Without much fanfare in February, Indonesia issued Government Regulation (Peraturan Pemerintah or PP) No. 4 of 2018 on Airspace Security. The regulation is an implementing document of Law No. 1 of 2009  on Aviation. It outlines Indonesia’s airspace management–from the jurisdictional coverage, the rules of engagement, to sanctions for violators.

As an extension of the aviation law, the PP codifies most of what Indonesian airspace authorities have already implemented with extra tweaks. One key addition is the possibility of establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Article 6 of the PP notes that in addition to establishing ‘prohibited areas’ and ‘restricted areas’ in Indonesia’s airspace, “the Government could establish an Air Defense Identification Zone/ADIZ”.

Article 9 defines an ADIZ as “specific air spaces above the land and/or waters established to identify aircraft for the purposes of state defense and security”. It identifies Indonesia’s “Airspace” and “Jurisdictional Airspace” as areas where the ADIZ could apply. The former refers to the “sovereign airspace” above Indonesia’s territory, while the latter is defined as the airspace above the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), continental shelf, and contiguous zone, where it has “sovereign rights” prescribed by international law.

This last claim may raise eyebrows, as there is no specific international law granting sovereign rights to the airspace above an EEZ, nor is there one delimiting ADIZs. While most Indonesian officers invoke the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation as their starting points in declaring an ADIZ, their claims rest on Indonesia merely following “customary international law” as other states have declared their own ADIZs.

Articles 14 and 15 note that unscheduled foreign aircraft flying within the Jurisdictional Airspace would be required to report their identity, destination, and flight plan to air traffic control personnel, while those flying within the Airspace would follow existing procedures, i.e. securing diplomatic clearance, security clearance, and flight approval (for unscheduled flights). Violators could be intercepted and/or forced to land, facing penalties as high as $350,000 (Article 28 and 11).

These ADIZ-related articles only raise the possibility for an ADIZ; Article 6 clearly says that Indonesia “could establish” these restrictions, rather than establishing them outright. The PP does not declare specifically demarcated areas as an ADIZ (with geographic coordinates, rules of entry, duration, etc.). It merely provides the domestic legal foundation for a future ADIZ.

However, this is a significant development because the 2009 aviation law did not mention an ADIZ; nor did Law No. 43 on State Territory or Law No. 3 on State Defense. In other words, this may be the first time an ADIZ has been mentioned in a national regulation.

It should be noted, however, that the ADIZ envisioned by the PP would be an expansion of an existing but little-publicized ADIZ conceptualized in the 1960s. It covers a squared space over all of Java, Madura, and Bali, along with a little bit of South Sumatera and western Sumbawa (see figure 1 below). The square was roughly 180 nautical miles from north to south and 390 nautical miles from west to east.

The earlier ADIZ predated the UNCLOS and Indonesia’s official status as an archipelagic state. There was no effective enforcement or procedures, although the coordinates were published by the Transportation Ministry’s Aeronautical Information Publication and supported by various Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) decision letters. The idea then was to provide airspace protection for “vital national objects” and was crafted hastily following the Outer Island rebellions of the late 1950s and the run-up to the tension with Malaysia in the early 1960s.

So, what would the new ADIZ look like under the PP? Air Chief Marshal Yuyu Sutisna, the chief of staff of the Indonesian air force, outlined the new ADIZ when he was still national air defense commander in 2017. In an October 2017 article for Angkasa Cendekia, a journal by the Air Force Information Center, he proposed that Indonesia’s future ADIZ should cover the country’s EEZ (see figure 2 below).

Many within Indonesia’s defense establishment would like to see an ADIZ declared within a year or two, especially since the current TNI Commander is an air chief marshal. The number of airspace violations by foreign aircraft in recent years has been a source of consternation. In 2015, for example, TNI AU recorded 140 violations of Indonesia’s airspace, although that figure dropped to around two dozen in 2017.

There are several challenges before an ADIZ can be declared and enforced, however. First, Indonesia’s EEZ and boundary delimitations (as depicted by its recent official map issued in July 2017) are unilateral declarations. Jakarta still needs to negotiate with its neighbors on the specific coordinates. Any ongoing inter-agency processes to push through a final ADIZ would have to account for the Foreign Ministry’s ongoing boundary delimitation talks.

Second, some of Indonesia’s surrounding airspace falls under its neighbors’ Flight Information Regions (FIRs). For example, there is an ongoing debate with Singapore regarding its FIR above parts of the Natuna and Riau islands. While the debate is often painted in Jakarta as a matter of sovereignty, the day-to-day management of that airspace could be problematic if a unilateral ADIZ was enforced. An incident in October 2014, when a Singapore training aircraft was intercepted by TNI AU Sukhois for failing to provide flight approval and security clearance, highlights this concern.

Third, it is unclear how the TNI AU can manage the herculean task of enforcing such a vast ADIZ. Will it ask for identification from unscheduled aircraft only seeking to enter Indonesian airspace, or will it do so for the numerous aircraft simply transiting its ADIZ? What happens to the aircraft merely passing through the airspace above the country’s designated archipelagic sea lanes?

The TNI AU is also in the process of rebuilding its infrastructure and modernizing its fleets. It needs an additional dozen radars to provide comprehensive and continuous airspace coverage, not to mention enough qualified officers to man its radar stations and Military-Civil Coordination Centers. As of 2013, about 35 percent of its aircraft had been in service for over 30 years, and only 21 percent had seen under 10 years.

Limited replacement parts and accidents have exacerbated this problem, as has the lack of funding for operational expenses like training and patrols. It costs roughly $40,000 for Indonesia’s two Sukhois to fly for an hour, while the defense ministry only allocates around 20 percent of the defense budget to operational expenses.

Overall, Indonesia has taken a step toward eventually establishing a more expansive ADIZ. But the government faces numerous obstacles before declaring it operational. The notion of “declare first and figure out enforcement later” simply won’t fly.

About Evan Laksmana

Evan Laksmana is a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta and currently a visiting fellow at The National Bureau of Asian Research in Seattle. He is also a PhD candidate at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @EvanLaksmana