Indonesia Deploys Anti-Air System in S. China Sea
On Thursday, Jane's Defense reported that Indonesia is planning to deploy Swiss-made Skyshield air defense systems to the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea.
The Oerlikon Skyshield is a 35 mm automatic anti-aircraft / anti-missile cannon capable of 1,000 rounds per minute. Four air force units operating the system will be deployed on the island of Pulau Natuna Besar, near the Ranai military airbase.
Janes obtained the news from a meeting transcript discussing funding for Indonesia's air force. In addition to the initial deployment, the service branch requested the purchase of additional air defense systems for an expanded air wing at Ranai, which is to be completed by 2019.
Indonesia's government has been considering the expansion of its military presence in the Natuna Islands since at least 2015. A portion of China's "nine dash line" claim passes through Indonesia's exclusive economic zone extending from the Natunas, and defense officials have expressed unease that China might wish to claim some of the regions' rich oil and gas reserves as its own. China has publicly acknowledged the legitimacy of Indonesia's claim, but a recent diplomatic incident involving a Chinese coast guard vessel inside Indonesian waters near the Natunas has raised questions about the permanence of that stance.
The Skyshield systems will add to the growing inventory of military equipment forward deployed in the South China Sea. Chinese forces have installed mobile air defense missile batteries on Woody Island in the Paracels; the Vietnamese Navy has begun regular patrols with ultra-quiet diesel-electric submarines; and the United States has reached a cooperative agreement with the Philippines for the use of its military bases for American forces. To the north, in the East China Sea, Japan has begun repositioning military units to its far-flung holdings in the Senkaku Islands, which are also claimed by China.