Subject: AAP: Aerial confrontation during Timor tension reported

Aerial confrontation during Timor tension reported By Karen Polglaze, South East Asia Correspondent

JAKARTA, May 12 AAP - Two Indonesian air force Hawks reportedly armed their missiles and aimed at two Australian Hornets in an aerial interception that allegedly occurred four days before Australian troops entered East Timor last year.

Australia today rejected the allegation, the latest in a series, saying Royal Australian Air Force aircraft have never operated without permission in Indonesian airspace.

The new allegations in Angkasa, a magazine about the Indonesian air force, comes just a day after reports from Australia claimed that specially-equipped RAAF Orion aircraft have been spying on Indonesia from international airspace.

The magazine said that on September 16, two Indonesian Hawks were flying a routine patrol over Roti island when one of the pilots received a report that there were two unidentified aircraft outside Darwin and about 97 miles (156km) away from the Hawks.

"Because it (the position of the unidentified aircraft) was suspicious, the Indonesian Hawks were ordered to approach the target," the magazine said in its May 8 edition.

"When they were quite close, 10 miles (16km)(from the unidentified aircraft) they turned on the Combat Manoeuvre Switch so that the guided missile would work.

"He was prepared to shoot."

Next, the two F/A18s accelerated away. Because of the speed, the Indonesian pilots decided the aircraft were fighter jets, so they chased after them.

"Suddenly, ground control interception warned them that the two aircraft had doubled back onto their tails," the magazine said.

The Hawks climbed furiously. Ground control told them they were moments from interception, then one of the pilots looked up and he saw the aircraft, about five miles (8.04 km) away, was double-tailed so he concluded it was an F/A18.

The Indonesians were ready to shoot if they were ordered to do so, but they were told to shadow the two Hornets and identify them.

They followed them until they were sure they had entered Australian airspace.

After that, eight F/A18s were detected flying over Kupang airport, the magazine said.

But Australia has denied that either of the two incidents occurred. "There were no F/A18s or any other RAAF aircraft operating anywhere near the West Timor area at that time," an Australian Embassy spokesman said.

"So it follows that we are unaware of any incidents along the lines described.

"The claim of eight flying over Kupang - that is definitely over Indonesian airspace so that definitely didn't occur."

Australia has consistently denied Indonesia's allegations of so-called black flights - invasions of Indonesian airspace for the purpose of gathering military intelligence - saying that RAAF planes never fly in Indonesian airspace without the correct permission and clearances.

But reports in Australian newspapers yesterday said it was unnecessary to enter Indonesian airspace because specially-equipped RAAF Orion's could gather information from afar.

Australian Defence Minister John Moore refused to confirm or deny whether the Orions were equipped for long-distance spying. If Australia was spying, as military analysts believe, then part of Indonesia's allegations are true and Australia's credibility may suffer at a time when relations with Indonesia remain damaged over the events in East Timor. But Indonesian Defence Department ministerial assistant Major General Albert Paruntu was not overly concerned about the alleged espionage, saying it was normal that Australian Orion aircraft should be equipped for spying. The Indonesian military was aware that every time the RAAF Orions flew in international airspace around the archipelago they were probably using it. "Everybody knows these (Orions) have this special equipment," he told reporters after a meeting with foreign investors on domestic security issues. Paruntu described the aerial espionage incidents as normal and said the aircraft should be allowed to pass in international airspace. But he also said Australia should not use its spy capabilities against Indonesia. "We have a good relationship (with Australia)," he said. "No need to spy, we exchange information." Last month, two armed Indonesian F5 military aircraft intercepted five unarmed RAAF planes in an area Australia claimed was international airspace. Australia raised the issue with the Indonesian government, but declined to take it further.

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