Note: The following is a repository of a post published in malfly.blogspot.com on August 15, 2011 with title similar as the above.
As part of the once full scale but ambitious force modernasation plan of PERISTA in 1980’s, an independent army aviation unit was set to be established in order to support ground forces, then still fighting the communist terrorist, by providing air mobility and air to ground fire power. A pool of army officers were sent to various helicopter training establishment such as the RMAF’s Flying Training Center at Kluang, the S.E.A Helicopter’s flying school at Sungei Besi AFB, Australia’s OakeyArmy Aviation Center and Fort Rucker USA. As the war on the ground between security forces and communist terrorist has become intensifies in the 1980’s, the Army was also seriously considering the acquisition of Cobra attack helicopters based on experience gained from RMAF Allouette gunship operations.
However, it was in 1996 that the army finally what it had wished for. The Malaysian Army Aviation, Pasukan Udara Tentera Darat (PUTD) was formed at Kluang AFB with 10 Alloutte Mk.III light utility helicopters being donated by the RMAF. Initially, until declared operational in 1998, the helicopters of 881st Squadron were flown by a mix of army and air force pilots.
Although the Alloutte was a reliable and effective aerial support helicopter, as time passed by, it seems that the 1960’s vintage does not fit with the shift in the Malaysian Army’s current military thinking and doctrines of conventional warfare anymore. As means to support combined arms and network centric battlefield, it is thought that aerial fire support, light observation and air mobility shall be the main creed of the regiment.
Therefore, in the year of 2000, the Government of Malaysia has agreed to obtain 11 Eurocopter AS-555 Fennec from France and 10 Mil Mi-171 Hip from Russia as part of the unit’s modernasation plan. A new squadron dedicated for the Hips will be established and shall be allocated at Terendak aerodrome, which will be upgraded into another full fledge army aviation base. Co-located at the aerodrome shall be the proposed Army Aviation Center.It was planned that initially the Hips will be manned by RMAF pilots and aircrews as short terms solution to Nuri replacement.
As fate would decide however, these plan never being materialized. The army top brass considers the Fennec as too light while it is thought that the Hip program was redundant to the RMAF Nuri replacement program, which has been seen as the main priority. Furthermore, the army has been reluctant to allocate certain amount of its already limited budget for a medium lift helicopter program. In order to save cost, air mobility shall continue to be part of the RMAF’s responsibilities.
Sometime in 2006, CTRM together with Eurocopter have jointly offered around 8 ex-Bundswehr Heer (German Army Aviation) MBo-105CB5 to the regiment as Light Battlefield Helicopter and attack helicopter trainer. There has been some agreement in principal on such acquisition but it never made through more than that.
Alas, the Army has to settle with 11 A-109LOHs obtained from Italy. These Agustas have been attached to the 881st Squadron at Kluang army aviation base replacing the Alloutte Mk III. The helicopters’ main role is to provide light transport and observation support to the Rocket Artillery Brigade, the GGK as well as the Mechanise Brigade. Although being wired up to facilitate rocket and machinegun pods, there is no confirmation whether there has been clear acquisition of any weapon system.
Prospective army aviation pilots were sent to Integrated Aviation Academy at Ipoh Airport to undergo military helicopter pilot training first on the Cirrus ab-initio aircraft and finally on-board the Eurocopter EC-120B. The army has been sending pools of pilots to the academy since 2005, among notable one was HRH Sultan of Johor’s second son, HH Kapten Tengku Idris, currently one of the regiment’s operational Agusta pilots.
At certain stages, the RMAF was keen to delegate its attack helicopter procurement plan to the Army. These will be the Rooivalk attack helicopter developed by the South African’s Denel. Efforts to sell the helicopter has been going on since 1997. In fact, there has been plan to assemble knock down airframes at Malaysia’s AIROD facility here in Subang. The interest for Rooivalk seems to waned down. During last year’s Army Day celebration, the previous Army Chief has expressed his wishes to equipped the regiment’s attack squadron with the Eurocopter Tiger as force multiplier to support the newly established tank brigade should allocations for such procurement has been finalized by the Government.
Meanwhile, at the same time, the RMAF is also willing to relegate some of its Nuri to the army once their initial batch of new EC-725 CSAR helicopters have been delivered starting from early 2012. In anticipation of possible medium lift helicopter squadron, some of the army’s pilots are currently being attached to RMAF’s No.3 Skn at Butterworth flying the veteran Nuris.
Looking into the future, PUTD may follow suit with initial plan of acquiring a mix of vintage Nuris and Russian-made Hips as its main workhorse for medium lift roles. Equipped with weapon pylons, the Hips can also served as flying APC bringing heliborne troops into hot landing zone. Should this plan being considered, PUTD will join other ASEAN existing Hip operator such as Royal Thai Army Aviation and the Indonesian Army Aviation Corp (PENERBAD).
As for the attack helicopter, PUTD could initially acquire the Mi-35 attack helicopter from Russia in order to gain some experience and develop tctics with regard to attack helicopter operations. Open sources has also indicate the Malaysian interest in T-129 Scorpion Attack Helicopter currently being jointly developed by Turkish TAI and Agusta Westland. This however is still far ahead simply because it is still under prototype development.
Looking into future, PUTD now has an aviation regiment which consist of 881st Squadron flying the A-109LUH and a CSAR section whose troop mainly drawn from Infantry unit. The Army also has independent aviation unit that operate target drone and UAV. The Army’s GGK commando was seen operating CTRM SR-08 UAV while 165 Military Intelligence Battalion was also using the Aludra Mk 2 and Fulmar UAV. Another unit, the GAPU was also using Meggit Snipe and Banshee for target practice.