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JAKARTA, Indonesia (November 16, 2000 – Indonesian Observer)---The Air Force will build a new air base, the fourth for the country, on Biak island off the easternmost province of Irian Jaya, the Air Force information office said.

"The plan is to build an air defense sectoral command on Biak island," said Pudiarto, a staff officer at the Air Force information office.

He said that the sectoral command would be Indonesia’s fourth, along with those in Jakarta, Makassar in South Sulawesi, and in Medan, North Sumatra.

"The new sectoral command will oversee air defense in eastern Indonesia," Pudiarto said.

He said steps had already been taken, including a reorganization of Air Force personnel, in preparation of the new air base, which is expected to be fully operational by 2004.

A sector operations center would start to be built in Biak next year, followed in 2002 by the construction of the command’s headquarters.

Supporting radar has already been installed in Kupang, West Timor, this year and others will be installed in Tanimbar in southeast Maluku and in Timika, Irian Jaya, in 2003, and finally in Morotai island in North Maluku and in the Irian Jaya towns of Biak, Sorong, Jayapura and Merauke in 2004.

Pudiarto declined to give further details.

Already a major naval base, Biak island was the scene of intense fighting between Japanese and allied forces during World War II.

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