SHAH ALAM: TWO Indonesian AF F-16s were apparently scrambled to identify a RMAF C-130 Hercules which was flying some 24 nautical miles from Natuna island. Although press reports claimed that it was intercepted, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said that it was a visual identification only as the F-16s did not force the Hercules to land or disrupt its flight plan.
However, one of the F-16s tailed the Hercules from behind at a distance of one mile. The F-16s flew off without responding to the Hercules attempts to contact it.
Reports from Indonesia claimed the F-16s managed to force out a foreign aircraft from its territory though it could not identify the aircraft. One report said the radar system on Natuna could not identify the Hercules as the transponder on the aircraft was turned off. However when they checked Flight radar (the aircraft tracking website) it was squawking its data and was identified as a RMAF aircraft. As mentioned earlier the incident happened 24 nautical miles from Natuna island so the Hercules was not flying in Indonesian airspace at that point.
The full release:
“Today, I have received a detailed brief from the Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), General Tan Sri Roslan bin Saad regarding the incident involving 2 Tentera Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU) F-16 Jets and a Royal Malaysian Air Force’s C130 (Callsign : MEGA 207) on Saturday, 25 June 2016.
MEGA 207 departed from Subang Air Force Base at 10:10AM for a scheduled training mission with a pre-determined flight plan towards Labuan Air Force Base.
At 12:03PM, MEGA207 received a visual identification from a TNI-AU F-16, 24 nautical miles from Natuna Islands at a height of 23,000 feet. The second TNI-AU F-16 was 1 nautical mile behind MEGA 207 at a height of 22,900 feet according to the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) onboard MEGA 207. All attempts from MEGA 207 to contact both TNI-AU fighter jets failed to receive a response. Both TNI-AU F-16s then dispersed from the airspace without any further incidents.
It must be noted that MEGA 207 was not intercepted by TNI-AU. An interception warrants the forcing down of our RMAF C-130 which did not occur. It was a mere visual identification of our aircraft.
This incident will not be taken lightly. We will continue to use this route without any reservations. As far as Malaysia is concerned, MEGA 207 conducted the scheduled training mission on a pre-determined flight route, in accordance with a flight plan that has been sent using the usual Standard Operating Procedure.
We also fully emphasize that the safety of the flight is to be fully observed at all times when flying in the internationally recognized airways. I have given full mandate to the Chief of the RMAF, General Tan Sri Roslan bin Saad, to take whatever action is needed to operationalize our rights on using this route and continue to work closely with his counterpart in Indonesia.
Furthermore, according to the Treaty between Malaysia and the Republic of Indonesia relating to the legal regime of archipelagic State and the rights of Malaysia in the territorial sea and archipelagic waters as well as in the airspace above the territorial sea, archipelagic waters and the territory of the Republic of Indonesia lying between East and West Malaysia dated 25 February 1982, Part III, Article 8, Para 1, State Aircraft – Malaysia has the right of continuous, expeditious and unobstructed overflight through the airspace.
Furthermore, the treaty clearly states the right of military aircraft to conduct aerial maneuvers, including tactical exercises, through the airspace above the territorial sea, archipelagic waters and the territory of the Republic of Indonesia, provided in the course of tactical exercises no firing of weapons is permitted.
Moving forward diplomatically, I will bring this issue up directly with General (Rtd.) Ryamizard Ryacudu, Indonesia’s Minister of Defence when I see him next month in Jakarta, Indonesia to convey Malaysia’s concern. While we share a close relationship, issues like this must be discussed in the open to ensure mutual understanding at all levels in both countries.
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