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The Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) ( ) was formed on 2 June 1958 as the Royal Malayan Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Persekutuan). However, its roots could be traced to the Malayan Auxiliary AF formations of the Britishmarker Royal Air Force in then colonial Malaya. Today, the Royal Malaysian Air Force operates a unique mix of modern US, European and Russian made aircraft.

Early years

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 RMAF, the Simpang Airport, which was established on 1 June 1941, located in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpurmarker which was formerly part of Selangor.

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 Malayan 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 the first combat aircraft with the delivery of 20 Canadair CL41G Tebuan (an armed version of the Canadair Tutor trainer). TUDM also received the Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopters, used in the liaison role.

With the formation of Malaysian Federation on September 16, 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 the Sikorsky S-61A-4 helicopters in the late sixties and early seventies and 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 Butterworthmarker Air Base.

After the withdrawal of British military forces from Malaysia and Singapore at the end of 1971, a five-nation agreement between Malaysiamarker, Singaporemarker, New Zealandmarker, Australia, and the United Kingdommarker was concluded to ensure defense against external aggression. The Royal Australian Air Force maintained a Mirage IIIO squadron at the Butterworth Air Base as part of its commitment to the Five Power Defence Agreement. This squadron has been withdrawn since 1983 though occasional deployments of RAAF aircraft continue.


Northrop RF-5E Tigereye used for tactical reconnaissance

With the withdrawal of the British military forces, TUDM underwent gradual modernisation in the 1970s and through the 1990s. The CA27 Sabre were replaced by 16 Northrop F-5E Tigers. A reconnaissance capability was acquired with the purchase of 2 RF-5E Tigereye aircraft. TUDM also purchased 88 Ex US Navy McDonnell Douglas A-4C Skyhawks and Grumman Bethpage refurbished 40 of the airframes 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, limitation imposed by the United States on "new technology" to the region such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM fire and forget air to air missiles has made TUDM consider purchases from Russiamarker and other non-traditional sources.

The 90's saw the arrival first with the BAE Hawk Mk108/208 which replaced the T/A-4PTM's followed by the MiG-29N/NUB in 1995 to take on the air superiority role, and finally the delivery of the F/A-18D Hornet in 1997 to provide the all weather interdictor capability. In 2003 a contract was signed for eighteen Su-30MKM for delivery in 2007 to fulfill a requirement for an initial order batch of multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA). A requirement for a further eighteen MRCAs remains unfulfilled. TUDM is also looking for an AWACS aircraft, though 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 aircraft will be delivered in 2016. In late 2006 the Government signed a contract to purchase 8 Aermacchi MB-339CM to add to the 8 older MB-339AMs currently in service.


  • The RMAF has been reported to be converting some of its CN-235-220M transports into maritime patrol aircraft (MPA).
  • The then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak clarify to the public that the MiG-29s will continue in service until the year of 2010.
  • The first 2 Su-30MKMs had been handed over to Malaysia on 23 May 2007 in Irkutsk.
  • a RMAF Nuri (Sikorsky S-61A-4) helicopter crashed and killed all 6 on board RMAF officers. The tragic incident had successfully won attention from the Malaysian Government. The then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak assure to public that RMAF will replace the Nuris in a short time.
  • Three Su-30MKM arrived earlier in August took part in the 50th Malaysian Independence parade held on 31 August 2007.
  • The then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak unveil that the Nuri (Sikorsky S-61A-4) helicopter will phase out by 2012. Nuri Helicopters commissioned in RMAF since 1968, until then, it had accumulated 15 accidents, killed 89 crew, including 70 RMAF personnel. The type will be replaced by the Eurocopter EC725 Cougar.
  • Deputy RMAF Chief Lt Gen Datuk Bashir Abu Bakar told media news after opening of the Heli-Asia 2007, that tender assessment for the replacement of the Sikorsky S-61A-4 will result in early 2008, later also added that there will be 6 units for the first batch.


  • Air force chief Jeneral Tan Sri Azizan Ariffin said that the air force will replace their MiG-29 with better aircraft that have high agility and the capability to attack and overcome the enemy forces.

Ranks of The Royal Malaysian Air Force

See Also Supreme Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces

Up until the late 1970s, the Royal Malaysian Air Force used the same officer ranking system as the Royal Air Force. These ranks were replaced by army-style ranks and the list of ranks which are currently used is shown below from the highest rank to the lowest rank.

Flag Officer
Rank General Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier General
Malay Jeneral Leftenan Jeneral Mejar Jeneral Brigadier Jeneral

Commissioned Officer
Rank Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Lieutenant Sub Lieutenant Cadet
Malay Kolonel Leftenan Kolonel Mejar Kapten Leftenan Leftenan Muda Kadet

Royal Malaysian Air Force

Insignia Description
Brigadier General
(Brigedier Jeneral)
Typically serves as Deputy Commander to the Commanding General of a division and assists in overseeing the planning and coordination of a mission. In an infantry brigade not attached to a division, a Brigadier General serves as the unit's commander, while a Colonel serves as deputy commander.
Major General
(Mejar Jeneral)
Typically commands division-sized units (10,000 to 16,000 soldiers).
Lieutenant General
(Leftenan Jeneral)
Typically commands corps-sized units (20,000 to 45,000 soldiers).
Commands all operations that fall within his geographical area. The Chief of Air Force and the Commandant of the Air Force are four-star Generals.
Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force
(Marshal Udara)
This rank is only used by the Malaysian King as a special rank.

Commanders of the RMAF

Chief of Air Force

General Dato' Rodzali bin Daud RMAF

Deputy Chief of Air Force

Lieutenant General Dato' Haji Shahron bin Ibrahim RMAF


Four TUDM F/A-18 aircraft perform aerial maneuvers for exhibition crowds.

CASA 235 serial number M44-03 of the Royal Malaysian Air Force at 2006 Royal International Air Tattoo, Fairford, England.


  • 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 S-61A4A Nuri Kuala Lumpur AFB
  • 11 Squadron Su-30MKM Flanker Gong Kedak AFB
  • 12 Squadron Northrop F-5E, F-5F, RF-5E Butterworth AFB
  • 15 Squadron BAE Hawk 108/Hawk 209, 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
  • 21 Squadron CN-235-200M Subang AFB
Total Aircraft In Service
226 (36 orders)

  • 2nd Division
    • 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


Airbases include:

Special Force

The elite arm of the RMAF is known as PASKAU (Malay acronym for Pasukan Khas Udara, loosely means Special Air Unit). In the peacetime, the unit is tasked with responding to aircraft hijacking incidents as well as protecting Malaysia's numerous offshore RMAF airbase and civil airports. Its wartime roles include ground designation, sabotaging of enemy air assets and equipments and the defense of RMAF aircraft and bases. This unit is also deployed to counter-terrorism duties and also urban CQB.


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