Royal Brunei Air Force / Angkatan Tentera Udara Diraja Brunei
By Marco Pennings
As one of the smallest countries in the world, covering an area of only 5.770 square km, Negara Brunei Darussalam, which is the countries full name, is located on the South China Sea coast surrounded by East Malaysia (Sarawak). Despite its size and a population of just over 400.000 (July 2010) citizens, Brunei is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Brunei’s economy is almost totally supported by the export of crude oil and natural gas, and the countries economy is so steady that there are no taxes. Brunei became a British protectorate in 1888, and became the 49th member of the Commonwealth immediately on the day of its independence on January 1, 1984. Despite great wealth, Brunei does not operate a huge defence force. The military consists of Army, Navy, Police and Air Force.
The Askar Melayu Brunei (AMB) or Brunei Malay Regiment was formed on May 31, 1961. It was renamed Askar Melayu DiRaja Brunei (AMDB), or Royal Brunei Malay Regiment. The Royal title was added on May 31, 1965. Almost twenty years later, on April 1, 1984, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces or Angkatan Bersenjata DiRaja Brunei (ABDB) was established. The Royal Brunei Air Force or Angkatan Tentera Udara DiRaja Brunei (ATUDB) was formed as a separate unit by decree of the Sultan on October 1, 1991. Today, the Air Force consists of five squadrons stationed at a group of hangars west of the runway of Brunei IAP, named Rimba Air Base.
The basis for the Royal Brunei Air Force was established as the Air Service in 1965. The Air Service was used to transport the army personnel and air medical service to local hinterlands. For this purpose it had three Sikorsky WS-55s, which were operated by pilots from the Worldwide Helicopter Company. On June 25, 1966, the Helicopter Platoon was formed and equipped with two Westland Whirlwind helicopters operated by three British pilots from the Royal Air Force. The Whirlwind was later replaced by the Wessex 54. In 1967 the Helicopter Platoon received the Bell 206B Jet Ranger. At the end of 1972, the organization of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment was drafted again. The Task Force unit was divided into different small units, namely the First Battalion, a small navy at the time called the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment Flotilla and an Air Wing consisting of all rotor aircraft, which exists until today.
The Bell 212 arrived in 1974, and a single Bell 214 ST was delivered in 1985. Eventually, the Helicopter Platoon became No 1 Squadron, with primary roles of troop lift, casualty evacuation, medical evacuation, fire suppression, VVIP lift and search and rescue. The Air Technical Training School was established in 1980. In 1981, No 2 Squadron was established and equipped with the MBB Bo105CB. The primary roles of No 2 Squadron are flying doctor, reconnaissance, surveillance, VVIP lift and search and locate. No 3 Squadron was established in 1982, and received two SIAI Marchetti SF260Ws. The role of No 3 Squadron is to conduct Basic Flying Training, Multi Engine Lead-in Flying Training, Rotary Wing Basic Flying Training, Ground School and conduct the Royal Brunei Air Force pilot selection process. In 1997, the Royal Brunei Air Force underwent further development in its organisation structure with the establishment of two units; No 4 Squadron which was equipped with four Blackhawk S-70As and No 5 Squadron which received the single CN235-110M delivered in 1995. The primary roles of No 4 Squadron are special combat squadron operations, troop lift, casualty evacuation, medical evacuation, fire fighting, VVIP lift and search and rescue. The primary roles of No 5 Squadron are troop lift, surveillance and search and locate. No 1, 2, 4 and no 5 Squadron now form the Operation Wing. In 1997, No 3 Squadron (the Flying Training School) received the Pilatus PC-7 Mk II and now forms the Training Wing.
The British Army Air Corps maintains a detachment of three Bell 212HPs, forming 7th flight, at Brunei International Airport for utility and transport duties.