312 Submission to Willesee

Canberra, 31 October 1975

SECRET

Defence Co-operation with Indonesia—Sabre Project

This submission seeks your concurrence with the approval of the Minister for Defence to our meeting an Indonesian request for the RAAF to provide two advisors to help the Indonesian Air Force to use and maintain the guns fitted to the Sabre aircraft which Australia gave to Indonesia in 1973.

  1. For two years following the gift, an RAAF Sabre Advisory Unit (RAAFSAU) was stationed at Iswahyudi (the Indonesian Air Force installation in Java where the Sabres are based) to advise on all aspects of Sabre operations. The team left Indonesia in February this year. It had been agreed that the training provided by the Advisory Unit at Iswahyudi would include the use and maintenance of the guns in the aircraft. However the Indonesians were unable to arrange for ammunition for the Sabres before the unit was withdrawn (Indonesia being responsible for all operating costs, including the provision of ammunition, for the Sabres).
  2. The Indonesians have now acquired ammunition, and have asked the Department of Defence for a pilot and a senior NCO armament technician to be provided as soon as practicable to give guidance to the Indonesian pilots and technicians. The request is made in the context of our undertaking that we would provide depot-level support for the Sabres until 1978.
  3. The Department of Defence have informed us that the two advisors would be required for approximately one month, but that it would not be possible to provide them inside a month. Estimated costs are $3,000, and funds are available within the Defence Co-operation Program with Indonesia.
  4. In view of the situation in Portuguese Timor, the proposal has been given careful consideration. We have taken the view that it is desirable, wherever practical, not to allow the present circumstances to deflect us from maintaining normal relations with Indonesia. We believe that it would be undesirable to take action to disturb planning in areas which the Indonesians might interpret as connected with the Timor situation. A refusal to honour our previous undertaking, or even an undue delay in responding, could be so interpreted. Nevertheless, we believe it would be both advisable, and consistent with the above approach, if the Australian Ambassador in Jakarta were to consult appropriate Indonesians about the embarrassment which we could face if the Sabres were reported as having been deployed to Timor soon after the advisors had been in Iswahyudi.1
  5. It is recommended that you concur in the proposal to assign two RAAF armaments advisors to Indonesia for approximately one month, commencing in about one month's time, on the understanding that our Ambassador in Jakarta speak to the Indonesians along the lines of the previous paragraph.2
  6. A similar recommendation has been put to the Minister for Defence, who has now approved it.

R. A. PEACHEY - Acting First Assistant Secretary - Defence Division

[NAA: A1838, 696/2/2/1, xi]