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Empowerment of Air (Defense) Territory

              In the long and winding journey towards its ideals, two important aspects must be taken into account at all times.   These two important aspects are National Security and National Prosperity factors.   How big is the percentage of a government’s attention that is directed to National Security apects and how much other percentage is given to National Prosperity , then this is what is dominantly known as the basis of the National Policy and/or National Interest. 

              In the context of managing a country’s defense system, generally in this century all governments have been forced to rely on two very principles, namely High Technology and Total Defense.    Referring to or focusing on technological advances and Total  Defense,    it is very unlikely that the defense system of a country is managed without acknowledging technological advances that have developed so rapidly, especially since the end of the second world war.    Likewise, it is very unlikely that a defense system can be carried out effectively without the total mobilization of its national power.

              War has become a total character, especially since the air domain with balloons and then airplanes and other sophisticated weapons began to be used as an element of strength on the battlefield.    When the war only took place on land and water, there were the terms of front line and  rear line battle.   However, after the air domain had developed and incorporated into the stage of war, especially for attacking, the terminology of front and rear lines disappeared and there came the term of total war.

                  The war which is total in character means that the defense system must also be held in its total form,  so the terms Total War and Total Defense are recognized .    Thus, with advances in technology, the four domains, namely land, sea, air and space, have become the theatres for battle.    Finally, even now we are also facing enormous challenge coming from the 5th domain known as “The Cyber ​​World”.      Unlike the previous 4 domains which were boxed  seperately in their respective sectors,   Cyber ​​World has the ability to penetrate  of all domains.

              The end of the Second World War is an example of how powerful air weapon system with airplanes that could drop weapons of mass destruction in the form of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.    Eversince, almost all countries on the surface of the earth have concentrated on how to manage their respective national air power to play a role in their country’s defense and security system.    National Airspace has positioned itself in a very strategic stand, especially in the national defense and security system.   The use of airspace as a means of war, long before the Second World War, had given birth to a strategic level policy consideration known as National Air Power.   National Air Power has become an integral part of a national policy in many countries, especially for those which are relatively more oriented towards considerations in the aspect of National Security   than  National Prosperity.

              Next, let us discuss together about National Air Power.

The terminology of National Air Power has been known since 1925, when Brigadier General William Mitchell defined Air Power as “the ability to do something in the air “.     He even added that this includes the ability to carry people, goods and weapons as well as the ability to protect ourself from the air,   because there is not a single place on the earth surface that cannot be reached from the air.    From this very general and simple definition, a new definition was introduced and developed by the United States Air Force, USAF which reads  “The ability of a nation to assert its will by projecting military power in, through and from the air domain” .    A definition which more explicitly puts forward the emphasis on the use of advanced technology in military forces that rely on airspace as a battlefield in an effort to win a war.

              Furthermore, it was more developed in 1948 when the Major General Fairchild, Commanding General of US Air University perfected the definition of National Air Power as follows:

“National air power is the total ability of a nation to achieve its objectives through the air domain and encompasses all elements of civil and military aviation.”      It also added that

              The fundamentals of air power are derived from a clear understanding of national air power. Ever since the end of World War II, air power has been a force for change not only in the employment of military forces, but also in the political, economic and social structure of the world.  

It was clearly stated that since the end of the Second World War, Air Power has fundamentally changed not only the use of weapons for military purposes but also the influence in the political, economic and social structures of the world.    On the other hand, it was stated that at a strategic level of national defense and security consideration, Air Power has become one of the important elements of the National Power as a whole.

              Furthermore, we are also invited to observe that:

National air power is not composed only of the war-making components of aviation, but is the total aviation activity, civilian and military, commercial and private, potential as well as existing, within the nation.

National Air Power does not only consist of war-making components of aviation but is the total aviation activity, civilian and military, commercial and private, potential as well as  existing by a nation.              

On the other hand, there is a further explanation that,

Five factors influence the development of adequate national air power: geography, demography, resources, industrial development and political conditions .

National air power is today the most dynamic element in a nation’s strength. The fact remains that air power will continue to be a critically necessary element of national power, if the nation is to be assured of being able to protect its sovereignty.    Today, without the means to control its sovereign air space, a nation remains open to aggression.   A nation has to maintain the capacity to fly, there is no other option.

 If a nation wants to maintain the sovereignty of its country, then National Air Power will always be the most critical element to be managed.   A country that is not sovereign in the air will become an open one to the aggressors.             A nation must maintain its ability to fly freely in its sovereign air territory, there is no other option available.

In this regard, there is an interesting note about the success of establishing and maintaining the existence of a small country until now surrounded by other countries which are its “enemies”.    This country is called Israel which was founded and proclaimed on May 14, 1948 by a man named David Ben-Gurion who was also the First Prime Minister of Israel.    Of the many visions that made Ben Gurion successful in establishing and leading Israel, one of them is his firm “view” and “attitude” regarding the airspace of a country’s sovereignty, in this case the air territory of the sovereign state of Israel.   The vision, views and attitudes of Ben-Gurion which are very well known include the following words:

“A high standard of living, a rich culture, spiritual, political and economic independence …… ..are not possible without full of aerial control”.

Now, what has our beloved country done in facing the dynamic development of the role of Air Power? 

Before answering that question, let us take a brief look at what and how the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia is.   Indonesia is a country that is located in a very strategic position, which is exactly at the cross position between two continents and two oceans.    Indonesia is a country of islands scattered along the equator.   Not only an archipelago, most of its territory is a mountainous area.    The state area of ​​Indonesia is 1905 million km2 with a population in 2020 that has reached 274,637,629 people.   To make it easier to understand Indonesia in the context of being a large country, let us take a quick look at the comparison with several countries, including the United States, China, India and the European Union countries.

United States, the area of ​​the country is 9834 million km2, with a population of 331,753,930 people.    Its Air Force has 320,812 personnel with 13,264 aircrafts and the United States has 147 Aircraft Manufacture Companies.  

Meanwhile, China is a country with an area of 9597 million km2 with a population of 1,441,479,459 people.    China has an Air Force with total personnel of 398,000 operating 3210 aircrafts.    China also has 24 Aircraft Manufacture Companies.

Next is India with an area of ​​3,287 million km2 and  a population of 1,385,234,229 people. Its Air Force has 139,576 personnel and 2,213 aircrafts. India also has 6 Aircraft Manufacture Companies.

The European Union, which is a unity of countries in the European region, covers an area of ​​approximately 4,475 million km2 with a population around 513 million.    Its Air Force has 252,000 personnel with a total of 2,450 aircraft.     The European Union has 229 Aircraft Manufacture Companies.

With such comparisons, it is very clear that, in fact, Indonesia faces major challenges in facing the future of the nation related to managing its air (defense) territory.    Therefore, an awareness from all of us is definitely required in seeing the future as a whole which will certainly be oriented to air and space issues, and aviation problems.

 The Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia has started awareness in interpreting the current development regarding National Air Power.    The following is a description of National Power in the Air, quoted from an Air Force document in April 1956, released only 8 years after Major General Fairchild redefined National Air Power, a visionary view, a view that was very advanced in its day from our predecessors in terms of air power for national defense and security aspects, as an important element of National Security.


National Air Power

What is National Power in the Air?

It is the number of strengths of a nation on the airfield in the broadest sense.

To obtain National Power in the Air, various important factors must be possessed, including:

              Strong Air Force,  National Civil Aviation,  Aviation Industry,  Aero club sand Air Scouts,   Oil Mining (atoms and others)

In the general framework of national power in the air, Air Force must constitute a broad and large organizational array with a wide variety of characteristics and outstanding capabilities.    A strong Air Force is the most influential unit of national power in the air.

The second part of the national power in the air is the regular Civil Aviation which has an aviation service to all corners of the country.  

The third part is the large Aviation Industry that is needed to assist and organize Air Force.

Because airplanes are greedy drinkers of natural resources (oil) that have been managed by humans, it is necessary to have oil mining (atomic and other).    This is very important because without oil (atomic and other) the existing aircraft will not fly and national power in the air will not be able to be held.  

In addition to obtaining national power in the air, it is also necessary to fertilize the seeds of aviation among the public, especially the youth, starting from now on by establishing associations such as air scouts, aero modelers and national aero club.

If the factors mentioned above can be fulfilled, national power will be achieved in the air, which is very important for an independent country like Indonesia.

Owing to that, the Air Force, National Civil Aviation, Aviation Industry, Aero clubs and Air Scouts and Oil Mining (atomic and others), should receive special attention so that all of these can get more advanced and stronger so that the original goal of gaining national power in the air can be achieved.

In this modern era, where countries are competing with each other to achieve progress and perfection for their countries, national power in the air has never been abandoned.    And Indonesia as an independent country will certainly not forget this important factor.

This is a reference to how the issue of National Air Power, which plays a very strategic role for a nation, has been embraced since 1950s with full awareness by us as a nation.    Unfortunately, our attention to the management of national airspace nowadays, especially in terms of Air Territorial Empowerment (defense),   is still far from what a great nation should do.    If we look at the Empowerment of National Airspace, then automatically we will be in the middle of situation that is closely related to the  air  sovereignty. 

So, in the context of this air  sovereignty, Indonesia is still dealing with at least 2 big problems that require serious thinking to be resolved at first.    We have a lot of potential that can be developed, but as long as these two principles are not resolved, it will be very difficult for Indonesia to develop in line with its potential.

The two principle issues related to the  air sovereignty  are,   first, the absence of explicit statement about airspace above the Indonesia territory in the 1945 Constitution (which has been amended 4 times).    Second, the aviation authoriy in the airspace of most parts of the Riau archipelago is not under the control of the Indonesian government.    These two principles must be resolved first before we can go any further in efforts to empower the air (defense) territory of the Republic of Indonesia.

Both of these are related to the strategic level policy, so that the  decision makers, in this case the ruling government, should receive appropriate input from a competent team in the airspace field.   It is proper to think about the existence of an airspace “think tank.    In the past, there was actually a National Aviation Council which later developed into the National Aviation and Space Council (Depanri).     Unfortunately Depanri was disbanded.  To look ahead, Indonesia needs a council like Depanri so that policies at the strategic level can get the right input from those who are competent in their fields.    This institution could also take the form of a coordinating minister for Air and Aviation, for example, or the coordinating minister for aviation and aerospace.  Whatever the name, the point is that all national policies related to air and space can be managed according to their portion so that the decisions taken will actually be the right policies.    Not only these 2 important things, but there are also a number of problems related to national development in air and space need to be resolved.

For example, due to the fact that Indonesia is a vast country with strategic loation and consists of islands and mountainous area,  the air transportation should have become the leading sector in national economic development.    The airline management must be carried out right on target and in accordance with the needs of the national development pace in a broad sense.    Indonesia must have flagship airlines, national ambassadors that connect major cities at homeland and abroad.    We need pioneer airlines connecting remote cities in remote areas and around national borders.    We need charter airlines serving the activities of investors as well as cargo airlines for the distribution of staple goods for one-price equalization policy target throughout Indonesia.    Likewise, as a large and populous country, Indonesia should have an Aircraft Factory, at least one capable of producing Twin Otter class aircraft such as the one being developed as the N-219 aircraft program, which unfortunately has been delayed for several years without clarity.    In addition, the management of airports usage for civilian and military purposes as well as airport qualifications for domestic and international route services are still not properly organized proportionally.  

Next is about airport arrangement.    Lately, airport management still looks not well-organized.    It is not clear which airports serve commercial civil aviation operations and are open to the public and which ones are for Military Bases, or Air Force Bases, which are designated for state defense and security, especially the national air defense system. An area which should be a “restricted area”, a limited area for public interest.    Also, there is an issue  with regard to the arrangement of national gates in the context of the designation of International Airport and Domestic route flights.

It must be recognized by all of us as a problem related to important policies at the strategic level.    Policies that should be able to sort out easily and clearly, which are the main national forces for the purposes of national defense and security and which elements of the reserve force that can be deployed if needed when the country is under enemy threat.

The inherent challenge that must be anticipated is the regeneration of the youth in the aerospace sector through the socialization of the development of interest in aerospace since early ages.    This is where the government plays a role in developing the field of aerospace education and training to produce National Aerospace cadres.   Pramuka Angkasa and FASI must receive special attention so that the development of interest in aerospace can be developed thoroughly.    Actually, this is where the management of the national aerospace sector must see the importance of empowering the national air territory.    National Development in air and space must always rely on aspects of National Defense and Security as well as aspects of Community Welfare.    This requires the right policy at a strategic level so that the direction of national development can truly answer future challenges.

Aerospace is the future of the Nation. The Future of Mankind.

Our ancestors were sailors, but  our children and  grandchildren are  an Airmen.


Jakarta 3rd of December 2020.

Chappy Hakim – Air Chief Marshal (ret).

Center for the Air Power Study of Indonesia.

 (Delivered on December 3, 2020 at the National Seminar for Airspace Potential in Jakarta)






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