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RAAF deploys F-35s to Indonesia for first time

written by Liam Garman | September 19, 2023

A RAAF F-35A Lightning ll shot in WA in July 2023. (Defence, LACW Annika Smit)

Six Australian F-35A Lightning IIs will deploy to Indonesia for the first time in late September as part of Exercise Elang AUSINDO 23.

The Manado-based Exercise will see 150 RAAF personnel training alongside 160 of their Indonesian counterparts, planning and undertaking offensive and defensive counter air missions, basic fighter and air combat manoeuvres, as well as air-to-air refuelling with a RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport.

The Indonesian Air Force is expected to deploy its F-16 fighter aircraft as part of the mission.

The exercise commenced in 1993 alongside air cooperation exercises Albatross AUSINDO, which hones bilateral maritime surveillance capabilities, and Rajawali AUSINDO for tactical aircraft.

“Exercise Elang AUSINDO is a regular combined training activity to increase our capacity to work together,” Air Vice-Marshal Glen Braz, Air Commander Australia, said of the deployment.


“Through this exercise we can build mutual cooperation, trust and understanding, both at the aviator level and more broadly between the Australian Defence Force and Indonesian National Armed Forces.

“We are fully committed to a strong bilateral partnership with Indonesia; this important exercise allows our air forces to develop deeper relationships and enhance cooperation.”

The announcement that Australia will deploy its first F-35s to Indonesia follows the completion of the largest-ever Exercise Super Garuda Shield, with over 5,000 military personnel from seven nations taking part in the event.

Personnel from Australia, France, Japan, Singapore, and the UK joined the US and Indonesia for the exercise, while 12 nations also sent observers.

Australia deployed 125 Army personnel including a troop of M1A1 Abrams tanks and support vehicles, an SAS team, and an infantry platoon from the Royal South Australia Regiment.

Defence confirmed that the exercise included a subject matter expert exchange, combined arms field training, amphibious operations, and a special operations military free fall jump.

Exercise Super Garuda Shield wrapped up with a multinational live fire exercise from F-16, AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-1 Super Cobra aircraft, as well as 105mm artillery, HIMARS, and tanks.

The exercise honed the participants’ ability to deploy forces in the Indo-Pacific, Commander of the Australian Army’s 1st (Australian) Division, Major General Scott Winter, AM, said.

“[The exercise] also demonstrated our ability to meet the most demanding land challenges in the future and to effectively deploy significant land forces, including armour, across the Indo-Pacific region.”

“I’ve had a lot of good days in the Army, probably none so proud as seeing Australian tanks alongside their Indonesian counterparts here in East Java.”

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