Indonesian Air Force – a brief history
The Indonesian Air Force,
known as TNI-AU (Indonesian National Armed Forces – Air Force) or previously
known as AURI (Republic of Indonesia Air Force) has a unique history as it has
operated aircraft from different origins, comprising ex-Japanese, Eastern-block
and Western aircraft. This unique and long history can be divided into several
The Early Days (1945-1950)
People Security Force was then re-organized to form a formal armed force. This
marked the birth of the Indonesian Air Force on April 9th, 1946.
However, tensions rose as the Dutch tried to re-claim her former colony and
launched an assault in July 21st, 1947, destroying most of the planes on the ground. Some planes survived though
and were hidden in remote bases.
29th, 1947 marked the first air operation by the newborn air force as
3 surviving aircrafts comprising 2 K5Y1 Willows and a
Ki-51 Sonia (the fourth aircraft, a Hayabusha/ Ki-43 Oscar, should also be
involved in the raid, but until the time the raid was launched, the aircraft
never reached airworthy condition) conducted air raids at dawn on Dutch
Army barracks in 3 cities of Semarang, Salatiga and Ambarawa, dropping
incendiary bombs. Tactically, these raids did not have any effect on the Dutch
positions, but psychologically it was a great success as it proved that the
Indonesian Air Force still exists. The Dutch had previously claimed the
destruction of Indonesian Air Force in their assault before and they never
expected any attack from the sky.
Gathering of Strength (1950-1960)
With the pressure from the United Nations, the Dutch finally agreed to acknowledge Indonesian independence and a peace treaty was signed in 1949, ending the confrontation. The Dutch armed forces left (except in Papua, where they stayed until 1963) and the airplanes were surrendered to the Indonesians. These comprised of, among others, P-51, B-25, C-47 and PBY Catalina, which served as the main forces of the Indonesian Air Force for the following decade. During this era, Indonesia received her first jet aircraft; de Havilland DH-115 Vampire. It was also during this era that the national roundels were changed to red & white pentagon.
Golden Age (1960-1970)
The rise of the communist party in Indonesia has drawn Indonesia closer to the Eastern Block. Several Soviet-built aircraft began to arrive in the early 60’s. Indonesia even became the first non-Soviet country to receive and operate the new Tu-16 Badger bombers. Up to 25 Tu-16 Badgers arrived and gave a great deterrent power when facing some rebellions and confrontations. Several kinds of MiG also arrived comprising MiG-15UTI, MiG-17F/PF, MiG-19S and MiG-21F-13, supported with Il-28, Mi-4, Mi-6 and An-12. Some Tu-2 from China also arrived, intended to replace the B-25, but sadly they never reached operational status. These aircraft served along with the remaining western aircraft such as B-25, A-26, C-47, and P-51. It was during this period that the Indonesian Air Force became the largest air force in the southern hemisphere. This era also marked the last confrontation with the Dutch in Papua, before the Dutch, again under pressure of the United Nations, finally left Indonesia in 1963.
Present Days (1970-present)
revolution in 1965 changed everything and a new anti-communist regime took
power. Ties with the Eastern block countries were cut, and thus support and
spare parts for the planes became short. By the early 70’s most of the Eastern
block planes are either grounded or scrapped. The largest air force in the
southern hemisphere slowly but sure became one of the smallest one.
The new government turned to the Western countries for support and “new” planes started to arrive comprising T-33 trainers from USA (which were later modified by Indonesian technicians to became AT-33 with internal canons and provisions to carry FFAR rockets) and Avon Sabres (ex-RAAF) from Australia. These were later enhanced with OV-10F Broncos. The next batches came in the form of ex-Israeli A-4E Skyhawk, Bae Hawk Mk. 53, F-5E/F Tiger II (in 80’s era), followed by F-16A/B, and Hawk 109 & 209 (in 90’s era).
Indonesian Scale Model Society
Thank-you to all modelers who had shared their AURI’s aircraft models to support this article : Andre, Masato, Rahman, & Erid
Alexander, Iwan, Andre, Masato, Rahman & Erid
Photos and text © by Alexander Sidharta & Iwan Winarta