Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-35As will deploy to Indonesia in September this year to participate in Exercise Elang AUSINDO 2023. The exercise marks the inaugural deployment of RAAF F-35As to Indonesia. Until now Indonesia has only been used as a refuelling stop for jets transiting to exercises in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.
Elang AUSINDO is one of three bilateral AUSINDO series exercises conducted between the RAAF and Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) annually. While Elang AUSINDO 2023 focuses on air combat, the other two iterations of AUSINDO, Albatross and Rajawali, focus on maritime patrol and air mobility respectively.
The latest AUSINDO series exercise, Elang Albatross AUSINDO 2023, involving an RAAF P-8A and TNI-AU 737 took place at RAAF Darwin in May this year.
Elang AUSINDO has a long history. The exercise, first held in 1995, involved elements of No. 75 Squadron and the TNI-AU’s 3rd Squadron. However, due to the impacts of COVID-19, it last took place in 2019 when No.1 Squadron F/A-18Fs deployed to Indonesia. This year's iteration thus represents a return to normal in more ways than one, with the exercise both occurring again after the pandemic paused it, and No.75 Squadron once again taking part.
This year's event will take place between 18-28 September from Sam Ratulangi International Airport near the city of Manado in North Sulawesi. No 75 Squadron’s Tindal-based F-35As will be joined by Indonesian F-16Cs of the 3rd Squadron, normally based at Iswahyudi Air Force Base in East Java, for the duration of the exercise.
While the exercise marks the first deployment of the F-35A to Indonesia it is not the TNI-AUs first exposure to the aircraft. During Exercise Pitch Black 2022 Indonesian F-16Cs of 3 Squadron deployed to RAAF Darwin where they flew missions alongside RAAF F-35As as well US Marine Corps (USMC) F-35Bs.
The deployment of F-35As to Indonesia comes off the back of similar inaugural deployments by 75 Squadron to Singapore and Malaysia last year. Until then, Australia’s F-35 aircraft had only ever been deployed within Australia or to the US.