Aircraft Resource Center


Fast Jets of The Royal Malaysian Airforce  
A Brief History 

by Mazlan Yusof, S.B Parameswaran,Thomas Ng & K T Goh


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Avon Sabre at the RMAF Museum

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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 that 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, the 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.  

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1/48 Academy/Red Roo Avon Saber belonging to No 11 Sqn RMAF   

Model by Mazlan Yusof


Patch of No. 11 Sqn

No. 11 Sqn Badge on the tailfin of the Avon Sabre

In the 70s 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-5Es and 2 F-5Bs. 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-5s, 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.

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1/48 Monogram F-5E belonging to No 11 Sqn RMAF

Model  by Thomas Ng


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1/48 Revell/Monogram F-5E belonging to No 11 Sqn RMAF

By S.B Parameswaran


1/48 Esci F-5E converted To RF-5E belonging to No 11 Sqn  RMAF

Model  by Mazlan Yusof


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1/32 Hasegawa F-5E belonging to No 12 Sqn RMAF

By Raja Jamil Ariffin


Pictures taken from display at Unicorn Hobbies

Run and owned by Vernon Law 

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 stocks of A-4C and A-4L and refurbished by the Grumman Corporation at its St. Augustine plant. The majority of the Skyhawks served the RMAF until 1994 before they were replaced by the Bae Hawks.  6 of the Skyhawks that were converted as air refueling aircraft served until 1999 before being retired.    

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1/32 Hasegawa A-4 & T-A-4 PTM belonging to No 6  & 9 Sqn RMAF By S.B Parameswaran.  

1/48 H0bbycraft A-4 PTM belonging 9 Sqn RMAF by Thomas Ng

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. 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 29s 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-18 D aircraft that were assigned to No. 18 Squadron which was also based at Butterworth Airbase.  

The RMAF also purchased 18 Hawk 200 and 10 Hawk 100. These aircraft now equip No. 6 and No. 9 Squadron.

National Identification Markings  

National Insignia

Circa 1958-1982  

National Insignia

Circa 1982-Present  

National Insignia Circa 1986-Present

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 national insignias.

Currently, the RMAF uses both square and roundel national marking with of low viz
and hi viz color variation on different types of aircraft. This non-standard
marking is part of the reason why modeling RMAF hardware is quite a challenge. 

Mazlan, S.B,Thomas & K T 

Happy Birthday Malaysia

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Photos and text by Mazlan Yusof, S.B Parameswaran,Thomas Ng & K T Goh

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