Royal Malaysian Air Force

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Royal Malaysian Air Force
Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia
Crest of Royal Malaysian Air Force.svg
Crest of the Royal Malaysian Air Force
Founded 2 June 1958[1]
Country  Malaysia
Allegiance Supreme Head of Malaysia
Branch Malaysian Armed Forces
Type Air force
Role Aerial defence and dominance of Malaysian territory
Size 15,000[2] active personnel
Motto Sentiasa di Angkasaraya (English : Always in the Airspace)
Colours Navy blue, Maya blue
‹See Tfm›    ‹See Tfm›    
Anniversaries 2 June 1958 (founded)
Engagements Malayan Emergency
Sarawak Communist Insurgency
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
Communist Insurgency War
Moro attacks on Sabah (2013 standoff)
Colonel-in-Chief Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang
Chief of Air Force General Rodzali Daud
Air Force Ensign Ensign of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.svg
Roundel & Fin Flash Roundel of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.svg Finflash.svg
Aircraft flown
Attack BAE Hawk Mk.108, BAE Hawk Mk.208
Sapura UVA, RJX1 UVA
Fighter Sukhoi Su-30MKM, Boeing F/A-18D Hornet, Mikoyan MiG-29N
Interceptor Northrop F-5E Tiger II (Active Reserve Interceptor)
Patrol Beechcraft Super King Air
Reconnaissance Northrop RF-5
Trainer BAE Hawk Mk.108, Aermacchi MB-339, MD3-160 Aerotiga, Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer, Aérospatiale Alouette III
Transport Airbus A400M, Lockheed C-130 Hercules, CASA CN-235, Boeing Business Jet, Eurocopter EC 725, Sikorsky S-61 Sea King, Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk, Agusta A109

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF; Malay: Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia (TUDM)) was formed on 2 June 1958 as the Royal Federation of Malaya Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Persekutuan). However, its roots can be traced back to the Malayan Auxiliary Air Force formations of the British Royal Air Force in then colonial British Malaya. Today, the Royal Malaysian Air Force operates a unique mix of modern American, European and Russian-made aircraft.

Early years[edit]

Labuan Air Base with CAC Sabre in 1965, today became the main airbase for East Malaysia.

The Malaysian air forces trace their lineage to the Malayan Auxiliary Air Force formations of the Royal Air Force raised in 1934. They later transformed into the Straits Settlements Volunteer Air Force and the Malaya Volunteer Air Force formed in 1940 and dissolved in 1942 during the height of the Japanese advance over Malaya. The latter was reestablished in 1950 in time for the Malayan Emergency and contributed very much to the war effort. On 2 June 1958, the MVAF finally became the Royal Federation of Malaya Air Force, this date is celebrated as RMAF Day yearly.

On 25 October 1960, after the end of the Malayan Emergency, the British Royal Air Force handed over their first base in Malaya to the RFMAF, at Simpang Airport; it was established on 1 June 1941, in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur which was formerly part of Selangor and the national capital city.

The first aircraft for the fledgling air force was a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer named "Lang Rajawali" by the then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. Several Malayans serving with the Royal Air Force transferred to the Royal Federation of Malaya Air Force. The role played by TUDM was limited initially to communications and the support of ground operations against Communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency. TUDM received its first combat aircraft with the delivery of 20 Canadair CL41G Tebuans (an armed version of the Canadair Tutor trainer). TUDM also received Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopters, to be used in the liaison role.

A Twin Pioneer Mk.1 "Lang Rajawali" (FM1064 c/n:583) on display at the Malacca Transport Museum.

With the formation of the Malaysian Federation on 16 September 1963, the name of the force was changed to "Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia" or "Royal Malaysian Air Force". New types introduced into service included the Handley Page Herald transport and the De Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou. TUDM received Sikorsky S-61A-4 helicopters in the late 16 and early seventies which were used in the transport role. TUDM gained an air defence capability when the Australian Government donated 10 ex-RAAF CAC Sabre fighters. These were based at the Butterworth Air Base.

After the withdrawal of British military forces from Malaysia and Singapore at the end of 1971, a five-nation agreement between Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom was concluded to ensure defence against external aggression. The Royal Australian Air Force maintained two Mirage IIIO squadrons at the Butterworth Air Base as part of its commitment to the Five Power Defence Agreement. These squadrons were withdrawn in 1986, although occasional deployments of RAAF aircraft continue.


Sukhoi Su-30MKM seen from top and bottom
Royal Malaysian Air Force and US Air Force participating in Cope Taufan 2014

With the withdrawal of British military forces, TUDM underwent gradual modernisation from the 1970s to the 1990s. The Sabres were replaced by 16 Northrop F-5E Tiger-IIs. A reconnaissance capability was acquired with the purchase of two RF-5E Tigereye aircraft. TUDM also purchased 88 ex-US Navy Douglas A-4C Skyhawks, of which 40 of the airframes were converted/refurbished by Grumman Aircraft Engineering at Bethpage into the A-4PTM ('Peculiar To Malaysia'), configuration (similar to A-4M standard). TUDM has traditionally looked to the West for its purchases, primarily to the United States. However, limitations imposed by the US on "new technology" to the region, such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM fire-and-forget air-to-air missile, has made TUDM consider purchases from Russia and other non-traditional sources.

The '90s saw the arrival of first the BAE Hawk Mk108/208 which replaced the T/A-4PTMs, followed by the MiG-29N/NUB in 1995 in the air superiority role and delivery of the F/A-18D Hornet in 1997 to provide an all weather interdiction capability. In 2003 a contract was signed for eighteen Su-30MKMs for delivery in 2007 to fulfill a requirement for an initial order of multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA). A requirement for a further eighteen MRCAs remains unfulfilled. TUDM is also looking for an AWACS aircraft, although no firm orders have been placed.

On 8 December 2005 four Airbus Military A400M aircraft were ordered to enhance the airlift capability. The first Malaysian A400M is delivered in March 2015.[3][4] In late 2006, the Government signed a contract to purchase eight Aermacchi MB-339CMs to add to the eight MB-339AMs already in service.

In March 2007, then-Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak notified the public that the MiG-29s would continue in service until 2010. Later that year, Najib announced the Nuri (Sikorsky S-61A-4) helicopter, in service since 1968 with 89 crew members killed in 15 accidents, would be phased out by 2012 and replaced by the Eurocopter EC725.[5] Deputy RMAF Chief Lieutenant General Bashir Abu Bakar told the media after opening Heli-Asia 2007, that tender assessment for the replacement of the Sikorsky S-61A-4 would occur in early 2008.[6]

In late 2013 Vector Aerospace, a global independent provider of aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, with its subsidiary, Vector Aerospace Helicopter Services-North America ("HS-NA"), one of the world’s leading providers of helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services was chosen to carry out a comprehensive fully integrated glass cockpit installation for the S-61A-4 Nuri, breathing new life in an already well established platform, and giving a modern,reliable and cost effective product that will carry the S61A-4 Nuri well into the future.

In June 2009, RMAF chief General Azizan Ariffin said that the air force would replace their MiG-29s with aircraft that have better agility and the capability to attack enemy forces.[7]

At the 12th Defence Services Asia (DSA) exhibition 2010,[8] a Letter of Agreement (LOA) was signed for 12 EC725 helicopters to be supplied to the RMAF.[9] With that, EADS, (the European Aeronautical Defence and Space Company), has pledged 100 million Euros to set up a comprehensive helicopter centre in Subang for an aeronautical academy, training, simulation and a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility for the EC725 Cougar military version and the EC225 civilian model.[10]

The Royal Malaysian Air Force currently has an MRCA replacement program to replace the MiG-29 and F-5 fighters that will be retired by the end of 2015. The MRCA replacement program is currently narrowed down to 4 types of aircraft (Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab JAS 39 Gripen). Under the program, the RMAF is looking to equip three squadrons with 36 to 40 new fighter aircraft with a budget of RM6 billion to RM8 billion (US$1.84 billion to US$2.46 billion).[11]


Aircraft Photo Role Variants Operational Total Notes
Combat Aircraft
Sukhoi Su-30MKM A fighter jet sharpened.jpg Multirole fighter Su-30MKM 18[12] 18 An advanced version of the Sukhoi Su-30 family and highly specialised version for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.[13]
Boeing F/A-18 Hornet Malaysia - Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-18D Hornet edited.png Multirole fighter F/A-18D 8[12] 8 Upgraded in 2011.[14] Operable at night/in all weather.
Mikoyan MiG-29 Malaysia MiG-29 flying.jpg Air superiority fighter MiG-29N
12 Will be retired in 2015. The MRCA replacement program is currently narrowed down to 4 types of aircraft (Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Saab JAS 39 Gripen). Under the program, the RMAF is looking to equip three squadrons with 36 to 40 new fighter aircraft with a budget of RM6 billion to RM8 billion (US$1.84 billion to US$2.46 billion).[11]
BAE Hawk Malaysia British Aerospace Hawk 200.jpg Light multirole fighter Mk 108
Mk 208
20 All upgraded in 2010 to enhance their capabilities.[18]
Mk 208 planes are single seat light multirole fighters
Mk 108 planes are advanced weapons trainers with combat capabilities[19]
Northrop F-5 Malaysia Northrop F5 Tiger II 2322530.jpg Light attack, Reconnaissance F-5 Tiger II
RF-5E Tigereye
18 Reactivated in 2003 as Tactical Air Reconnaissance Squadron.Will be retired by end of 2014 and replaced under the MRCA program.[20]
Transport Aircraft/Aerial refuelling/Patrol
Airbus A400M A400M-1969.jpg Long Range military transport A400M 1(3) 1(3) 4 ordered. One delivered on 15 March 2015 during LIMA 2015.[4][21]
Lockheed C-130 Hercules Malaysia Lockheed KC-130H Hercules.jpg Military transport, Maritime patrol aircraft, Aerial refuelling C-130H
15 10 C-130H,1 C-130MP and 4 KC-130T. C-130MP is a maritime patrol variant and can be reconfigured into tactical airlift. The 4 KC-130T provide aerial refuelling capabilities for the RMAF. All aircraft are to be upgraded.
CASA CN-235 CN235 - RIAT 2006 (2392704212).jpg Military transport, Maritime patrol aircraft CN-235-220M-VIP
8[12][22] 8 Military transport for army airborne (PAC) and humanitarian uses.
Beechcraft Super King Air Angled shot of Malaysia Air Force's Beechcraft Super King Air MPA.jpg Maritime patrol aircraft B200T 4[15] 4 Equipped with tactical command system, one master search radar and one forward looking infrared system.
Cessna 402 Cessna402C-FFAP02.jpg Military transport 402B 10[15] 10
Boeing Business Jet Royal Malaysian Air Force Boeing 737-700BBJ PER Monty.jpg VIP Transport BBJ1(737-700) 1 1 Used for the Prime Minister and/or Deputy Prime Minister.
Bombardier Global Express RMAF Global Express MRD.jpg VIP Transport BD700 1 1
Dassault Falcon 900 RMAF Falcon 900 MRD.jpg VIP Transport 900B 1 1
Airbus 319 Malaysia - Air Force Airbus A319-115X CJ, 9M-NAA@ZRH,26.01.2008-494ah - Flickr - Aero Icarus.jpg VIP Transport A319CJ 1 1
Fokker F28 Fellowship RMAF Fokker F28 MRD.jpg VIP Transport F28-1000 1 1
Trainer Aircraft
Aermacchi MB-339 MB-339CD.jpg Lead-in fighter, Light fighter MB-339AM
18 Originally 16 in inventory. 6 lost in accident. Were replaced by 8 new MB-339CM.
Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer RMAF PC-7 MRD.jpg Training aircraft PC-7
PC-7 Mk II
MD3-160 Aerotiga RMAF SME MD3-160 MRD.jpg Training aircraft Unknown 20 20
Aérospatiale Alouette III RMAF Sud SE-3160 Alouette III MRD.jpg Training helicopter SA-316B
13 13 Total of 26 received (not including 7× SA-316Bs transferred from Republic of Singapore Air Force in 1978/9), 10 transferred to Malaysian Army Aviation and 20 involved in crash and emergency landing in various incident.
Helicopter and Non Fixed wing Aircraft
Eurocopter EC 725 Caracal2552.jpg Transport helicopter, CSAR Super Cougar / Caracal 12 12
Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King Nuri helicopter.jpg Transport helicopter, SAR S61A-4 Nuri 17[23] 17[23] Multipurpose transport and utility. Built by Agusta under license. Carries troops, supplies, rations & humanitarian aid. To be upgraded[24] with new engine, gearbox and rotor blade.12 transferred to Malaysian Army Aviation[25] Armed with 12.7mm HMG[23][26]
Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk ÖBH BlackHawk Zams Boden2st.jpg VIP Transport
Utility helicopter
6[26] 4 S-70A to be transferred to RMAF from the Royal Brunei Air Force.[27] The chopper will be armed with M134D gatling gun.[26]
Agusta A109 RNZAF A109 helicopter at the 2012 Wanaka Airshow.jpg Utility helicopter A109C 1 1
Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King CH-124 Sea King.jpg VIP Transport AS-61N1 2 2
CTRM Aludra[28] Reconnaissance
Mk.1 and Mk.2 4[29] Leased UAV uses as coastal surveillance
ScanEagle ScanEagle UAV catapult launcher 2005-04-16.jpg Reconnaissance
2[29] Coastal surveillance
CTRM Eagle ARV APFTEAPA.JPG Reconnaissance
1[29] Reconnaissance UAV


RMAF Labuan control tower & radar

Airbases include:


RMAF personnel performing combat air rescue at Cope Taufan 2012
  • 1st Division
    • 2 Squadron – Fokker F-28 Fellowship, Falcon 900, Global Express, Boeing BBJ (737–700), Subang AFB
    • 3 Squadron – S-61A4A Nuri, Butterworth AFB
    • 6 Squadron – BAE Hawk 108/Hawk 208, Kuantan AFB
    • 10 Squadron – Eurocopter EC-725, Kuantan AFB
    • 11 Squadron – Su-30MKM Flanker, Gong Kedak AFB
    • 12 Squadron – Northrop F-5E/F, RF-5E, Butterworth AFB
    • 15 Squadron – BAE Hawk 108/208, Aermacchi MB-339CM, Butterworth AFB
    • 16 Squadron – Beech 200T, Subang AFB
    • 18 Squadron – Boeing F/A-18D Hornet, Butterworth AFB
    • 19 Squadron – MiG 29N/UB, Kuantan AFB
    • 20 Squadron – Lockheed C-130H Hercules, KC-130T Subang AFB
  • 2nd Division
    • 1 Squadron – CN-235-220M, Kuching AFB
    • 5 Squadron – S-61A4A, Nuri Labuan AFB
    • 7 Squadron – S-61A4A, Nuri Kuching AFB
    • 14 Squadron – Lockheed C-130H Hercules, Labuan AFB
  • Training Division
    • 1 FTC PC-7/PC-7 Mk II, Alor Setar AFB
    • 2 FTC Alouette III Alor, Setar AFB
    • 3 FTC MB-339CM, Kuantan AFB

Ranks of the Royal Malaysian Air Force[edit]

Until the late 1970s, the Royal Malaysian Air Force used the same officer ranking system as the Royal Air Force. They were replaced by army-style designations and given Malay title equivalents, but the sleeve insignia remained the same mirroring the RAF practice, but all General Officers wear 1 to 5 stars on the shoulder board in addition to the existing sleeve insignia. The list of ranks which are currently used are shown below (in descending order). NCOs and enlisted ranks remained unchanged, and retain their pre-1970s names.

Equivalent NATO Code Pre 1970s Rank Current Rank
Flag Officers
OF-10 Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force

(Marsyal Tentera Udara Di Raja Malaysia)[30]

OF-9 Air Chief Marshal General, RMAF (Jeneral, TUDM)[31]
OF-8 Air Marshal Lieutenant General, RMAF (Leftenan Jeneral, TUDM)[32]
OF-7 Air Vice Marshal Major General, RMAF (Mejar Jeneral, TUDM)
OF-6 Air Commodore Brigadier General, RMAF (Brigedier Jeneral, TUDM)
Senior Officers
OF-5 Group Captain Colonel, RMAF (Kolonel, TUDM)
OF-4 Wing Commander Lieutenant Colonel, RMAF (Leftenan Kolonel, TUDM)
OF-3 Squadron Leader Major, RMAF (Mejar, TUDM)
Junior Officers
OF-2 Flight Lieutenant Captain, RMAF (Kapten, TUDM)
OF-1 Flying Officer Lieutenant, RMAF (Leftenan, TUDM)
OF-1 Pilot Officer Second Lieutenant, RMAF (Leftenan Muda, TUDM)
Officer Cadet Officer Cadet (Pegawai Kadet)

All officers, with the exception of the Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force apply the Air Force acronym (RMAF, TUDM) to their rank title, to differentiate from their Malaysian Army equivalents. For example, a Colonel in the Air Force would be titled Colonel, RMAF or Kolonel, TUDM in Malay.

Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Enlisted personnel

Royal Malaysian Air Force Regiment[edit]

Two PASKAU officers on patrol at Langkawi Airport security gate during LIMA 2009

The RMAF Regiment is the ground and air defence support unit of the RMAF. It is composed of the various units of the regiment tasked to fulfill the RMAF's mission and vision. These units are:

  • PASKAU TUDM (Special Air Service, RMAF)
  • RMAF Provost Unit
  • RMAF Infantry
  • RMAF Ground Air Defence Artillery

Special Forces[edit]

Main article: PASKAU

The special arm of the RMAF is known as PASKAU (a Malay acronym for Pasukan Khas Udara, which loosely means 'Special Air Service'), and is part of the RMAF Regiment. PASKAU was formed in response to a mortar attack by the then Communist Party of Malaya on a DHC-4 Caribou in the 1970s at the Kuala Lumpur Air Base.[33] During peacetime, the unit is tasked with responding to aircraft hijacking incidents as well as protecting the country's numerous RMAF airbases and civilian airports. Its wartime roles include ground designation, sabotaging of enemy air assets and equipment and the defence of RMAF aircraft and bases. This unit is also deployed for counter-terrorism duties as well as Urban warfare/Close quarters combat.

RMAF Provost Unit[edit]

This is the military police unit of the RMAF Regiment, mandated to provide military police duties in RMAF air bases.

Aerobatic team[edit]

Main article: Kris Sakti

The Kris Sakti (English: Magic Dagger) is the recently founded aerobatic display team of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.It makes its debut on 2011 Langkawi International Maritime and Air Show on December 2011. They operated four Extra 300L aircraft.

Missing jet engines scandal[edit]

In May 2008, two J85-GE-21 engines that power the Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighter jets belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force were reported missing, as of sometime in 2007, from an RMAF warehouse in Kuala Lumpur during Najib's tenure as Defence Minister in Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Cabinet. The jet engines belonged to the 12th Squadron (Scorpion) based in Butterworth. The issue became a matter of political dispute,[34] and it was reported a brigadier-general, 40 other armed forces personnel, had been sacked over the incident.[35] On 6 January 2010, two Malaysians, an Airman (Sergeant) and a civilian contractor, were charged in connection with the theft and disposal of both engines.[36]

Engines diverted to Uruguay[edit]

On 5 February 2010, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail revealed that the two missing engines had been found in Uruguay with the help of the government there and the Malaysian government is proceeding with the necessary measures to secure their return. Investigations showed that the engines were taken out of the RMAF base on 20 December 2007 and 1 January 2008, and sent to a warehouse in Subang Jaya before being shipped out of Malaysia to South America.[37][38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Note: Originally founded as Malaysian Auxiliary Air force in 1936
  2. ^ "Malaysian Armed Forces". 
  3. ^ Malaysia: Military plane delivery delayed
  4. ^ a b "First Royal Malaysian Air Force's A400M military airlifter rolled out of the paintshop". 22 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "RMAF’s two new copters arrive". Eurocopter Malaysia. 
  6. ^ International Tender For Nuri Replacement To Open Soon
  7. ^ "TUDM tunggu keputusan kerajaan ganti MiG-29N". Utusan Malaysia. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b c
  13. ^ "Sukhoi, Malaysia Sign $100 Mln Deal on Fighters' Maintenance". 28 March 2013. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c d e f "AMR Air Force Directory 2013". Asian Military Review. 
  16. ^ Defence ministry mulls RM30bil for new fighter jets
  17. ^ a b c
  18. ^ a b "Selex Galileo to protect Malaysia's Hawk fleet". Flightglobal. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Malaysian Defence". Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  21. ^ "New RMAF Plane Plays Three Roles". 10 October 2013. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c
  24. ^ "No Plan To Dispose Of Nuri Helicopters - Armed Forces Chief". 4 February 2013. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b c d
  27. ^ Marcel Burger (23 January 2015). "Brunei gives four Black Hawks as present to Malaysia". AIRheads. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b c SIPRI
  30. ^ This rank is only used by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the Supreme Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces.
  31. ^ The Chief of Defence Force and the Chief of the Air Force hold this four-star rank.
  32. ^ This three-star rank is bestowed on the commanders of the various RMAF commands, and by the Vice Chief of the Air Force.
  33. ^ "PASKAU". Laman Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia. 
  34. ^ "Stolen engines case was covered up from the start". Malaysian Insider. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  35. ^ "PM: Fighter jet engine reported stolen to cops". TheStar Online. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  36. ^ "Two Malaysian Indians charged with aircraft engine theft". Deccan Herald (India). Retrieved 7 January 2010. 
  37. ^ "Missing jet engines found". TheStar Online. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  38. ^ "El enigma de los motores de F-5 robados". El Pais. 

External links[edit]