TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro said that the government is planning to build a combat helicopter base on Natuna Island, Riau Islands to strengthen Indonesia’s military power in the territory that borders the South China Sea.
“We will put one squadron (16) of combat aircraft in Natuna,” Purnomo told reporters on Tuesday.
The squadron will contain several types of helicopters. One of them is AH-64D helicopter which was bought from the United States. Indonesia is currently waiting for eight units of Apache from the US.
Purnomo said he is still searching for suitable helicopters to complete the squadron. Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Eurocopter AS565 Panther may be picked along with Apache. “We’tll think about it,” he said.
It is unknown when the plan will be realized, especially with the Second United Indonesia Cabinet term coming to and end soon.
Purnomo said the government should naturally secure the territories that border the South China Sea because the situation in those waters has been tense since several countries such as Vietnam, China, the Philippines and Malaysia claimed the territorial waters as their own.
He continued that Natuna Island is very strategic to become location for combat helicopter base establishment because it is rich in natural resources and fish. Unfortunately, illegal fishing is rampant on the waters near the island.
“The base will secure it all,” he said. “Besides Natuna, Morotai is also a strategic option as it has large potential of fish.”