Indonesia tightens airspace security with heftier fines on unsolicited entry of foreign aircraft

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Indonesian government has moved to tighten its airspace security by introducing heavier fines for foreign aircraft entering its airspace without proper clearance.

The new government regulation on airspace security under the 2009 Aviation Law stipulates that foreign aircraft flying through Indonesia's airspace must have prior flight approval as well as diplomatic and security clearance, failing which they risk hefty fines of up to 5 billion rupiah (S$480,000).

The new penalty is far higher than previous fines of around 60 million rupiah per aircraft, and seeks to deter violations, said Indonesian Air Force spokesperson Air Commodore Jemi Trisonjaya.

"Previously, violators would only be fined with a few million rupiah," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday (Mar 4).

Mr Jemi said seeking clearance was standard practice and in accordance with international regulations, and the Air Force would no longer hesitate to reject those with incomplete or expired clearance.

"If they insist [on entering], we can force them down, just like when an aircraft tried to pass the Tarakan region without clearance in 2015," he asserted.

In November 2015, United States Navy pilot Lieutenant Commander James Patrick Murphy was forced to land his plane at Juwata Airport in Tarakan, North Kalimantan. His Cirrus SR-20 aircraft entered Indonesian airspace without clearance and was intercepted by two Air Force fighters.

He had reportedly obtained clearance to fly solo in a civilian aircraft to Singapore from the Philippines, but he entered Indonesian airspace. He was released six days later after paying 60 million rupiah in fines to the Transportation Ministry.

The new regulation is expected to deter such violations.

The Indonesian military (TNI) had been requesting heftier fines for many years, dating back to when current Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko was TNI commander. In 2014, Mr Moeldoko argued that the cost of operating one Sukhoi jet fighter to pursue air space violations was 400 million rupiah per hour. 

"The fines for the violation were not equal to the cost the state had to spend to purchase the fighter jets," said former lawmaker and military expert Susaningtyas Kertopati.

However, even before the regulation was enacted last week, Mr Jemi said there had been a decrease in airspace violations in the last two years.

"This year, we have not seen any violations so far," he said, attributing it to the "firm actions taken by the Air Force" in warning aircraft before they entered Indonesian airspace.

Centre for Strategic and International Studies homeland security analyst Iis Gindarsah said the new regulation was a response to domestic concerns over perceived vulnerabilities of  Indonesian airspace.

"It also represents the operational readiness of the country's civilian and military authorities to monitor air traffic and intercept unlawful flights," he said.