Fri, 12 May 2000

Aussie planes spying on Indonesia: Report

JAKARTA (JP): Australia is conducting secret spy missions against Indonesia using specially modified PC3 Orion aircraft operating in international airspace, the Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday.

The report said that the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Orions were monitoring Indonesian Military and other communications.

Under the code name "Peacemake", the planes operate under the cover of RAAF regular maritime reconnaissance flights to the northwest and north of Australia.

"Today's disclosure of the spy flights is a major national security embarrassment for the federal government which denies unauthorized penetration of Indonesian airspace by Australian aircraft," the newspaper said.

Indonesia has repeatedly claimed that Australia air force planes have been making interdictions into Indonesian airspace.

Australian officials have repeatedly denied these allegations.

The newspaper quoted a spokesman for the Australian defense minister, John Moore, on Wednesday evening denying Australian aircraft had been involved in unauthorized penetration of Indonesian airspace.

Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer in the past has attributed reports of Australian secret flights to "people who resent Australia's intervention in East Timor", it said.

According to the newspaper, indications of the spy operation emerged first in the British magazine Flight International, which reported that Australian PC3s had been converted to operate as intelligence platforms between 1995 and 1998.

Two of the RAAF's 19 PC3 Orions, based at Edinburgh, South Australia, have been fitted with sophisticated monitoring and recording equipment by the Defense Signals Directorate to undertake the operation.

The "disclosure of the flights is perhaps the most embarrassing security leak since disclosures five years ago of an Australian-U.S. electronic spying operation against the Chinese Embassy in Canberra," wrote the Australian Financial Review.

The newspaper also quoted senior Australian government sources as saying that they fear the disclosure of the spy flights would prompt Indonesia to take countermeasures to reduce the ability of the Orions to monitor and record Indonesian Military and other communications. (mds)