aircraft and equipment of western origin were purchased, and old aircraft in the Air Force are constantly upgraded.

In 1980 the air force enunciated a forward defense strategy that required building or upgrading air bases throughout Indonesia as well as main bases on Java. Most of those upgrades involved civilian airfields also used by the air force. A major upgrade at Ranai Air Base on Natuna Island provided a base for improved surveillance of the South China Sea. Iswahyudi Air Base was upgraded to enable it to handle modern jet fighter aircraft. In 1992, most airfield upgrade programs had been started but most combat aircraft were still based on Java. The exception was one squadron of A-4 aircraft at Pekanbaru Air Base, Riau Province, and another at Hasanuddin Air Base near Ujungpandang.

In 1992 air force strength was about 27,000. Approximately 4,000 of these personnel formed four battalions of "quick action" paratroopers (known as PASKHAS). The PASKHAS is specially trained to defend friendly airbases and taking over of hostile airbases. The structure of the air force consisted of a headquarters staff in Jakarta supporting the chief of staff, two subordinate commands (Air Matériel Command and Air Training Command), and three operational commands (Ko-Op I, Ko-Op II, and the National Air Defense Command).

Most of the major weapons systems operated by the air force were manufactured in the United States and consisted of the C-130 Hercules, OV-10F Bronco, F-5E Tiger II, and A-4E Skyhawk. The air force also operated several B-737 aircraft for maritime reconnaissance. In 1990 the air force took delivery of the twelve F-16 Fighting Falcons purchased from the United States, which were based at Iswahyudi Air Base, Jawa Timur Province. During the modernization period of the 1980s, the air force also purchased the Automated Logistics Management System (ALMS) from the United States to upgrade its ability to track and requisition spare parts and materials.

The Air Matériel Command was headquartered in Bandung, Jawa Barat Province, and the Air Training Command was in Surabaya, Jawa Timur. Indonesia's air operations were divided into two area commands with Jakarta being the east/west dividing point. The largest of the operational commands was Ko-Op II, headquartered in Ujungpandang, Sulawesi Selatan Province, and responsible for all air force operations east of Jakarta (including Kalimantan). KoOp I, headquartered in Jakarta, covered air force operations west of Jakarta. The National Air Defense Command, also headquartered in Jakarta, had operational control over all fighter and counter insurgency aircraft.

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Last Updated 15/10/2001