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Royal Malaysian Air Force

The Royal Malaysian Air Force originates with Parliament's passage of the Air Force Ordinance on June 2nd, 1958, creating the "Tentera Udara Diraja Persekutuan" or Royal Malayan Air Force. Air Commodore A.V.R Johnstsone from the Royal Air Force (RAF) was assigned as the adviser to the the Malayan government and was the first Chief of the Royal Malayan Air Force (RMAF). He was responsible in drawing the blueprint for Malaya's Air Force in terms of organisation, personnel, assets and its regulation. 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 in their military operations against communist insurgents.

With the formation of Malaysian Federation on September 16th, 1963, the name of the force was changed to "Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia" or Royal Malaysian Air Force". From this date onwards, the Airforce has experienced a steady growth and ten more squadrons and a Training Centre were formed by 1970. In the late 1960s it began to work toward developing the nucleus of an air defense capability in anticipation of the British pullout in 1971, and during the 1970s the RMAF lent limited air strike support to army counterinsurgency operations. Not until the armed forces modernization and expansion program was inaugurated in 1979, however, did the national defense doctrine embrace the concept of the air force acting in more than a support role for the army. At that time, the RMAF began to be developed along conventional lines, stress being laid on improving air defense and maritime surveillance capability.

The RMAF headquarters was located in Kuala Lumpur in early 1984. Operational control of the air fleet was vested in the commander air headquarters, who was assisted in Sabah and Sarawak by the deputy commander. In early 1984 a new air force facility was under construction at the Subang Airport near Kuala Lumpur. The older Sungai Besi air base, also near Kuala Lumpur, had been in operation since the 1950s and was unsuitable for further expansion. Upon completion, the Subang base was to become the major base for air transport. At that time, the Sungai Besi base was to become the home of the helicopter squadrons, the air operations command headquarters, and the air support division. Fighter aircraft were deployed at the Kuan tan, Butterworth, or Alor Setar bases. Other bases were located at Kuching in Sarawak, Labuan Island in Sabah, and Kluang in Johore. Plans to build a major new base at Gong Kedak on the east coast of Kelantan fell victim to budgetary retrenchment in 1982.

The air force had a personnel strength in the early 1980s of about 11,000. Most observers agreed that the RMAF attracted relatively more Chinese that the other services, particularly as pilots. The air force's inventory of over 200 aircraft included 16 jet fighters, 12 counterinsurgency aircraft, a large number of transport, reconnaissance, liaison, and training aircraft, and some 70 helicopters. The most advanced aircraft was the F-5E/F Tiger II fighter. The RMAF also had United States-made Sidewinder air-to-air missiles. On order were some 40 A-4 jet fighters and the improved Super Sidewinder air-to-air missle.

The air force of the early 1980s was organized into 15 squadrons based on type and mission of aircraft involved. Many of the trainer aircraft were capable of performing a dual combat/trainer role. One squadron of Australian Mirage fighter-bombers was based at Butterworth under the combined command of the integrated Air Defense System; they were not used in operations against local insurgents. Training was the responsibility of the Air Support Command, which also handled logistics. After taking basic training, cadet officers entered a two-year course at the army's Royal Military College. Pilots then took basic flight training on Swiss-made PC-7 trainers at the Flying Training School at Alor Setar. Advanced jet training was offered at Kuantan on Italian-made M.B. 339A airplanes. Both these aircraft were acquired in the early 1980s. Specialist training in a variety of subjects was available at the Air Technology Institute and at Kuantan, Labuan Island, and other locales. The Royal Malaysian Air Force Volunteer Reserve was believed to be quite small.

New types into service included the HP Herald, DHC-4 Caribou, former RAAF CA27 Sabre Mk32, the unique CL41G Tebuan, Alouette 3, S-61A-4 and Provost T51. The Sabre was replaced by the F-5E in 1975, and the Tebuan by the T/A-4PTM in 1985. In 1976 the C-130H came into service, and for pilot training, the MB339AM (1983)and PC-7A (1984) added a new dimension.



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