The Air Force has announced it will fly four jet fighters from Squadron 16 of Roesmin Nurjadin Air Force Base in Pekanbaru, Riau, to patrol the waters around the Natuna Islands.
Indonesia and China have become embroiled in a diplomatic tug-of-war after the latter’s coast guard vessels have been repeatedly spotted entering Indonesian-controlled waters along with Chinese fishing boats.
“Four F-16 jet fighters depart [on Tuesday],” Roesmin Nurjadin air base commander Air Cdre. Ronny Irianto, said in Pekanbaru on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara news agency.
He said the airbase would deploy the jet fighters along with six pilots and dozens of ground personnel to the area at the behest of Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto.
The American-made jet fighters are the mainstay of Air Force patrols.
“This is actually a routine patrol, but now we are focusing on Natuna,” he said.
However, Ronny stressed that the jet fighters were aimed at defending the country’s sovereignty and there was no intention of provoking other parties, especially China.
Aside from the jet fighters, Ronny said the air base would remain vigilant to respond to any tensions in Natuna waters, and it was ready to deploy any resources that the TNI chief might direct.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is expected to visit the regency on Wednesday.