National Airspace Vulnerability

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National Airspace Vulnerability
Air Chief Marshal Chappy Hakim. Assumed his appointment as Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force from 2002 to 2005. In 2019, Chappy Hakim founded and led PSAPI - the Indonesian Center for Air Power Studies or ICAP - Indonesia Center for Air Power Studies.

IO – If we talk about national security, then one of the crucial aspects is national airspace security.

Territorial airspace is exceptionally paramount for Indonesia, because of its strategic position between the two continents and two oceans. On top of that, not only is the country vast and densely populated, but it also consists of thousands of islands.

In the current global environment, the shifting of world economic growth from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions reaffirms the significance of Indonesia’s location.

One economic sector that is experiencing a forward trend due to the overall economic development is air transportation. Hence, Indonesia’s territorial airspace becomes an area of high strategic value.

However, with the recent increase in air traffic, maintaining Indonesian airspace security has become more challenging and incursions are inevitable.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the traffic intensity in Indonesia’s airspace has slightly scaled down. But it won’t be for long. Air transportation passing over Indonesian airspace will always increase, creating security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

A problem of airspace use is related to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 82.

Although UNCLOS 82 is known to recognize Indonesia as an archipelagic country, it contains provisions that may create potential “disputes”.

As an archipelagic country, Indonesia is required by the International Law of the Sea to provide sea lane passages for international shipping, facilitated by Indonesian Archipelago Sea Lanes (ALKI). However, problems or impacts of ALKI have started to emerge.

Referring to the International Law of the Sea, the airspace above ALKI is free to be used as fight paths. This is highly contradictory with the International Air Law stated in the Chicago Convention, that a state’s air sovereignty is exhaustive and exclusive. It means that in the Air Law, there is no room for crossing over one’s airspace without a permit.

This contradiction potentially causes conflicts between countries. On the one hand, the Law of the Sea allows for passing on the ALKI channel and, at the same time, justifes the use of air passage above it. On the other hand, the Air Law does not allow any traverse without permission.

In the latest development, a new defense pact – AUKUS – that involves three countries, the UK, the US, and Australia, will inevitably increase the fow of air transportation across Indonesian territory.

At a certain point, there is no doubt that the increase of activities will invite potential disputes in the use of air traffic lanes in the territory of the Republic of Indonesia.

Such is the reality of unwanted security vulnerabilities in maintaining the national security of Indonesia’s sovereign airspace.