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Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Udara
Indonesian Air Force


Credit:  Roundels of the world

                                        Last update 12-08-2019




                                                   Wing 300                 On tail: Wing 300 first/            second badge                Wing 3



                                                                  14 Skadron                      Badges worn by pilots


The Indonesian Air Force was equipped till beginninning of 1970's mainly with Soviet block fighters, but a change in government policies towards USA brought an influx of Western equipment.

A Letter of Offer and Acceptance for 12 Northrop F-5E was requested by Indonesia in May 1977; the country menaced to buy French Mirages, bureaucratic procedures delayed the US offer till February 1978 when

the sale of 12 Northrop F-5E and 4 Northrop F-5E was notified to the Congress at a cost of USD 125m; unsatisfaction with French credit terms determinated the acquisition of the Northrop fighter.

Four single-seaters and 4 two-seaters, arrived at Madiun-Iswahyudi AB (main Indonesian fighter base) from McClellan AFB on 21-04-80 on on board a Lockheed C-5A. A second wave of 8 aircrafts arriving on

05-07-80; AIM-9P2 Sidewinders were also supplied at an unknown date (prior to 1986).

Photo: Northrop
Line-up in USA of Northrop F-5E TS-505, TS-510, F-5F TL-514 next to the RF-5E prototype 11420 in 1979.

The aircrafts were to replace 18 former Australian CA-27 Sabres equipping Skuadron Udara 14, Wing 300, at Iswahyudi AB, the unit being inaugurated by the Ministry of Defence on 05-05-80; the US government placed restrictions regarding the use of these aircrafts: they where not to be used in former Portuguese colony East Timor, now part of Indonesia, where a guerrilla war was taking place.


      Northrop F-5E TS-01510 with tail markings of 300th Wing, badge of 14th Squadron and Sidewinders
      seen at Jakarta-Kemaroyan AB on 23-06-86.              
                                    Photo: Unknown

The first two former Sabre pilots to act as instructors were sent to Williams AFB in December 1979, followed by another one in January 1980. Local technicians went also to Williams AFB for instruction in September 1979 (before arrival of the fighters), returning in January 1980. 

Pilot's training was completed in 39.2 flying hours, 85 days. This included Basic fighter maneuvers , Air Combat Maneuvers and Tacticts. They followed after this a course as instructors.

Lockeheed C-5 delivered the first batch on 21-04-80; Northrop personnel, assisted by Indonesian technicians, assembled the aircrafts at Iswahyudi AB, completing this seven days after the aircrafts' arrival in Indonesia. First local flight of a Tiger was done by Northrop F-5F TL-0514; the inauguration of Skuadron Udara 14 on the new fighter was on 05-05-80. Twelve former Sabre pilots were converted in one year. A second batch arrived on 05-07-80, alway carried by Lockheed C-5.

The first excercise with a foreign country, called Malindo Eagle VI, took place between thr 8th and 10th September 1980 in conjunction with Malaysia, while a domestic exercise took place in November 1980 when five aircrafts flew from Madiun to Medan via a stopover at Halim Perdanakusuma (Jakarta). They encountered bad weather on the last leg. Another domestic exercise took place at the beginning of 1981: Jayapura (Indonesian New Guinea) was visited testing use of small airports; this airport had a runway of just 1'600 meters, though Tigers need at least 1'800 meters.

First loss of an Northrop F-5E happened on 24-10-86, when a pilot killed in a training sortie in Eastern Java. In the meantime another 2 F-5Es are known to have been lost in accidents.

One air-to-air missile Sidewinder AIM-9J-2 was live fired for the first time on 03-11-89 during an exercise with an TDU-11 simulated target. Additional test firings were done during the the Exercise Joint Marine (Latgabla) II in 1989.

An attempt to buy 4 surplus Jordanian Northrop F-5E at a cost of USD 25m was vetoed by the US Government in 1993 due to Indonesian human-rights violations on Timor issue.

         Photo: unknown
       Northrop F-5E TS-505 fully armed in front of No 12 Squadron hangar at Pekabaru

The Air Force commander visited the 1993 Le Bourget salon and requested proposals to varoius companies for an upgrade of the available aircrafts..

A program, called MACAN (Modernisation of Avionics Capabilities for Armament and Navigation) was established to improve the air combat and ground attack capability, plus to enable the planes to act as an lead-in trainer for the F-16s received starting from December 1989; SABCA of Belgium, as systems integrator, was awarded in March 1995 a contract to upgrade 8 single-seaters and 4 two-seaters at a cost of USD 40m. The contract included installation of new avionics, offering commonality with local F-16s and Hawk 109/209, rewiring, structural repairs on at least one aircraft and spares package over four years. Upgrade of the fighter's radar APG-59(V)3 to (V)5 standard was completed in a separate program.

Two prototypes, F-5E TS-0501 and F-5F TS-0516 arrived SABCA's base at Gosseliers on 31-05-95 for modification; test flying started only in September 1997 as the program run six months behind schedule due to difficulties with suppliers and the condition of the two airframes.

Modified aircrafts were returned to Indonesia in February 1999, ferried on Antonov An-124. Upgrading of the remaining aircrafts was to be at Iswahyudi AB, in batches of no more than three at a time, SABCA to supply modification kits, procedures and 3 technicians to assist work, expected to last up to 5 months to complete.

Northrop F-5E TS-0501 at Gosseliers during armament trials in May 1998 after conversion
to MACAN standard.
                                                                      Photo: unknown

Northrop F-5s were rotated during the years throughout the county to familiarize pilots with the 5'100 kms long archipelago, but in 1999 and 2000 three F-5Es were based at Kupang-El Tari AB (West Timor), to be used for air defence of the border area with East Timor against a possible Australian military intervention during unrests; MACAN modified aircrafts flew in the lead with non upgraded F-5E as wingman (not all were MACAN modified at the time) in order to make use of the better systems.

Continous friction with the USA regarding military operations in East Timor, including the use fo Northrop F-5s, led in 1999 to a full embargo of military material. This had very serious consequences to the operation of the Air Force due to shortage of spare parts, which had to be bought from third parties, and, regarding the upgrade of the Tigers, of maintenance/repairs and acquisition of new components. It seems that 7 F-5E and 4 F-5F have been upgraded, work on the missing single-seater (TS-0510) having been stopped while being in the USA. One source mentions that upgrade was completed by 2001.

                                       Northrop F-5E TS-0502 and F-5F TS-0516 at Madun-Isfahyuidi on 27-04-00, both upgraded to
                                       MACAN standard, with badge of the 3rd Wing. Note brighter than original camouflage, smaller
                                       stencilling and red last two of serial on nose.
                                                                                                                                        Photos:Sergio Bottaro

As part of a reorganisation Wing 3 was established on May 5, 2000 at Iswahyudi with 14 Squadron (F-5E/F), 3 Squadron (F-16A/B), Squadron 15 (Hawk Mk53), after Wing 300 had been disbanded on 01-04-85 and all Squadrons placed directly under control of two operational Commands, Komando Operasi Angkatan Udara 1 (for the Western part of Indonesia) and Komando Operasi Angkatan Udara 2 (for the Eastern part of Indonesia).

Indipencence of East Timor in 2002 and improved relations with the USA brought an end to the military materials embargo in February 2006; only 6 F-5s were operational at the time, one additional F-5E (serial TS-0510) was held in the USA, sent to Northrop in 1999 for repairs and wasn't anymore operational. This has been returned to 
Iswahyudi AB beginning of 2006, to be used as source for spare parts.

Jordan offered a grant of F-5s in December 2005, but the offer was not accepted as the Air Force preferred to finance acquisition of later generation Sukhoi Su-27SKM and Su-30MK2 fighters for its 
Skuadron Udara 11.

A replacement aircraft for the Northrop F-5 was in the wishes list
of the Indonesian AF, together with replacements of BAe Hawk Mk53 trainer and North American OV-10F Bronco COIN aircraft, the last one being the most urgent and the F-5 in the last position.

Some sources state that The Republic of China (Taiwan) offered one Squadron of 12-20 Tigers in 2012, inclusive spares. This was denied by the Air Force commander. Also offered were 16 former Korean Northrop F-5s if Indonesia bought one Squadron of KAI T-50 trainers; the trainers where bought independely to the Tigers as the Korean ones had not been upgrded, but were equpped with the original systems and the offer was was rejected by May 2013.

Swiss company RUAG (specialised in maintenance of Northrop Tigers) also offered in November 2012 in depth mantainance of the Tigers, to take place in Indonesia (Madiun). Only need was to send one technician and some equipment plus technology from Switzerland; the offer was not accepted.

Local fighters had been utilised between 4'000 and 10'000 flights hours and the Indonesian Air Force was considering the update of the avionics by local companies Infoglobal Teknologi Semesta in Surabaya.

Northrop's Tigers participated to several national and combined with neighbouring countries exercises as well as alarm operations. Some of them are listed hereunder.

 An Air Combat Manoevring Range, developed, together with Singapore, was established at Pekan Baru (Sumatra ) for air-to-air and air-to-ground in during 1980, initially utilising CA-27 Sabre and Hunters of the      two countries and, from 1986 in excercise  Elang Indopura IV/86, F-5s. The biennally held excercise involved, apart from helicopters and transport aircrafts, Indonesian Northrop F-5s and Singaporean ones, initially F-5E, later upgraded F-5S.
 The latest excercise
, Elang Indopura XIV/2006, was  held between 03 and 22 July 2006, divided in Phase 1 as Command Post Excercise at Paya Lebar AB (Singapore), Phase 2 as Air Manoeuvre Excercise at Iswahyudi AB with of 6 Indonesian F-5Es  and deployment of 6 Singaporean F-5S.

An interception on alarm took place on 26-04-06 when 2 F-5E based at Kupang AB intercepted about 80 miles form Kupang 4 Australian F-18C and 1 B.707 tanker en route from Darwin (Australia) to Paya Lebar AB (Singapore). After initial radio contact problems it was cleared that the Australian aircrafts had obtained prior clearance to overfly Indonesian air space.

 "Air Power Show 2007" exercise, to
 show Air Force capabilities, was held
 on Belitung Island (Sumatra) 18-11-07
 with the participation of 3 F-5Es,
 2 F-16A, 4 Hawk 109/209 destroying
 dummy targets.

 Photo: Indonesian AF

The discovery
by a radar station near Kupang (Timor Island) beginning May 2009 of a number of unknown fighter aircrafts flying near Rote Island prompted routine air patrols by four Northrop F-5E along the Indonesia-Australia border, but no contact took place.
The distance between the island and Australia is less than 90 miles.

Continous tension with Malaysia brought
during 2009 the basing of some Tigers at Balikpapan AB (East Borneo); a ground controlled interception exercise, called "Cakra-B/09", was held between April 6th and 14th 2009 to improve readiness, with the participation of 5 Northrop F-5. These aircrafts were supported by General Dynamics F-16 at the same base and 2 Sukhoi Su-27 and 2 Sukhoi Su-30 based at Makasar (also in East Borneo, but farther away from the border).

Plans were on-hand (September 2011) to buy 24 ex USAF General Dynamics F-16C/D and re-equip Freedom Fighter equipped Sqn 14 with these aircrafts as well as to make good attrition losses of F-16A/B equipped Sqn 3, though the average life span available of present F-5s is 4'000 hour which could keep the fleet flying till 2020.

The Indonesian Air Force Chief of Staff mentioned in March 2012 they are considering the Republic of China offer to grant 1 Squadron of Northrop F-5E/Fs, but not accepted.

The Tigers had to be grounded two times durig 2013 due to spares shortage; last flight took place on 28-04-16, when one single- and one double-seater performed a ground attack excercise. Replacement was originally  foreseen by eleven Russian Sukhoi Su-35, but search for a new aircraft was still going-on in April 2021. Candidates were: Saab JA-39 Gripen, Sukhoi Su-35, F-16 Block 60 Viper and Eurofighter Typhhoon.

Entrance to the Indonesian Air Force museum,       
Photo: unknown                          Forward fuselage of Northrop F-5E 78-0816 14 Squadron at Jogjakarta Mandala
                                                                                                                                   Air Force Museum in July 2018     Photo: Bluesky300
Since 31 may 2016 the Squadron was in reserve status, its 11 remaining aircrafts have now been handed over to museums or preserved as monuments; Tiger pilots were attached to other units.
On 25-04-17 Northrop F-5E, serial TS-503,was officially inaugurated at the Central Museum of the Indonesian AF (Jogjakarta).
Altogether seven single-seaters and 2 two-seaters were used as monuments by April/June 2018.