The beginning of the end: An AirAsia Airbus A320 is taxiing at Polonia International Airport in Medan, North Sumatra, on Tuesday. The airport is set to be closed on Thursday and the Indonesian Air Force will take over the airport, which will house its Western Surveillance Wing. The new Kuala Namu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency will become Medan’s new main airport. (JP/Apriadi Gunawan)
The Air Force will transform Polonia International Airport in Medan, North Sumatra, into the headquarters of the Western Surveillance Wing.
With the opening of Kuala Namu International Airport (KNIA) on Thursday, the Air Force will resume full authority of Polonia as the Soewondo Air Base.
Polonia Airport, which is operated by state airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II, is located across the runway from the air base.
Soewondo AFB chief Col. SM Handoko said his base was ready to run the airport as a military airport.
He told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that based on the Air Force’s Strategic Plan (Renstra), Soewondo Air Base would host the Western Surveillance Wing overseeing three battalions, including the air base.
Handoko added that the Renstra also stipulated that Soewondo AFB would get a battalion of troops and eight CN-235 tactical surveillance airplanes.
“The Western Surveillance Wing headquarters will start its duties after PT Angkasa Pura II turns over the operation of Polonia Airport to the Air Force on Thursday,” he said.
He added that the air base would start transferring its personnel and activities to Polonia on Wednesday.
“In the long term, the air base will be upgraded to a Type A air base led by a commodore,” Handoko said, adding that Type A air bases overseas had at least two squadrons.
Soewondo is rated Type B and led by a colonel while Type C air bases are led by a lieutenant colonel.
Currently, surveillance is carried out by the 5th Squadron from its base at the Sultan Hasanuddin Air Base in Makassar, South Sulawesi.
The squadron operates a fleet of Boeing 737 Surveiller strategic surveillance and CN-235 MPA tactical surveillance aircraft.
In the future, the air base will serve not only military flights but also VIP flights using civilian airplanes, Handoko said.
Starting Thursday, Angkasa Pura II will start operating KNIA in Deli Serdang regency, outside Medan. Polonia, on the other hand, is located inside Medan proper.
Polonia general manager Said Ridwan said the firm started managing the airport in 1994. Previously, another state airport operator, PT Angkasa Pura I, had managed Polonia since 1989.
“We will transfer all assets in Polonia to the Air Force after we move to Kuala Namu,” he said.
“All operational and physical assets at Polonia will be left for the Air Force.”
Many airports in Indonesia are jointly operated by military and civilian operators.
Ahmad Yani International Airport in Semarang, Central Java, for example, also hosts the Army Aviation Center headquarters while Juanda International Airport in Sidoarjo, East Java, hosts the Naval Aviation Center.