"The Air Force has decided to move to Kuala Namu together with the Polonia airport. It is no longer feasible to remain in Polonia as it is less efficient," Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) Operations Commander Vice Marshal Gandjar Wiranegara told reporters Tuesday after officiating a transfer of duty of air base commanders at the Medan air base.
Gandjar said the air base in Kuala Namu will be built adjacent to the international airport, similar to the current setup in Polonia. He said it would be more efficient and cut costs associated with building a separate air base.
"We will share the runway in Kuala Namu. The airport will be built in the southern or western section, while the air base will be in the northern section," said Gandjar, adding that the air base in Kuala Namu will span around 1,000 hectares.
Gandjar said TNI AU would trade its assets in Polonia, to fund the construction of new facilities in Kuala Namu.
Former Polonia air base commander Col. Supriyadi said the total value of TNI AU's assets in Polonia, including land and infrastructure, is estimated at Rp 5 trillion (US$555 million).
Newly-appointed Polonia air base commander Col. Agus Dwi Putranto said he could not confirm when the airport would be moved because the relocation process was under the authority of TNI AU headquarters in Jakarta.
The central government, during a visit by State Minister for State Enterprises Sofyan Djalil and Transportation Minister Jusman Syafi'i Djamal to the planned site May 18, assured that the Kuala Namu airport would be in operation by September 2009 at the latest.
"We hope the Kuala Namu airport will be more promising than Polonia. We can no longer retain Polonia due to a number of reasons, such as the damaged runway and the deteriorating function of radars. Polonia can no longer cope with the increased number of passengers and airline traffic," Jusman said.
Sofyan said the new airport would be equipped with several support facilities, including a three-kilometer railway line and turnpike to facilitate transportation to the airport.
Head of the North Sumatra Development Planning Agency, R.E. Nainggolan, who visited Kuala Namu with the ministers, said the provincial administration had set aside Rp 40 billion for the requisition of residential land to build the turnpike.
The Kuala Namu airport, which was designed as an international airport, spans 86,000 square meters and is equipped with a 2,750-meter runway. It was also designed to serve eight million passengers per year. The Polonia airport is only capable of serving 4 million passengers annually.