Indonesian F-16s tailed RMAF Hercules

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.

RMAF Hercules M30-05. File picture
RMAF Hercules M30-05. File picture

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.

A screen capture from Flightradar - the aircraft tracking site. It is likely Mega207 was flying between the Riau Island and MAS 2742 - a flight going to Bintulu, Sarawak.
A screen capture from Flightradar – the aircraft tracking site. It is likely Mega207 was flying between the Riau Island and MAS 2742 – a flight going to Bintulu, Sarawak. Note this screen capture was taken today (June 28, 2016) a representation of the likely flight path of MEGA207

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.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam

23 Comments

  1. this where an AWECS would have been handy in identify possible hostile aircraft. Indo must have seen the insignia and move off.

  2. this where an AWECS would have been handy in identify possible hostile aircraft. The F16s must have seen the insignia and move off.

  3. alex,

    I’m thinking same way too. They must be thinking it was the PLAAF/PLAN aircraft intruded the airspace. After all, Chinese Coast Guard did entered Natuna’s coast recently.

  4. alex,

    An AEW would have made NO difference. And it’s not as if any AEW we have will be used to watch over every single RMAF plane that flies close to an international air boundary. Stuff like this happens all the time and we shouldn’t form any premature or sensational conclusions over it. The only difference is that this time around; it became public. There have been several occasions in the past where we have warned U.S. aircraft that unintentionally strayed into our airspace : no big deal, it happens.

  5. I wonder if MEGA 207 was 24 nautical miles from natuna island airspace, are they flying in malaysian airspace right? So the F16 indonesia was the one should be called intruder. Where is our fighter to intercept them?

    Reply
    Not likely in Malaysian airspace. I think they were flying near the tip of the Kalimantan side near to the border with Sarawak, which is still likely in international airspace as the internationally recognised border is 12 nautical miles. There are two small islands between Kalimantan and the Natunas, both belonging to Indonesia. You can check the normal flight route to Labuan using the Flight Radar.

  6. Firdaus – ” Where is our fighter to intercept them?”

    Think…. Are we expected to keep fighters on standby every time an RMAF aircraft flies along the edge of an air boundary shared with another country? If that were the case we should have dozens of fighters on 24/7 alert instead of just 2!

    Honestly I’m not sure why some are making such a fuss about this. It’s not that such incidents are rare or that they’ve never occurred before. In the past the TNI-AU intercepted RAAF F-18s that were on their way to Singapore. Indonesia claimed the F-18s had strayed into Indonesian air space. Merely because it involved an RMAF plane that was allegedly ”intercepted” that it’s making such big news and people are acting as if this is the first time it’s happening. We have an maritime boundaries in the Melaka Straits and South China Sea that are disputed with Indonesia. What’s the big deal about an RMAF airplane that allegedly strayed or came close to straying into Indonesia airspace? Rightly or wrongly, the Indonesians did what they thought was right; they didn’t act provocatively. We too routinely issue warnings to both military and civilian planes that stray into out air space without authorisation.

  7. Azlan says:
    ‘Honestly I’m not sure why some are making such a fuss about this. It’s not that such incidents are rare or that they’ve never occurred before.’

    I remember one fine morning back in the late 1970s when there was an unfamiliar contrail high above Kota Kinabalu coming from the westerly direction going to the east.What was it?…….Maybe a Russian Tu-95 based at Danang making a courtesy visit?There was no radar coverage over Sabah then so it’s difficult to identify the ownership of such an extremely high altitude flight!

  8. If the F-16 never made radio contact and stay 1 mile away, how the hell the C-130 pilot knew he was being intercepted?

    Reply
    There was two F16s, read the press release.

  9. Rozaimirafli,

    If I’m not mistaken one of the S-600s was based at Labuan during the 1970’s and there would also have been civilian ATC radars at Labuan and K.K. During the 1970’s, like they did during the Confrontation, RAAF Mirage 111s made regular deployments to Sabah but off course Sabah [and Sarawak], then as now, is not covered under FPDAs IADS. Quite a few intercepts were made by RAAF Mirage 111s, who were responsible for QRA long after the F-5 were operational.

    I won’t be surprised if the Indonesian tabloids blow this incident way out of proportion; like they did with Ambalat and the seizure of Indonesian ships by us in the Melaka Straits. Fanning the fires of patriotism and nationalism works.

  10. Mr.Azlan.

    Maybe TUDM had the S-600 based in Labuan during the 1970s but as I was living next to the KK airport ,I dare say there wasn’t any radar of any sort at all around the airfield. Military traffic was quite heavy before the end of the Vietnam war in 1975. There were numerous visits by RAAF Neptunes and once, a canberra bomber. After that year and towards the end of the decade, US Army Mohawks were a common sight and of course the yearly migration of Singaporean Skyhawks on their way to Clark AFB.If I am not wrong a flight of three of the Skyhawk crashed into Mt.Pinatubo during one of those visits. Btw the two Malaysian states on the Borneo Island during the 1970s were plainly naked to air intrusions as the CA32 Sabres,Tebuans and Tigers were largely based in the Peninsular.

  11. Logic thinking..
    Why should TNI F16 make an “interception” if they can identified RMAF C-130? TNI AU Ranai Airbase has capability to track and identified the C-130 with its Radar.
    Scrambling and intercepting unknown plane is carried out if radar and comm are failed to do so and more expensive.

    Radio silent is common for military aircraft. It is just maybe the TNI is in high alert in Natuna, as we all know recently the TNI navy has “face to face” situation with china Coast guard in natuna EEZ when they seize china fishing ship.
    So, This interception by TNI F16 is not a serious case I think.
    Respect to TNI in guarding their teritory strongly even against the mighty china in which most of SEA nations are failed and played down the issue.

  12. Rozaimi – ”Btw the two Malaysian states on the Borneo Island during the 1970s were plainly naked to air intrusions”

    During the 1960’s, when the Philippines was actively pursuing the Sabah claim; we requested that Australia deploy fighter detachments to Labuan; they refused saying that the fighters at Butterworth only covered West Malaysia. All we could do was move an L/70 battery to Sabah and much later a S-600. The S-600 was, if I’m not mistaken, deployed some distance away from Labuan airport. Indeed we had minimal air defences there but what was the likelihood of the Philippines actually sending jets deep into our airspace? The few intrusions they did was on the fringe of the air boundary and on once occasion they buzzed a Vosper PC in the Sulu Sea but they never ventured deep inside our airspace unlike the Indonesians during the Confrontation with Badgers, Mustangs and B-26s. KK airport may not have had a dedicated military radar but it most certainly had a civilian ATC radar which could detect aircraft; albeit at much shorter ranges compared to a military radar. If the ATC radar was not deployed at the airport, it must have been deployed somewhere in the vicinity. Before it had an ATC radar it most certainly had an approach radar; without one it could not properly function.

    I know of 1RSAF Skyhawk that crashed whilst on a training deployment to Clark.

    Romeo – ”Respect to TNI in guarding their teritory strongly even against the mighty china in which most of SEA nations are failed and played down the issue.”

    Indonesia is not a claimant in the Spratlys dispute; thus it can act differently compared to the countries that are claimants. If anything, Indonesia likes to play the nationalist card when faced with what is perceived as intrusions into its maritime/air domain : look at how their politicians and press played up the Ambalat issue and how they behave in the Melaka Straits [at times we don’t make things public to avoid embarrassing or antagonising them – lets just say that they were a few unfriendly encounters in Ambalat that was not released to the press]. And remember the goons who threw excrement at the Malaysian embassy and the idiot who claimed he had a million man army ready to invade? This is not how a mature and responsible society behaves. Look at how they handled Singapore after naming 2 TNI-AL ships after individuals who hit a civilian target in Singapore [which was part of Malaysia during that period] during the Confrontation – this after the TNI had [and still does] benefited from training arrangements with the SAF!

    Also, just because other countries [us included] may not be doing stuff that makes it to the pages on the STAR or NST; doesn’t mean we are not doing things behind the scene with regards to dealing with China. A lot of back door diplomacy does go on behind the scenes – that’s the ASEAN way. With China the biggest investor here and us China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN; we have to thread carefully.

  13. Romeo – ”Radio silent is common for military aircraft.”

    Incorrect. ”Radio silence” is not used when flying in peacetime conditions in international airspace; they’re are international rules/protocals to observe. In fact, in such situations aircraft [like those at airshows] are under civilian, not military ATC.

  14. Azlan – Indonesia is not a claimant in the Spratlys dispute; thus it can act differently compared to the countries that are claimants

    You miss the picture here, it is about nine-dash line not about claimants of spratlys (if it is about spratlys dispute than indonesia and china has no issue). China is using her fisherman ( maybe they are not real fisherman but military personnel) to claim tbeir self proclamed nine dash line which draw inside EEZ some SEA naioss. While indonesians stand strong and take actions by seizing china’s fishing ship, but malaysia gov disputing about this internally. TLDM said there is no china fishing ship inside malaysia’s EEZ but jabatan perikanan malaysia (correct me if i’m wrong) said the othe way around. Only one of them was telling you the truth. But looking how aggresive china is sending their fishing ship diplomacy around LCS, I’m sure these china fishing ship is operating not far from sabah coast line.

    Seizing illegal fishing ship doesnt mean starting a war. It show whose law is working. It is not attacking a navy ship of other county. You can see in this case, the china 8000 tons CG ship just looking when TNI AL doing their job. In other case their CG just ramp their own fishing ship but not TNI AL ship.

    China is using fishing diplomacy to test the water.

    Azlan – A lot of back door diplomacy does go on behind the scenes – that’s the ASEAN way. With China the biggest investor here and us China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN; we have to thread carefully.

    China currently biggest investor in every SEA nations. But it is not enough to stop indonesian seizing china’s illegal fishing. Because indonesia see it as implementing our law in our teritory not yours.

    Azlan – Incorrect. ”Radio silence” is not used when flying in peacetime conditions in international airspace; they’re are international rules/protocals to observe. In fact, in such situations aircraft [like those at airshows] are under civilian, not military ATC.

    Yes, Every plane for safety reason SHOULD do that, but if everyone do it than there shouldn’t be any airspace intrusion and there is no need for interception.

  15. Romeo – ”You miss the picture here, ”

    It is me or you who has missed the picture? Indonesia is not a claimant in the Spratlys dispute and China does not claim the Natunas; thus Indonesia’s actions towards China will differ when compared to claimants in the Spratlys dispute for the simple reason that the stakes are lower for Indonesia. It has nothing to do about the ”9 dash line” but how particular countries decide to react based on internal factors and their relations with China.

    Romeo – ”China currently biggest investor in every SEA nations.”

    Not really. Malaysia is China’s largest trading partner in ASEAN and investment is rising at a very fast rate. We have to tread carefully. It’s easy to say we should act tough and be firm but at the end of the day; everything boils down to economics; yes we have to be firm with regards to our sovereignty but it has to be balanced with the fact that our economy is very tied to China’s. The Philippines can afford to go tough with China as it’s a treat ally with the U.S. and Chinese investment in the Philippines is low when compared to other ASEAN countries.

    Romeo – ”Every plane for safety reason SHOULD do that, but if everyone do it than there shouldn’t be any airspace intrusion and there is no need for interception.”

    Everybody does so that as it’s the norm. Doesn’t mean that aircraft straying into the airspace of other countries doesn’t happen due to human error or due to countries disagreeing as to where their boundaries are – in the vast majority of interceptions that take place, both sides are in direct contact with one another but so what? If I insist that I’m in international airspace and you insist otherwise; the fact that we’re both in radio contact will not change much.

    Romeo – ” but malaysia gov disputing about this internally.”

    Different countries have different ways as to how they go about responding as all have different levels of engagement with China and different views as to how to solve issues.

    Romeo – ”Seizing illegal fishing ship doesnt mean starting a war. It show whose law is working. ”

    No off course it doesn’t but there is no fix rule. The Indonesians were lucky in that China did not respond in kind and decided to let it go; the Indonesians played their cards right. The next time around they might have to play things differently as China might react differently.

  16. Romeo – ” I’m sure these china fishing ship is operating not far from sabah coast line.”

    At times the presence of Chinese Maritime or Fisheries ships is intended to keep RMN and MMEA ships busy so that their trawlers can work unmolested – I’ve heard this from people who have deployed in the area. In November the ”Diplomat” released satellite photos showing a Chinese ship anchored in Luconia Shoals and a Kedah class anchored in close vicinity. We are lucky in that Chinese actions – to date – in the disputed area has been quite restrained when compared to its actions against Vietnam and the Philippines.

  17. Romeo – ”China currently biggest investor in every SEA nations. ”

    Incorrect. Take Thailand for example; China is a significant investor there but not the largest.

  18. Azlan

    Here’s a sarcastic comment from someone in Singapore about the A4S crash in the Philippines.

    The scolding incident was a few days later for suggesting that the pilot was in financial distress and insinuating suicide. As usual the brothel put a lid on it. This pilot was one of 5 clowns flying formation in Philippines when they thought the highest mountain is as high as Bukit Timah Hill and 4 of them slammed into a mountainside when they broke thru a cloud. Only this clown escaped. This clown was the only one who missed and thought he was on a second life and began acting crazy. He was previously caught switching off the voice recorder and had been demoted and pushed to Silkair for disciplinary issues. He still was facing disciplinary issue when it occurred.

    Well,actually the real story is like this …………

    Just to clarify, it was actually only 4 planes flying formation, not 5. One of the crashed planes was a 2 seater, hence 4 pilots died in their Skyhawk. Very bad accident. The USAF and USN have been flying out of Clark AB for decades and use their range all the time, and never had an accident this bad. At that time, our Skyhawks were fitted with good navigation gear, but not ground avoidance radar. Still, should not have happened.

    Date of Accident:19/12/1979.Involving 2 A4S and 1 TA4S Skyhawk.
    Place: Mount Demahonte,Aurora Province. (Not Mt.Pinatubo)
    Crew: 4 perished

  19. Rozaimi,

    I remember another RSAF Skyhawk that crashed in the Philippines either in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.

  20. Azlan,

    It really has something to do with 9 dash line since it covers some areas similar to Indonesian EEZ as China also stated it clearly. Read the news, man…

    I also respect to TNI which bravely guards Indon territory…

    Many people in the Phil and Viet also admire what TNI did…

  21. Guam,

    BUT China does not claim the Natunas; its claims in the area overlaps into the Natunas – profound difference here. As Indonesia is not a claimant in the Spatlys dispute and as China does not claim the Natunas; Indonesia is in a somewhat different position compared to countries that have claims in the Spratlys; which by doing so have to tread more carefully as they have more to lose. Thank you but I have been reading the news; for some time now.

    The armed forces of every country ”bravely” defends their sovereignty; that is their raison detre.

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