Fast Jets of The Royal Malaysian Air force
A Brief History
by Thomas Ng
The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) or Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia (TUDM) was formed in 1958 with the arrival of its first aircraft - a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer. It was not until the late 60's that the RMAF entered the jet age with the arrival of the Canadair CL-41G Tutors in 1967 and the Avon CA-27 Sabers in 1969. The arrival of these aircraft marked a change in the role of the RMAF from that of a support role to a combat role. The Tutors (dubbed the Tebuan or Wasp) for example, were utilized in support the Malaysian army in its operations against the communist insurgents. The insurgency lasted until 1989 with the formal surrender of the Malaysian Communist Party and their ceasation of armed struggle.
From this humble beginning, the RMAF has today expanded to include some of the most modern aircraft being operated in the region. These include the F/A-18D, Mig-29N as well as the Hawk 200.
No 11 Sqn had the honour of being the first fast jet equipped Suadron of the RMAF when it was formed in October 1969 to operate the Avon CA-27 Sabre aircraft. The 15 sub - sonic Sabres aircraft were a gift by the Australian government to the Malaysian government and assumed the role of providing air defence for the country. Based at Butterworth Air Base, the Sabers of this squadron were armed with twin 30mm Aden cannons and also the capability to be armed with Sidewinders. It was powered by an Avon Mk26 engine capable of providing a maximum thrust of 75000lb. This made it a very capable and potent aircraft operating within the South East Asian Region at that time. This squadron adopted a Cobra which were painted on the tailfin.
In the 70's the RMAF was looking to replace the Sabres with a more potent aircraft to enhance and strengthen its air defence capabilities. As such, it went on to place an order for 14 F-5E's and 2 F-5B's. The Northrop F-5E Tiger II arrived in August 1975 and were inducted into the newly formed No. 12 Sqn. With the arrival of the F-5's, the Sabers were retired from service and No 11 Sqn was disbanded in August 1975. No 11 Sqn was reformed in June 1983 with the transfer of 4 F-5E,3 F-5F and 2 RF-5E Tigereye from No. 12 Sqn. It is interesting to note that the RMAF was the first customer for the RF-5E Tigereye. No 11 Sqn now operated as a "Training and Reconnaissance" Squadron.
The RMAF also purchased 13 Aermacchi MB-339M from Italy
which were tasked mainly for trainer and light strike duties. These
aircraft which were powered by Rolls Royce Viper 632 engines and were
attached to No. 3 Flight Training School based at Kuantan Air Base as
well as No. 15 Squadron based at Butterworth Air Base. The Aermacchis
were joined in 1985 by 34 A-4 PTM and 6 TA-4PTM of No. 6 and No. 9 Squadron
in Kuantan. The Skyhawks were originally USN stocks of A-4C and A-4L
and refurbished by the Grumman Corporation at its St. Augustine plant.
However, due to high accidence rate including fatal accidence than claimed the life of a few TUDM pilots involving this aircraft, majority of the Skyhawks were grounded since 1999 and currently classified as war reserved. 6 of the Skyhawks that were converted as air refueling aircraft served until 1999 before being retired thought.
The 1990' s saw the RMAF embarking on an ambitious project to equip itself with more capable and potent aircraft. There were initial plans to equip the RMAF with the Panavia Tornado but the idea was dropped as the cost involved was too high. TUDM tuen the order to more cost effective Bae Hawk 100/200 series and purchased 18 Hawk 200 and 10 Hawk 100 instead. These aircraft now equip No. 6 and No. 9 Squadron. In a drastic departure from its purchasing policy, the RMAF looked to Russia and after lengthy evaluation, signed an agreement to purchase 18 Mig-29N and 2 Mig -29UMN aircraft. The MIG - 29's were attached to No. 17 and No. 19 Squadron based at Kuantan Airbase. These aircraft were delivered up to the MIG-29 SME standard and were progressively upgraded wit in-flight fueling capability as well as the replacement of a more advance radar system. The RMAF also purchased 8 F/A-18D aircraft that were assigned to No. 18 Squadron which was also based at Butterworth Airbase.
Since the formation of the RMAF, the Square national marking earned the RMAF the nickname of the "Square Air Force" in this region. The 14 pointed star in the blue square represented the 14 states in the country. There was nothing square about this young air force. After the British left Malaysia, the young force found itself facing a nasty guerilla war. Its baptism by fire came in the form of support to the Malaysian army ranging from close air support (CAS), medivac, troops/supply delivery through the years of extended insurgency war. In the many firefights in the dense Malaysian jungle in the peninsular and Borneo, services of the RMAF's Caribous, C-41Gs, F-5s, Sikorsky S-61s, Alouette IIIs and the venerable C-130 were often required. Since formation of the RMAF all aircraft carried FM (for Federation Malaysia) in front of its identification number. However the identification number was changed from FM to M (for Malaysia) followed by number in the sequence on the type of aircraft enter in RMAF service, e.g. M29-01 for F-5E aircraft #1. The national insignias were also changed to a smaller roundel at this point in time. In 1986, the RMAF switched back to square, but smaller in size.
Currently, the RMAF uses both square and roundel national marking with
of low viz and hi viz color variation on different types of aircraft.
To meet TUDM future requirement, various Multi Role Combat Aircraft were
evaluated, Aircraft being offer including SU-30MKM and F/A-18F but until
today, there is no firm announcement from TUDM on the purchase yet.