Subject: Tempo: Up in Armaments

Tempo Magazine No. 34/VI
April 25-May 01, 2006

Cover Story

Up in Armaments

Four businessmen supplying equipment to the Indonesian Air Force will soon be tried in a US court. They were arrested after checking out guided missiles and submachine guns.

THE three men in hand and leg cuffs are seated. They wear bright blue prisoner uniforms with dark pants. In a Detroit courtroom, in the United States, panels separate the three on trial: Hadianto Djoko Djuliarso, Ignatius Ferdinandus Soeharli, and Ibrahim Amran.

On Thursday afternoon two weeks ago, Hadianto and Ignatius-both Indonesian citizens-and Ibrahim, a Singaporean, were in Judge Leslie Kobayashi's courtroom. Together with David Beecroft, a British national living in Singapore, they were charged with conspiring to commit the unauthorized shipment of military equipment from America to Indonesia.

Judge Kobayashi ordered Hadianto and Ibrahim to be moved to Michigan, the location of the head office of the military hardware company connected to this case. This federal judge also ordered that Ignatius and Beecroft be kept in custody, and were not granted the opportunity to post bail.

After the reading of the charges against them, Kobayashi looked to Hadianto and asked if he understood that he would be taken to Michigan. With the assistance of an interpreter, the defendant, who is known as a business contractor to the Indonesian Military (TNI), answered: "I didn't do anything." The judge immediately told him that he could say so in Michigan.

Thus went the initial hearing of Hadianto and Ibrahim, who were arrested by American Immigration and Customs officers in Hawaii, last April 9. Two of his partners, Ignatius and Beecroft, will undergo separate trials in Detroit, on Tuesday this week. They were arrested in the US, after negotiating with a representative of an arms company for the purchase of radar for military aircraft and various other weapons. As it turns out, undercover immigration agents were among them.

In addition to handling the purchase of radar equipment for F-5 airplanes, as requested by the Indonesian Air Force, the accused also had their eyes on some other equipment. They had looked into the purchase of Sidewinder missiles, MP-5 submachine guns, and sniper rifles. Beecroft was there to arrange the shipment of the goods to Singapore. "[They] were ready, willing and able to buy American weapons and take them outside the country," said US Attorney Stephen Murphy III. The indictment read: "At the time, Indonesia was subject to a defense embargo and the export of such items from the United States to Indonesia was against the law."

The four were regarded to have violated the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. These charges carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of US$250,000. Hadianto and Ibrahim stand accused of violating the export law and committing money laundering. The penalty for the former is 10 years imprisonment and US$1 million in fines, while money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and US$250,000 in fines.

Actually, two TNI Air Force officers, namely Lt. Col. Hadi Suwito and Lt. Col. Edi Supriyanto, who were a part of Hadianto's entourage, were also detained. However, these two were released after producing their service passports and assignment papers. As of the end of last week, Tempo was not able to interview the two officers. When Tempo went to the Iswahyudi Air Base housing complex, in Madiun, Lt. Col. Edi Supriyanto was not at home. His superior, Colonel Yunus, Commander of the Depot 21, did not allow him to meet with reporters.

The arrest of Hadianto and associates came as a surprise, since they are well-known TNI business contractors. As the boss of PT Ataru Indonesia, Hadianto even had contracts to purchase radar equipment for nine F-5 fighter planes. Based on the contracts obtained by Tempo, the total value of these items comes to US$355,518. However, "We had not ordered other items," said Chief Air Marshal Herman Prayitno, the Air Force Chief of Staff, on Wednesday last week.

The purchase contract for the radar equipment was signed by Herman himself-at that time the Assistant Air Force Chief of Staff-and Hadianto, President Director of PT Ataru, on November 30, 2005. Mentioned in the contract is that Ataru will act as the representative of Indodial Pte Ltd, the Singaporean company where Ibrahim Amran is director.

According to this agreement, the requested goods must be supplied by the end of July. Payment would be made in two installments: 60 percent after the raw materials arrive, and the balance after all items reach the air force warehouse in good condition. PT Sagita Raya Transport Services was selected as the transportation company for the purchase order, and insured through PT Asuransi Intra Asia.

This contract was also known by the Indonesian Department of Defense. This is because on December 15, 2005, Air Vice Marshal K. Inugroho, the Assistant for Logistics to the TNI Chief of General Staff, wrote to the Director-General of Defense Systems Planning. The letter contained a request to approve a letter of credit.

In order to fill the order of the Indonesian Air Force, PT Ataru got in touch with Orchard Logistic Service, a company which supplies various military items, and which is headquartered in Michigan. This is why Hadianto and Ibrahim are being sent to a court in this location.

During the negotiations, it turns out that Orchard Logistic also offered other products to Ataru. Among them were MP-5 submachine guns, MK-type bombs, and Sidewinder and Maverick missiles. "The list of items included 310 different types," said Hoedaifah Koeddah, Hadianto's older sister-in-law.

According to the TNI, Hadianto and company were arrested on account of looking into the purchase of those other items. Chief Air Marshal Herman emphasized that the air force did not order anything other than the aviation radar equipment. The two lieutenant colonels who went with them were only there to check on the radar equipment. "The two did see a demonstration of an MP-5 in Hawaii. But they were just passive observers," said Herman.

If so, then who were those guided missiles and other weapons intended for, which Hadianto showed an interest in? Perhaps Aturu wanted to purchase those weapons for inventory? A source familiar with the arms business suspects that Hadianto had obtained information about various items which were to be purchased by the TNI in the near future. "So, they went ahead and bought all of those items," he said. In the arms business, this practice is known as the ijon system, taken from the terminology of middlemen who purchase a farmer's crop long before harvest time.

According to Emir Moeis, Chairman of the Budget Committee in the House of Representatives (DPR), the purchase of missiles and weapons is indeed included in the 2005 State Budget. "The budget for it is listed under items for primary equipment of weapons systems," said this politician from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Air Force Commander Sagom Tamboen, spokesman for the Indonesian Air Force, even verified that the purchase of Sidewinder missiles was to be proposed next year. "Following the lifting of the US weapons embargo in November last year," he added.

However, Hoedaifah denied the idea that PT Ataru would buy such weapons for inventory. According to her, a contract with Orchard Logistic could not be carried out unless there was a buyer in Indonesia. "As a seller, we only gather data based on certain prospects," she said.

Now Hadianto's family is retaining a new lawyer, having rejected the lawyer provided by the Detroit court. "That's because we don't know about their previous experience," said Hoedaifah. After consulting with Professor Kemal Roemawi, Chairman of Parliament Watch Indonesia, they appointed California-based Alfred A. Calabro as their lawyer.

He will be with Hadianto during his hearing in Michigan, where the fate of these TNI business contractors will be determined.

-- Budi Setyarso, Eduardus K. Dewanto, Wahyu D., Fanny Febiana, and Faturrohman Taufiq (Madiun)

sidebar: The Road to Hawaii

The purchase of APQ-159 radar equipment by the Indonesian Air Force through PT Ataru Indonesia may be stalled. The problem is that the company's CEO was recently arrested by US immigration and customs officials, charged with the crime of smuggling weapons. Yet, the purchase was planned a long time ago. The following is the chronology:


September 7: The committee for the procurement of APQ-159 radar equipment for F-5 planes hears offers from PT Ataru Indonesia, PT Sakagraha Tama, and PT Handal Teknindo Jayatama. Ataru beat out the two competitors on both price and time of delivery. September 23: Assistant Air Force Chief of Staff, Air Marshal Herman Prayitno, issues a letter appointing PT Ataru as the contractor for the procurement of the radar equipment. November 30: Herman signs a 25-page purchase contract with PT Ataru President Director, Hadianto Djoko Djuliarso.


March 31: Hadianto transfers US$477,000 to the bank account of Orchard Logistic Services, a military hardware supply firm located in Michigan. The money is a down payment for the purchase of military aviation equipment. April 6: Hadianto and associates leave for the US. Traveling with them are Lt. Col. Hadi Suwito and Lt. Col. Edi Supriyanto, representing the Indonesian Air Force. April 7: The entourage arrives in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. April 8: Hadianto and associates inspect the radar equipment. They also see Sidewinder guided missiles and a number of rifles. April 9: US immigration and customs officials arrest Hadianto and his wife, Auliyah Maulidyah, along with Ignatius, Ibrahim, and Beecroft. Auliyah was recently released. The two TNI Air Force officers were also detained, but released after showing their service passports and letters of assignment. APQ-159 Radar

The latest version in the family of this radar F-5 plane is the (V)-5 series, which has a mean-time-between-failure of up to 200 hours, an improvement on the (V)-3 series, which only reached 50 hours.

Other weapons offered

245 Sidewinder guided missiles. These are air-to-air guided missiles, which can be mounted on F-5 and F-16 fighter jets

882 Heckler & Koch (H&K) MP-5 submachine guns. These weapons are also used by the Special Forces Command and the Air Force's Bravo Detachment

800 H&K 9mm handguns 16 sniper rifles


The Secret Arms Trade

NOBODY knows whether the government was angry or embarrassed when two Indonesian citizens were arrested and brought before a court in Hawaii, accused of illegally buying arms in the United States. In court last Monday, they claimed that the military equipment they had planned to buy was required by the Indonesian government. In Jakarta, Defense Minister Joewono Soedarsono issued a denial.

The government should be angry because the appointed middlemen were sloppy when they tried to buy equipment in violation of US laws. The US Control of Exports of Arms and Strategic Defense Equipment Act is very strict, and it is assumed the whole world knows this. The Indonesian government should also be embarrassed, because it turns out that the trust placed in it as a bona fide nation to receive arms-a very sensitive issue-is now in doubt. Such careless and amateurish actions could also be applied to Indonesian officials.

Two mid-ranking Indonesian Air Force officers were questioned, although they were later released. They were there to check the purchase of spare parts for F-5 jet radars that had been ordered by the air force. But they were detained when they and several intermediaries were looking at a sample Sidewinder guided missile and other weapons that were on offer. Both the air force and the Defense Department have denied that they ordered these weapons.

But did anyone want to buy F-5 equipment? Owning fighter jets without air-to-air missiles like the Sidewinder is the same as having no fighters at all, like a toothless tiger. The same is true of radar, a vital component of any supersonic fighter. Without radar, a fighter jet is like a blind tiger. Therefore, radar spare parts were ordered. Perhaps the next thought was, Why not buy weapons at the same time?

Perhaps the need for Sidewinders was mere speculation. It would be better for the Defense Department as well as the air force to explain fully the details behind this case before all the facts emerge in a US court. The embarrassment will be magnified if it turns out there were discussions about buying Sidewinders, even if they were only informal talks.

Clearly, PT Ataru Indonesia, a business partner of the air force, does not have a license to import weapons from the US. Ordering radars requires the services of another broker from Singapore, Indodial Pte. Ltd. This company also does not have a license to import arms. Even though there was no transaction, planning to import arms from the United States without a license is, nevertheless, a crime.

As a consequence of this incident, it has come to light that the supply of weapons is a business long associated with irregularities and fraud. Away from the open and official procurement of arms, there is always the possibility of obtaining weapons on the black market or through smuggling. This third possibility is one that exists in a legal gray area, perhaps because the process is easier and prices are lower, even if the risk is greater.

In Indonesia, the procurement of weapons and other defense equipment often takes place behind closed doors-a hangover from the habits of the past. This creates an opportunity for improper transactions, characterized by corruption, markups and commissions for officials. There must be an effort to end this by using government-to-government orders, as the Defense Department has promised it will do. Open tenders and the procedures for the purchase of goods by the government as regulated by Presidential Instruction No. 80/2003 must be fully implemented.

It is not possible to do away with the role of trading companies in the procurement and delivery of military equipment. Therefore, the government must screen all the firms involved to ensure they meet all requirements and to check that all procedures are being properly followed. People must not stray from these rules by ordering others to buy arms without the knowledge of the staff involved. The arrest of the arms brokers in Hawaii should be the last mistake made by our armed forces.


Tempo Magazine No. 34/VI
April 25-May 01, 2006

Cover Story

Under Singapore's Eye

HADIANTO Djoko Djuliarso, detained in a Honolulu jail, was in a foul mood. Every day, this middle-aged man was fed fried chicken and potatoes, when all he wanted was rice to feel full. Fortunately, Ceicilia Rusdi Harini, the Indonesian consular officer in Los Angeles, helped out by giving him US$200. "He was able to use that money to order rice," said Ceicilia when contacted by Tempo last week. The CEO of PT Ataru Indonesia was arrested by US immigration and customs officers in Hawaii, on April 9, on the charge of attempting to illegally import military equipment from the United States. His three partners, Ignatius Ferdinandus Soeharli (PT Imaco Pratama Santosa), Amran Ibrahim (a Singaporean), and David Beecroft, were arrested on similar charges.

According to Djoko Susilo, a member of the House (DPR) Defense Commission, the group had actually been under the surveillance of American intelligence authorities since the middle of last year. The agents had already received a report on Hadianto's quest for heavy armaments. However, when asked for confirmation, an American intelligence official refused to provide an explanation. "We don't usually provide clarifications to the media," said an FBI officer contacted by Tempo last week.

PT Ataru Indonesia had been eagerly looking into the opportunity of a lifetime, having heard that the Indonesian Military (TNI) planned to purchase a number of weapons in the coming year. Hadianto made at least three trips overseas last year for this purpose. Last April, he went to London. Two months later he was in Singapore, and last December he flew to Detroit, in the US.

In addition to these numerous visits, they also corresponded by e-mail with Orchard Logistic Service, a military hardware supplier in the United States. Hadianto finally obtained an eight-page list of arms and military equipment. Some of the items on the list matched TNI needs, such as Sidewinder missiles and a number of submachine guns. "We then offered them to the air force," said Hoedaifah Koeddah, Hadianto's sister-in-law.

Meanwhile, the Singapore intelligence seems to have found out about this communication. American intelligence officials also monitored the electronic correspondence of the PT Ataru boss. Hadianto and friends were under surveillance up until their meeting in Hawaii with a representative of Orchard Logistic. In fact, a day before the arrest, their room at the Hotel Renaissance had already been searched. "Their movements had been tracked by immigration authorities since they left Singapore," said Djoko Susilo, who obtained this information from military circles.

One arms supplier thinks Hadianto was too brash about directly executing a major arms transaction in the US, given the American government's guardedness on the flow of arms sales, to prevent them from falling into terrorists' hands. This was confirmed by Ceicilia Harini. "The purchase of heavy armaments is now being watched very closely," she said. -- Purwanto, Wahyu Dhyatmika


A Hadi-of-All-Trades

Hadianto Djuliarso is a newcomer to the arms business. He once traded in all kinds of goods, from chilis to motorcycle spare parts.

JALAN Haji Matoa, Bandung, one evening in 1963. A woman was strolling down the sidewalk with her four children. The woman, Idah Subaedah, appeared to be heavily pregnant. A motorcycle suddenly hit her from behind, causing her to fall forward. In a bloody state, she was taken to a hospital. Fortunately, the baby was born safely, and Subaedah recovered.

Subaedah recollected this event on one afternoon two weeks ago, as she received the bad news about her child, Hadianto Djoko Djuliarso, who had been arrested in Hawaii. Hadi-as Subaedah calls him-was accused of attempting to smuggle arms to Singapore.

Subaedah does not believe the charges. She is sure that her son, the boss of PT Ataru Indonesia, is innocent. "In the past, we walked on the right side of the street, but we still got hit by a motorcycle from behind. I think the same has happened to Hadi," she said when she was interviewed by Tempo at her home in the Bekasi area, last week.

Arrested with Hadi were Alawiyah Maulidyah, who is commissioner of PT Ataru Indonesia and Hadi's wife, and Ignatius Ferdinandus Soeharli, owner of PT Imaco Pratama Santosa. Two others were also arrested, namely Amran Ibrahim, Director of PT Indodial Singapura, and a citizen of Singapore, and David Beecroft, a British national. Alawiyah was not charged with any wrongdoing and was subsequently released.

According to Subaedah, Hadi had always been resourceful and self-reliant since his youth. After a promising start at the Industrial Machines Polytechnic School at the University of Indonesia, he worked at a private firm. He changed jobs several times before joining PT Ataru, a Singaporean company. This company imported industrial machines in Indonesia. Two years later, Ataru closed its Indonesian office, and he started a company with his own money. The name was almost the same: PT Ataru Indonesia.

According to the State Gazette, Ataru Indonesia is indeed a registered company. The founding of this company was legalized by notary Srie Mulyatie Oesaid through a founding act dated July 12, 2001. Hadi was the director, and his wife, Alawiyah, born in Bangkalan, Madura on June 2, 1968, was the commissioner. The company's total start-up capital was Rp250 million.

According to Hoedaifah Koeddah, Alawiyah's older sister, Ataru Indonesia was founded with capital owned by the couple. Hadi and his wife formed a joint venture by selling their inherited land and using their savings. The company was founded after they had married and had five children. At first, the company's office was at Wisma Kayu Manis, Jalan MT Haryono, South Jakarta, then they moved to Jalan Pengadegan Timur Raya No. 24, South Jakarta.

When Tempo visited them last week, the office of Ataru Indonesia looked more like a private residence. The light-blue office and its yard is hemmed in by residences. There are about 10 employees inside its four rooms. Although no sign was visible, PT Ataru Indonesia is well-known to the local residents.

At first, business for PT Ataru was slow and unpredictable. The company sold all sorts of items, including chilis, electronics, and motorcycle spare parts. Ataru also entered the field of public transportation. According to Hoedaifah, in 2002 the company became a contractor for the Indonesian Air Force. A year later, Ataru obtained a large project, namely a deal to trade a Boeing 707 for a Boeing 737, which became the executive airplane of President Megawati Sukarnoputri. "We had no previous experience buying airplane equipment," said Alawiyah.

Ataru Indonesia then took off like a jet plane. Requests for goods poured in. Branches in Singapore, Thailand, and Korea were opened. In Singapore, the branch office was named Indodial Pte Ltd., Dial being Alawiyah's nickname. From these branch offices, PT Ataru Indonesia planned ways in supplying goods embargoed by the United States. This was how Ataru was able to supply spare parts for Hercules, F-16, and F-5 airplanes.

"If it was not for Ataru's agility, the TNI could not have obtained the embargoed items," said Hoedaifah. She also said that when Hadi was arrested in the US, he and his friends were actually there to check on the shipment of radar equipment for F-5 airplanes. That equipment was already part of a legal contract. On this occasion, there was also an offer from Orchard Logistic Service for 310 other items.

Some of these items were weapons, including 245 Sidewinder missiles, 882 Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns, 800 H&K 9 millimeter handguns, 16 H&K sniper rifles, and 5,000 rounds of strafing ammunition. It was on account of these items that Hadi and friends were charged with attempted arms smuggling. "We were just looking into it. There was no contract yet," he said.

According to Hoedaifah, the offer was a business opportunity. Moreover, the US embargo against Indonesia had been lifted in November last year. The Indonesian Air Force even approved of their offer a year ago. "Perhaps other branches [of the armed forces] were also interested. I mean this is business, right?" asked the lady from Madura.

Air Force Chief of Staff, Chief Air Marshal Herman Prayitno, also verified that he has worked with Ataru for the past three years. "If we needed something, and he (Hadianto) said he could do it, we went with him," he said, adding that the purchase of radar equipment for F-5 airplanes was indeed official business. But Herman said that he did not know about the purchase of other equipment or weaponry.

In the arms business, Hadianto cooperated with, among others, Ignatius Ferdinandus Suhaerli from PT Imaco Pratama Santosa. He was Ataru's financial supporter. "This is because we had to use our own money before the goods made it to the TNI warehouse," said Hoedaifah.

The presence of Ignatius, according to Hoedaifah, was at the recommendation of an air force officer who wishes to remain anonymous. He also joined the trip to the US because he wanted to work further with Ataru, specifically on the items offered by Orchard Logistic.

But the office of PT Imaco on Jalan Maluku Blok G-71 Cinere, Depok, following the arrest of their chief, looks desolate. The white building looks like an ordinary house. When Tempo went there last week, Monang Sihotang, an employee there, confirmed that the office belonged to Imaco.

The same goes for the Indodial office in Singapore. The office appears to be closed after its boss, Amran Ibrahim, was arrested along with Hadianto. Ibrahim lived in an apartment on Blok 288 Bishan Street 24, Singapore. Now there is only a green car which has been parked there for a week. According to Khadijah Haji Hassan, who lives at the apartment, Ibrahim and his wife were rarely seen, even though they had lived there for 10 years. "I don't even know their full names," she said.

A Tempo source, a former arms dealer, said that Hadianto, Ignatius, and Ibrahim are newcomers in the arms business. They began at the start of the reformasi era. Prior to this, only a handful of strong companies supplied the military with equipment. "If they, as newcomers, were able to solicit such items, they must have had some backing," said the source, who refused to divulge the possible backers.

This charge was played down by Hariyanto Djoko Dwiarso, Hadi's older brother. "We've never had anyone backing us," he said.

-- Eduardus Karel Dewanto, Purwanto, Fanny Febiana, Yophiandi


Marshall Djoko Suyanto: Why is the TNI being seen as smugglers?

THE arrest of TNI partners by US Immigration officials has placed Indonesia in a difficult position. TNI Commander in Chief, Marshall Djoko Suyanto has asked US Ambassador in Jakarta, Lynn D. Pascoe, on the status of the businessmen from PT Ataru Indonesia. "In fact, he (the ambassador) did not respond," said Djoko, en route to Batam from Jakarta, last Friday. The following are excerpts of Tempo reporter Budi Setyarso's interview with the TNI chief:

Why have the TNI's business partners been arrested by the US Immigration officers?

Hasn't it been clarified by the Air Force Chief of Staff? I don't want to overload the situation.

(Last Tuesday, Air Force Chief of Staff, Marshall Herman Prayitno, explained, his office did order nine units of radar from PT Ataru. But the order is separate from the order of weapons and missiles they said the company was buying.-Ed.)

Why were the two TNI officers with them released?

Because they were just executing their official duty. So, this must be distinguished from checking the purchase of radars and weapons by that company. Have you received any reaction from the United States about that?

Last Monday, I invited the ambassador in Jakarta to come see me. I explained to him the procedures of weapons procurement. So, I asked him to see the link between the TNI and the arrest of those businessmen in a holistic way. He asked, "Is there a problem?" Yet, he knew.

How is the TNI itself reacting to those arrests?

We are certainly not happy. Why are we being seen as weapons smugglers? The information is unclear for now, because we haven't been able to ask them anything. The US court is also unclear about this, suddenly it's become a case of weapons smuggling.

Shouldn't this be the time for the TNI to clean up the act of its errant business partners?

It's got nothing to do with that.

You once said you were going to review all TNI's business partners. In what way will you do that?

All of TNI's business partners have gone through an evaluation before they joined up. Now we'll see how they perform. Some will work slow, others will work fast. Some will have a good report card, others will not. That will be their evaluation.

Are almost all those business partners TNI retirees?

Not all. Some of the retirees have joined up with companies. Why not? Our procedures don't regard the companies as owned by retirees or not. We look at how they do contracts, whether they are late or not, whether they take too much commission or not.

Isn't there a fee for them in every transaction?

No more. Since the days of Pak Tarto (General Endriartono Sutarto), two or three years ago, the command funds taken out for each transaction have been eliminated.

Today the Defense Department applies the one-door policy for the procurement needs of the TNI...

This is the context: one door does not mean one of the services cannot make their own contact or acquisition. There are some areas of the contract which can be delegated to the services, like the contract between the air force and Ataru, valued at about US$350,000. It can also be done to the purchase of spare parts for aircraft, ships and tanks, which they routinely do. Why have the Defense Department to do them? If it's on a large scale, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and involves a huge and wide weapons system, then we would involve the Defense Department. That goes also for the acquisition of export credit facilities.

So, how exactly does the TNI weapons procurement procedure works?

Like this: if a service needs something, they have to submit a request to the TNI Headquarters. That applies to big weapons systems like bombs and missiles. The services cannot buy big-caliber ammunition. Buying small weapons like those made by Pindad, for example, could be settled by the TNI HQ. The services can also do that.

How did the weapons procurement system work when the US embargo was still in force?

We did not buy weapons at all, because our needs are not much, there's no war going on. And we still have stock.

What about aircraft spare parts?

We contact our business partners. If, for example I need one thing, can they get it for me? If they can, we buy it. When we purchased spare parts for the F-5 jets, our business partners procured it through the Netherlands or other European countries.

That's because Indonesia could not directly buy from the United States.


Surviving on Cannibalized Equipment

During the US embargo, a number of Indonesia's war machines almost became decaying fuselage. Cannibalizing their equipment was one way of surviving.

SIXTEEN fighter jets were purchased from the United States in April 1980, consisting of twelve units of F-5Es and four units of F-5Fs. These planes became the backbone of the Indonesian air space patrol. After operating for 15 years, several of the planes began to deteriorate. One had to be flown to California for repairs in 1995. After the fighter jet was declared battle-ready again, it was sent back on its journey home.

However, before the plane took off, major rioting (sici) erupted in East Timor-present-day Timor Leste-in 1999. Washington was angered and embargoed the sale of any of its military equipment to Indonesia. The F-5 plane which was only sent for repairs was detained by the United States government.

In addition to the fighter plane, a number of airplane spare parts produced under license from the US, regardless of which country they were purchased from, were also confiscated. As a result, spare parts for F-5 and F-16 planes piled up in military warehouses in South Korea, Brazil, and in neighboring Malaysia, even though Indonesia had clearly purchased those spare parts.

The embargo stretched far and wide. There were also problems with contracts for export credit to upgrade the F-5 planes in Belgium and Sweden. The maintenance of spare parts for Hawk 200s in Britain and New Zealand were also halted. The embargo also applied to the Indonesian Army and Navy.

As a consequence, the condition of Indonesia's battle equipment suffered. Of the country's 255 fighter planes, only 20 percent were capable of flight. "About 80 percent lay dormant in the hangars," said Sagom Tamboen, head of the Navy's Office of Information. Some F-5s were also among the planes which were not battle-worthy.

While the Indonesian Air Force had SAM 75 missiles which could be fired from the ground, they could no longer purchase these missiles after the embargo. "So, if enemy planes ever passed overhead, all we would be able to do is whistle," said Sagom.

Jakarta repeatedly attempted to persuade Washington to drop the embargo. In 2002, when Colin Powell, then the American Secretary of State, arrived in Jakarta, President Megawati Sukarnoputri did her utmost to urge the United States to revoke the arms embargo. Only three years later, in November 2005, did the US lift the embargo.

But this does not mean that Indonesia was totally defenseless during the ban. On July 4, 2003, when for some unknown reason five FA-18 planes belonging to the United States performed maneuvers in the skies over Bawean Island, East Java, two Indonesian F-16s were primed to attack. The two planes, which had taken off from Lanud Iswahyudi, Madiun, were fully armed.

According to the story, the American pilots were surprised. Despite the embargo, the Indonesian Air Force could still perform. The pilots played the bluffing game, but the incident ended peacefully. Ever since that time, however, said one arms broker to Tempo, America has been suspicious about the origins of F-16 spare parts. All of those planes had been imported from America, and their spare parts were also on the embargo list.

According to Sagom, the United States should not have been surprised, because the top brass in Washington understood that each country had its own unpublicized secrets of military strength.

Two weeks ago, when Hadianto Djoko Djuliarso from PT Ataru Indonesia was arrested by US immigration for intending to purchase Sidewinder missiles, suspicions abounded. The Indonesian Air Force was accused of trying to purchase its military equipment on the black market. Coincidentally, Sidewinder missiles can be mounted on F-5 planes, and Hadianto is a business contractor for the air force. Some are also convinced that after the 1999 embargo, the Indonesian Military obtained a supply of fighter jet spare parts from the black market.

A high-ranking military officer told Tempo that he was astonished by criticisms made by several members of the legislature regarding the Hadianto case. When the embargo was in full effect, he said, they should have understood that the purchase of spare parts was done on the black market. "Do all the critics want to see our air strength totally disabled?" he asked with astonishment.

This source pointed out that if there were no spare parts, what would have happened if those five FA-18 planes belonging to the United States flying over Bawean had acted further. "Do we want our air superiority to fall to zero?" he asked.

The Indonesian Air Force has strongly denied buying spare parts and other battle equipment on the black market. According to Sagom, a number of fighter planes could fly because they had cannibalized part of the fleet. Some parts from unusable planes were used on other planes to keep them in the air.

-- Wenseslaus Manggut, Pruwanto, and Eduardus Karel Dewanto

sidebar: Unprotected Skies

After the political turmoil in East Timor, in September 1999, Washington embargoed the sale of all of its military equipment to Indonesia. This seriously jeopardized Indonesia's military strength. Of 255 fighter planes, divided into 17 squadrons, about 80 percent sat in hangars, incapable of flight. Parts of Indonesian air space were left unguarded. The Indonesian Air Force would have trouble detecting the entry of an enemy plane due to the lack of radar equipment.

The supply of most of Indonesia's military equipment was dependent on the United States. Here is a recap of Indonesia's air strength following the embargo.


There are about 21 radars covering Indonesian territory, aiding the defense system. Only about 70 percent are operable. The south of Maluku and south of Papua are not covered by radar. This means that it is difficult to detect the passing of planes from other countries. PF-16 Fighting Falcons

Of 10 fighter planes, only 4 are battle-ready. Bronco Squadron and A4 SkyHawks

Still flyable, but very old. Hawk MK 109/209

Of these 35 planes, several cannot be flown. C-130 Heavy Air Tankers

All of these 22 tankers are inoperable. F-28s

3 planes. F-27s

5 planes. C-130B Tankers

2 planes. CN-235s

8 planes. C-212s

10 planes. Sukhoi 27 MKs

These 2 planes only have machine guns, no missiles. Sukhoi 30 MKs

These 2 planes only have machine guns, without missiles. Boeing 737s

3 planes. NAS-332 Helicopters

9 units. F-5Es

Of the 12 units, only two are battle-ready. F-5Fs

4 units. Hercules Transport Planes

Only 8 of the 22 are airworthy.

Additional stories here

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