The current state of Malaysia was born from a complex merger of Malay states, which started when Holland ceded Malacca to British East India, and Singapore became a British colony in 1824. This culminated in the formation of the independent Federation of Malaya within the British Commonwealth on August 31, 1957. Air Commodore A V R Johnstone was a Group Captain at the RAF HQ Malaya when he was asked by the then Chief Minister of Malaya, YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, to form an Air Force for the country. With a budget of RM 15 million he set about it with diligence and got the necessary legislation, form and function of the Royal Malayan Air Force (RMAF) duly organised. Thus on June 2, 1958, the Air Force Ordinance was passed by the Parliament and the Tentera Udara Diraja Persekutuan or Royal Malayan Air Force was born with just one transport aircraft and fourteen men. No 1 Squadron was established on April 17, 1958 with a single Twin Pioneer at RAF Sungai Besi (then called Simpang) in Kuala Lumpur under RAF establishment. In December 1958, the Flying Training Squadron was established at Simpang with six DHC-1 Chipmunks. The base was officially handed over to the RMAF on October 25, 1960.
As a new force, most of its members were seconded from the Royal Air Force. A few personnel were later transferred from the RAF to the Royal Malayan Air Force in November 1958. They were Flying Officer Lim Heng Lip, Sergeant Subramanian, Corporal Othman Mohd Ismail, Corporal Wan Said, Corporal JD Parsley, Corporal Mahadeven, Senior Aircraftman (SAC) Surindam, SAC Md Noor, SAC Zainal, SAC Mohd Hussain and Junior Technician (JT) Ismail Ariffin. Initial roles were to provide air communication and to support ground forces, and the RAF, in their military operations against communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency which lasted until July 1960. In the early 60’s, the RMAF primarily focused on expanding its transport fleet. In January 1962, 2 Squadron was formed as a VIP unit at Simpang flying the Pioneer CC1, Provost T51, Ce310F and DH104 Dove, followed in 1963 by the DH114 Heron. Heavy transport arrived in the shape of the Dart Herald, eight of which formed 4 Squadron in November 1963. In August 1963, 3 Squadron at Simpang introduced the helicopter as the first three Alouette IIIs arrived.
On September 16, 1963, the Federation of Malaya, British North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore merged to form the Malaysian Federation. With the formation of this federation, the name of the airforce was changed into Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) or Royal Malaysian Air Force. In July 1963, Indonesian President Sukarno had called for Confrontation and destruction of the Malayan Federation, and initiated a command that intensified infiltrations into Sarawak and Malaysia. On September 1, 1964, Indonesian C-130B T-1307 hit the water over the Straits of Malacca on a low-level night-paradrop mission into Malaysian airspace. All ca 48 paratroopers plus the crew were killed. In the beginning, it was said to have been shot down by a RAF Javelin over Malaysia. This was later denied, but it might have been "frightened down", according to a story told by Wing Commander J. Ford, who was at the time CO of the RAF Engineering Wing at Tengah, Singapore. He said that he heard that the C-130 had been dropping infiltrators in the Labis area (in Malaysia, some 80 km NW of Singapore). It was intercepted by a RAF 60sqn Javelin Mk9 based at Tengah, and a Firestreak AA missile was locked on the target, but permission to shoot was not obtained in time. It was at night, in poor weather. The chase had to be called off, but the C-130 had taken violent evasive action and had possibly crashed. On September 16, 1965, Indonesian C-130B T-1306 was lost to fire after an emergency landing at Long Bawang airstrip, East Borneo, after it was hit by friendly ground fire. Fortunately all the crewmembers and 36 RPKAD paratroopers survived. After the loss of the C-130Bs, infiltrations by air were stopped and the Confrontation grinded to a halt. Oddly, Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian Federation on August 9, 1965.
5 Squadron was formed on the Alouette III in 1965. In late 1966, the DHC-4 Caribou entered service with 8 Squadron and moved to Labuan which became no 3 Air Base. In late 1967, the S-61A-4 Nuri entered service with 7 Squadron at Kuching, followed by 10 Squadron at Kuantan in 1969. By 1967, Malaysia was ready to activate its first jet fighter squadron. In April 1967, no 4 Air Base was established at Kuantan. In August 1967, 6 Squadron was formed at Simpang on the first of twenty CL41G Tebuans on order. In March 1968, the squadron moved to Kuantan and was joined by 9 Squadron in 1969, also flying the Tebuan. With the withdrawal of British forces from the Far East, Malaysia became responsible for its own Air Defence. In 1969, a nucleus of fighter pilots had been trained at Kuantan and in Australia, so late in the year no 6 Air Base was established at Butterworth alongside the RAAF base with its two recently based Mirage III squadrons. The Australian Government offered sixteen ex-RAAF Sabre Mk32s which were used to form 11 Squadron at Butterworth as a fighter training unit in 1969. In the early 70’s, terrorist activities in Malaysia had been reduced to almost nil because of the fierce tracking and attacks by the Malaysian Army and Special Police, who were brought into the very heart of the terrorist territory by RMAF helicopters. Paratroopers were dropped by Heralds and Caribous and supported by Tebuans and Alouette gunships. With the rapidly expanding force, new equipment for training was over due and the old Provost T51, which had replaced the Chipmunks at the Flying Training School at no 2 Air Base Alor Setar in 1964, was on its turn replaced by fifteen Bulldog 102s in 1972. In early 1975, fourteen F-5Es and two F-5Bs arrived to form 12 Squadron at Butterworth, and 11 Squadron was disbanded later that same year. In 1976, six C-130Hs added a new dimension to the transport capability, and 14 Squadron was formed at no 1 Air Base Simpang. This was also the end for the Dart Herald, as 4 Squadron was disbanded in late 1976. In 1975, twelve Ce402Bs were received and formed the main equipment of 2 Squadron.
The Jet Decades
The 1980’s saw a steady upgrade and expansion of the TUDM. In 1982, the first of twelve MB339As arrived which were utilised as tactical jet trainer. Pusat Latihan Terbang 3, or No 3 Flying Training Centre was subsequently established at Kuantan. In 1985, the Tebuans in 6 Squadron and 9 Squadron were replaced by 32 A-4PTM Skyhawks and six TA-4PTMs. No 1 FTC is the Basic Flying School at Alor Setar and received the first of 44 PC-7s in 1983. 1 Squadron was deactivated in 1992 and all personnel and Caribous were moved to Labuan to join 8 Squadron. In September 1993, 8 Squadron was renamed 1 Squadron. In 1996 this unit moved to Kuching where the venerable Caribou was withdrawn from use. The 90's also witnessed the arrival of some true heavy metal. The delivery of ten BAe Hawk Mk108s and eighteen Mk208s enabled the replacement of the T/A-4PTMs with 6 Squadron and 9 Squadron in 1994. In 1995, sixteen MiG-29Ns and two MiG-29NUBs formed 17 Squadron and 19 Squadron at Kuantan. And finally, eight F/A-18Ds were acquired to form 18 Squadron at Butterworth in 1997. On a somewhat lighter note, 16 Squadron was formed for coastal patrol duties with four Be200Ts at Subang in 1994. In 1998, the locally manufactured MD3-160 was added to the 1 FTC training fleet at Sungai Besi. From 1993, six C-130H-30s were delivered and made it possible to form a second Hercules unit; 20 Squadron at Subang. In August 1999, 21 Squadron was formed at Subang with six CN235-220Ms bought from Indonesia.
By the turn of the Millennium, the F-5 fleet was in trouble. In late 1982, both F-5Bs were sold to Thailand and had been replaced by four F-5Fs. Two RF-5Es were received in 1983, and two additional F-5Es had arrived in 1985. In 2000, the fleet was grounded and stored as an operational reserve. BAe Systems, Thales and Taiwan's AIDC offered an upgrade package for the F-5, but without implementing any of the offers the TUDM decided to make nine F-5s operational again with first flights taking place in August 2003. From 2001, nineteen additional PC-7 Mk2s were delivered to Alor Setar and are now operated by 1 FTC. On August 5, 2003 a contract was signed worth $900 million for eighteen Su-30MKMs. In June 2007, the first aircraft arrived with 11 Squadron at the reserve base Gong Kedak, Terengganu. Deliveries were completed in August 2009. Two new MB339CMs departed on their delivery flight on February 24, 2009. Chief Test Pilot Cdr. Quirino Bucci and Test Pilot Cdr. Matteo Maurizio took off from the Alenia Aermacchi airfield and landed at Kuantan after a 12,000 km delivery flight. They arrived by March 1, 2009. The Royal Malaysian Air Force uses the MB339CM as Lead-In Fighter Trainers to prepare pilots to fly new generation fighter aircraft. By late 2009, 15 Squadron at Butterworth retired its last MB339AMs now that all eight new MB339CMs had been delivered to 3 FTC at Kuantan. By 2010, the situation at Subang had also changed. All eight surviving Ce402Bs were transferred from 2 Squadron to 20 Squadron and then retired on December 3, 2010. 21 Squadron has also disbanded and transferred its CN235s to the (reformed) 1 Squadron at Kuching. A CN235 detachment (1 Squadron/Det) remains at Subang.
The Years to Come
The TUDM is seeking funding for four MPA aircraft. Malaysia has been relying largely on four Be200T Super King Air aircraft that it received in 1994 for maritime patrol duties with 16 Squadron, while the MMEA received two CL-415MPs. The air force is seeking an MPA fleet because it wants to eventually phase out the King Airs, widen its operations and have an aircraft with better payload performance. Aircraft-makers that may apply for the business include Alenia Aeronautica with its ATR42 Surveyor MP, Indonesian Aerospace with its CN235 MPA, Fokker Services with the Fokker 50, and Saab with its Saab 340 or Saab 2000. Late February 2010, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the Defence Minister announced that Malaysia will continue to operate ten of its MiG-29N/NUBs until 2015, reversing plans to decommission the aircraft by the end of 2010. However, maintaining the aircraft will impose burdens of its own since the aircraft’s engines need to be overhauled every year and the weapons for the fighter have reached the end of their life span. Meanwhile, Malaysia has again drawn up a shopping list for the next five-year plan running from 2011 to 2015. It includes 36 to forty fighters to replace the F-5 and MiG-29. Types under consideration are the F/A-18E/F, F-16, Saab Gripen and Su-30. The AEW requirement is expected to be a contest between the E-2C and an aircraft equipped with the Saab Microwave Systems’ Erieye radar which could point to the Saab 340, Saab 2000 or ERJ-145 AEW platforms. In late April 2010, at the Defence Services Asia (DSA) show in Kuala Lumpur, defence minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi signed a letter-of-acceptance for twelve Eurocopter EC725 combat search and rescue helicopters for delivery in 2012 and 2013. The EC725 will replace some of the twenty-plus Sikorsky S-61 Nuri helicopters still in service. The TUDM is also trying to have a requirement for attack helicopters included in the 2011-2015 national five-year plans. At this moment, Malaysia still has four Airbus Military A400Ms on order to supplement or replace the Hercules fleet.
In 1988, the navy formed its first aviation unit when 499 Squadron was established at Lumut. The first batch of ex-RN Wasps was delivered in April 1988. Following delivery of a second ex-RN batch, the squadron was commissioned on May 11, 1990. Ten Wasp Is were received and the survivors were withdrawn from use in late 2000. Pending the arrival of the Super Lynx and Fennec, two AS355F2s were leased between 2002 and 2005. 501 Squadron was launched on August 9, 2004 and received six Super Lynx Mk300s at Lumut from September 2003. Also on August 9, 2004, 502 Squadron was launched at Lumut and received its sixth AS555SN in March 2004. Number 503 Squadron is reserved for the MPA task and 504 Squadron for dedicated ASW.
The aviation service of the army consists of only a single squadron; 881 Squadron at Keluang was formed with former TUDM Alouette IIIs in March 1997. Eleven A-109LOHs were received in 2005 and 2006. Its last three Alouette IIIs were returned to the TUDM in November 2009.
The Agensi Penguatkuasaan Maritim Malaysia (APMM), or Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) was established in May 2004 under the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency Act. It came into force on February 15, 2005 and became operational on November 30, 2005. The APMM plans to have its own air wing. Three Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphins were delivered by September 2007 for missions over the Malacca Strait. The helicopters are located at the Stesen Udara (Air Station) Subang, part of Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport. The Dauphins are equipped with radar and forward looking infra red (FLIR) for night operations. Twelve pilots and airmen on loan from the TUDM fly the helicopters while APMM pilots are being trained. The total requirement could be up to twenty helicopters operating from five bases. Also a small number of fixed-wing aircraft will be acquired for the maritime surveillance, SAR and interdiction role.
On January 23, 2009, the first of two Bombardier 415MPs ordered was accepted at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport. The Bombardier 415MP can be used in a variety of specialised missions such as search and rescue, and environmental protection. The MMEA has requested funds to buy six helicopters during the 2011-2015 national five-year plans. On December 8, 2010, three AgustaWestland AW139s were handed over at AgustaWestland Malaysia in Subang. The aircraft will be used to perform search and rescue, coastal patrol and law enforcement duties around Malaysia’s extensive coast line. One is to be based at Kota Kinabalu in 2011. Two more fixed-wing aircraft are planned for 2016-2020. Subang airport in Kuala Lumpur will see the completion of the first MMEA base in 2010, while Kota Kinabalu airport will become the second base. The MMEA fleet will be evenly divided over two bases.
To consolidate the fire brigade service that was established under Kementerian Pembangunan dan Kerajaan Tempatan, Malaysia Fire Brigade Service merged on federal level and the unification of Bomba dan Penyelamat under federation states was held on January 1, 1976. This unification put Malaysia Fire Brigade Service under Ministry of Housing and local government. This was followed by unification of fire brigade service in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca which were held on January 1, 1977. On May 15, 1981, the fire brigade service of Sabah and Sarawak was consolidated. On January 8, 1997, Cabinet Ministers agreed to change the name from Jabatan Perkhidmatan Bomba Malaysia to Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat Malaysia. On February 21, 1997, the Prime Minister of Malaysia officially announced and launched the new name, logo and flag of the Jabatan Bomba dan Penyelamat Malaysia in Genting Highlands. In 1998, the department received its first helicopters, two Mi-17-1Vs and started the Fire Brigade’s Air Unit at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Subang. Two A109Es were received in 2003, followed by two Mi-171s in 2004. On May 22, 2010, the first two JBPM AW139s arrived by sea at Port Klang and were sent to AgustaWestland Malaysia in Subang for full installation and testing.