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Malaysian Air Force

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Malaysian Air Force

Royal Malaysian Air Force
Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia
تنترا اودارا دراج مليسيا

Founded 2 June 1958[1]
Country  Malaysia
Allegiance King of Malaysia (Yang Di-Pertuan Agong)
Branch Malaysian Armed Forces
Type Air Force
Role Defence and Dominance of Malaysia's airspace and its territory
Size 15,000[2] active personnel
Motto Sentiasa di Angkasaraya (English : Always in the Airspace)
Colors Navy blue, Maya Blue
Anniversaries 2 June 1958 (founded)
Engagements Malayan Emergency
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
Communist Insurgency War
2013 Lahad Datu standoff
Colonel-in-Chief Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang
Chief of Air Force General Rodzali Daud
Air Force Ensign
Roundel & Fin Flash
Aircraft flown
Attack 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 Aermacchi MB-339, MD3-160 Aerotiga, BAE Hawk Mk.108, Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer, Aérospatiale Alouette III
Transport Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Airbus A400M, CASA CN-235, Sikorsky S-61 Sea King, Eurocopter EC 725, Boeing Business Jet

The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) (Malay: Tentera Udara DiRaja Malaysia (TUDM); Jawi: تنترا اودارا دراج مليسيا) 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 US, European and Russian-made aircraft.

Early years

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.

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 sixties 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.


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 will be delivered in 2016.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6]

At the 12th Defence Services Asia (DSA) exhibition 2010,[7] a Letter of Agreement (LOA) was signed for 12 EC725 helicopters to be supplied to the RMAF.[8] 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.[9]

Ranks of the Royal Malaysian Air Force

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. 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)[10]

OF-9 Air Chief Marshal General RMAF (Jeneral TUDM)[11]
OF-8 Air Marshal Lieutenant General RMAF (Leftenan Jeneral TUDM)[12]
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 Sublieutenant 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

  • Warrant Officer 1 (Pegawai Waran 1)
  • Warrant Officer 2 (Pegawai Waran 2)
  • Flight Sergeant (Flait Sarjan)
  • Air Sergeant (Sarjan Udara)
  • Air Corporal (Koperal Udara)
  • Leading Aircraftman (Laskar Udara Kanan)
  • Aircraftman 1st Class (Laskar Udara I)
  • Aircraftman 2nd Class (Laskar Udara II)
  • Recruit (Perajurit Muda)


Main article: List of aircraft of the Royal Malaysian Air Force

Total Aircraft In Service 226 (36 on order)


  • 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-339AM, 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, C-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-339AM/CM, Kuantan AFB


Airbases include:

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