British jets 'may be used on Timor rebels': Controversy surrounds the sale by BAe of Hawk military aircraft to Indonesia

BRITISH Aerospace (BAe) was at the centre of an arms controversy last night after announcing it had won a pounds 500m order to supply Hawk military aircraft to Indonesia. Critics immediately warned that the aircraft could be used by the Indonesian armed forces against insurgents in East Timor.

Although the 24 Hawks being supplied by BAe to Indonesia are trainer versions, they can be used as light strike aircraft. A spokesman for BAe Defence said in Paris yesterday that it had sought and obtained assurances from the Indonesian government that the aircraft would not be used in an offensive role against the rebels. John Major, told the Commons yesterday that the Indonesian order demonstrated 'the excellence of the British defence industry'.

However, the controversy could turn into a repeat of a previous row over Hawk trainers in which Mr Major was involved. When he was foreign secretary in 1989, he argued that the aircraft should not be sold to Iraq, because they could be used against Kurdish insurgents. Despite support for the deal from the Defence Ministry and the Department of Trade, his view prevailed. Carmel Budjiardo, of Tapol, a group which campaigns for East Timor, said Indonesia's seizure of the former Portuguese colony in 1975 had served as a precedent for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Unlike Iraq, Indonesia had gone unpunished.

News of the sale comes shortly after Xanana Gusmao, leader of the East Timorese independence movement, was jailed for life following a trial widely condemned as unfair. Yesterday President Mario Soares of Portugal awarded Mr Gusmao the Order of Liberty, one of Portugal's top honours, and hailed him as a hero.

The deal will help to safeguard jobs at BAe plants in Lancashire and on Humberside, and brings the number of Hawks in service or on delivery to more than 700.

Indonesia operates 20 Hawk Mk53s, bought in the early 1980s for advanced flying training and tactical training. The latest contract follows an agreement signed in 1991 between BAe and the Indonesian aerospace company IPTN to collaborate on Hawk production, and a memorandum of understanding between the British and Indonesian governments signed last year.

Paris Air Show, page 29

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence