|Subject: The Age: Spy Flight Claims May Fan
Excerpt: While the Flight International article appears to offer little proof for its assertion that two RAAF planes were converted to spy on Indonesia, the allegation is likely to be used by the Indonesian military to Australia's detriment.
The Age 05/11/2000
Spy Flight Claims May Fan Tensions
Paul Daley, Defence Correspondent
CANBERRA -- Tensions between the Federal Government and Indonesia over alleged RAAF spy flights are likely to be inflamed by a new report that two Australian planes were secretly converted and used to conduct signals intelligence over Indonesia.
According to the latest edition of Flight International magazine, two RAAF P-3C Orion aircraft were secretly converted between 1995 and 1998 to operate as ``intelligence platforms'' under a classified Australian defence program.
The magazine claims that the Australian operation, which ``is under way but at a reduced tempo'', began early last year.
Flight International claims that a United States Aries 11 aircraft provided relief for the converted Orions.
``Indonesia ... is annoyed at US deployment of an ... Aries 11 to assist Australia's signals intelligence operation against Indonesia and Timor,'' the magazine says.
A RAAF spokesman yesterday said: ``Defence does not comment on matters of national security.''
Since early last year Indonesia has made repeated allegations that Australia has been conducting ``black flights'' or spy missions over parts of the archipelago.
Earlier this year Indonesia claimed that Indonesian radar had repeatedly detected Australian craft in Indonesian airspace. The Indonesians named specific RAAF planes and claimed the flights had not been given official clearance.
But Australia maintained it could prove that the planes were somewhere else at the time of the alleged incursions into Indonesian airspace.
Australia has strenuously and repeatedly denied the claims, unofficially maintaining that they came from elements of the Indonesian military intent on revenge after the Indonesian security forces' humiliation at the hands of InterFET in East Timor.
Late last month Indonesian fighter aircraft intercepted five RAAF planes, including four F-18 fighter jets, en route to Singapore.
While Australia officially complained to Indonesia over the incident, the Australian military ultimately put it down to an Indonesian communications error rather than ill-intent.
While the Flight International article appears to offer little proof for its assertion that two RAAF planes were converted to spy on Indonesia, the allegation is likely to be used by the Indonesian military to Australia's detriment.
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