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|IATA: BWH – ICAO: WMKB|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence (Malaysia)|
|Operator||Royal Malaysian Air Force|
|Location||Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia|
|Time zone||MST (UTC+08:00)|
|Elevation AMSL||8 ft / 2 m|
RMAF Butterworth (Malay: TUDM Butterworth, formerly the RAF Butterworth and RAAF Butterworth) (IATA: BWH, ICAO: WMKB) is an Air Force Station of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) situated 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 km; 5.2 mi) from Butterworth in the state of Penang, directly opposite the island itself. It is currently the headquarters of the Five Power Defence Arrangements Integrated Area Defence System for Malaysia and Singapore, which is commanded by an Australian Air Vice Marshal.
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RAF Butterworth was officially opened in October 1941, as a Royal Air Force station which was a part of the British defence plan for defending the Malayan Peninsula against an imminent threat of invasion by the Imperial Japanese forces during World War II. During the Battle of Malaya, the airfield suffered damage from aerial bombing by Mitsubishi G3M and Mitsubishi G4M bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service based in Saigon, South Vietnam. Brewster Buffalos from the airbase rose to challenge the escorting Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters but were mauled during several of these engagements by the highly trained and experienced Japanese fighter pilots.
The RAF airfield was subsequently captured by units of the advancing 25th Army (Imperial Japanese Army) on 20 December 1941 and the control of the airbase was to remain in the hands of Japanese until the end of hostilities in September 1945. The RAF resumed control of the station and Japanese prisoners of war were made to repair the airfield as well as to improve the runways before air operations were resumed in May 1946.
During the Malayan Emergency that was to last from 1948 to 1960, RAF as well as RAAF and RNZAF units stationed at the airfield played an active role from 1950 in helping to curb the communist insurgency in the jungles of Malaya by attacking suspected hideouts and harassing the communist guerrillas. The station also served as a vital front-line airfield for various other units on rotation from RAF Changi, RAF Kuala Lumpur, RAF Kuantan, RAF Seletar and RAF Tengah; RAF aircraft would also use the base as a transit point to and from other RAF bases in the Far East region (including Singapore, North Borneo and Hong Kong) connecting it between RAF stations in the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Mediterranean regions.
In 1957, the RAF closed the station. It was transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force and renamed RAAF Station Butterworth, becoming the home to numerous Australian fighter and bomber squadrons stationed in Malaya during the Cold War era. Two of the notable RAAF units were No. 3 Squadron RAAF and No. 77 Squadron RAAF which saw service with their CAC Sabres during the Malayan Emergency through the confrontation with Indonesia. From August 1964 onwards, these Sabre jets responded on several occasion to approaches by MiG-21 fighter jets of the Indonesian Air Force towards Malaysian airspace, but the Indonesian aircraft always turned back before crossing the international boundary, thereby averting possible conflict.
During this period, No. 33 Squadron RAF was stationed at Butterworth to provide ground to air defence with Bloodhound missiles. No. 20 Squadron RAF with Hunter FGA9 aircraft were detached here as also were RAF Vulcans and Canberras. No. 52 Squadron RAF provided air supply support to ground troops and police working in the Malaysian Peninsular jungle areas with their Valetta C2 twin engine aircraft along with RAF Single and Twin Pioneer aircraft. 52 Squadron also provided air support to units working in the Borneo jungle areas. The RAF also provided Air Sea Rescue helicopters (Whirlwinds) and Rescue & Range Safety Launches (RTTL & RSL) from RAF Glugor on Penang Island. Other RAF aircraft seen regularly included Britannia, Hercules and Andover transports and RAF Victor tankers when transiting fighter aircraft such as Lightnings through to Singapore.
As of October 2008, the Australian Defence Force continues to maintain a presence at RMAF Butterworth as part of Australia's commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), with No. 19 Squadron RAAF and a detachment of AP-3C Orion aircraft from No. 92 Wing RAAF being located at the airfield. In addition, the Australian Army maintains an infantry company (designated Rifle Company Butterworth) at Butterworth for training purposes.
On 30 June 1988, the airfield was handed over by RAAF to the Royal Malaysian Air Force and was renamed as RMAF Station Butterworth. The flying squadrons stationed here are:
- No. 3 Squadron RMAF, with S-61A4A Nuri helicopters
- No. 12 Squadron RMAF, with Northrop F-5E, F-5F & RF-5E
- No. 15 Squadron RMAF, with BAE Hawk 108/Hawk 209 & Aermacchi MB-339AM
- No. 18 Squadron RMAF, with Boeing F/A-18D Hornets
- RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force. A Concise History. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.
- Wilson, David. Seek and Strike: 75 Squadron RAAF 1942–2002. Maryborough, Australia: Banner, 2002. ISBN 1-875593-23-3.
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