Indonesia is planning to deploy its own air defense system in the South China Sea’s Natuna Islands amid mounting tension in the disputed region, a report said Wednesday. The report comes on the heels of the Indonesian defense minister's comments last Thursday that the country will send F-16 fighter jets to the islands to protect against “thieves.”
The Indonesian Air Force will install four special forces units, known as the Korps Pasukan Khas, on Pulau Natuna Besar, the main part of the Natuna archipelago, IHS Jane’s 360, a British publishing company that keeps record of military equipment, reported.
These units will be equipped with the Oerlikon Skyshield air defense system, the report added. The system features 35 mm multirole cannon that can fire 1,000 rounds per minute and precision-guided shells that can down aircraft.
The Indonesian military also requested to fund the acquisition of more medium-range air defense systems for the islands, step up facilities to take in eight fighter aircraft on Ranai air base that would likely include the Su-27, Su-30 or F-16, and an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron facility, the report said. The aircraft and UAV facilities are expected to cost about $91 million and if the funding request is approved the military will reportedly complete the upgrades by 2019.
Last Thursday, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said that his country would deploy F-16 fighter jets as part of a military expansion on the islands that will have a renovated runway and a new port.
“Natuna is a door, if the door is not guarded then thieves will come inside,” Ryacudu said. “There has been all this fuss because until now it has not been guarded. This is about the respect of the country.”
The South China Sea region has been long debated, with Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam laying claim to various areas. Beijing has been expanding presence in the area and has consistently defended its actions, saying it does not have any intentions of starting a conflict and that its military presence will maintain safety in the region.