US, allies to rehearse airborne raid and train with tanks in Indonesia
13/09/2023

American, Indonesian and British paratroopers are preparing a parachute raid from a base in Japan into a training area almost 3,000 miles away in Indonesia, according to the 25th Infantry Division’s commander.

The paratroopers will link up with Japanese troops in East Java for a combined jump on Saturday, Maj. Gen. Marcus Evans told Stars and Stripes by phone Thursday from Puslatpur Marine Base, Indonesia.

The “forcible entry” training is practice for taking terrain from an enemy force, Evans said. The raid involves around 200 paratroopers and is part of the largest-ever Super Garuda Shield, an annual exercise involving 5,000 personnel from seven nations, he said.

Air Force C-17 Globemaster III and C-130J Super Hercules aircraft from the 15th Wing in Hawaii will fly the paratroopers from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, 25th ID spokesman Maj. Jeff Tolbert said by email Friday. The participating troops are from the 11th Airborne Division in Alaska.

The Army’s 8th Theater Sustainment Command used its watercraft to transport Australian M1A1 Abrams tanks to East Java for training with Indonesian Leopard tanks and U.S. troops of the Hawaii-based 25th ID, Evans said.

The division has no tanks of its own but in Indonesia is preparing its soldiers to fight alongside them, he said.

The war in Ukraine has proved that tanks are not obsolete, according to Grant Newsham, a retired Marine colonel and senior researcher with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo.

“Employed properly there is still a big role for tanks and armor,” he said by email Friday. “Our enemies know that as well.”

The Pacific region includes many areas large enough for tank warfare, Newsham added.

“Maybe not like the German invasion of Russia in 1941, but tanks can be extremely useful for fire support when taking on dug-in enemies,” he said. “A lot less costly than infantry having to close with and destroy the enemy.”

Paratroopers are useful anywhere or anytime commanders need to get troops on the ground quickly and sealift or airfields are unavailable, Newsham said.

Japan launched an airborne attack on the Dutch East Indies, as Indonesia was known during its colonial era, in 1942, he noted.

The U.S. Army might use paratroopers in the Pacific for any number of operations, from occupying key terrain to evacuation of American citizens, Newsham said.

“Of course, paratroopers can only fight for a matter of days before they need some ‘backup,’” he said. “But sometimes you just want to 'get somewhere first' – and that'll settle the matter.”

China has been enlarging and improving its own airborne capabilities to include long-range aerial transports, Newsham added.

“Imagine dropping 10,000 paratroopers onto Taiwan,” he said. “It causes difficulties for the defenders to say the least.”

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