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RMAF Butterworth (Malay: TUDM Butterworth) 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 Penang, Malaysia. It is also currently home to the Headquarters Integrated Area Defence System (HQIADS), part of the Five Power Defence Arrangements for Malaysia and Singapore, which is commanded by an Australian Air Vice Marshal.
|Butterworth, Penang in Malaysia|
|Type||Military air force station|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Malaysian Air Force|
|Owner||Ministry of Defence|
|Operator||Royal Malaysian Air Force|
|Location||Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia|
|Time zone||MST (UTC+08:00)|
|Elevation AMSL||8 ft / 2 m|
The airfield was formerly known as RAF Station Butterworth, a Royal Air Force airfield of the Royal Air Force (RAF) between 1941 and 1957; and was subsequently known as RAAF Butterworth (IATA: BWH, ICAO: WMKB), an air force airfield of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) between 1957 and 1988.
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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 airfield 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 airfield 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 RAAF 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.
No. 75 Squadron RAAF arrived at Butterworth with the Mirage IIIOs on 18 May 1967, replacing 3 Squadron who returned to Australia to themselves re-equip with the Mirage. 3 Squadron returned in February 1969 - replacing 77 Squadron - with both squadrons also alternating responsibility for the detachment at RAF Tengah in Singapore. 75 Squadron remained at Butterworth until it was withdrawn to RAAF Darwin in October 1983, with 3 Squadron following to RAAF Williamtown in 1986. A number of former 3 Squadron aircraft and personnel remained at Butterworth and were formed as No. 79 Squadron RAAF, until they finally departed in May 1988.
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 Butterworth Air Base. The flying squadrons stationed here are:
- AIP Malaysia: WMKB - Butterworth at Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia
- "Research Note no. 26 2002-03". Australia Parliamentary Library. 18 March 2003. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Wilson, David. Seek and Strike: 75 Squadron RAAF 1942–2002. Maryborough, Australia: Banner, 2002. ISBN 1-875593-23-3 p. 180.
- Wroe, David (25 June 2018). "Australia to spend nearly $7 billion buying unmanned military planes from America". www.smh.com.au. the Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 June 2018.
- RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force. A Concise History. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.
- Radcliffe, Mathew (2017). Kampong Australia: The RAAF at Butterworth. Sydney, New South Wales: NewSouth Publishing. ISBN 9781742235141.
- Brawley, Sean; Radcliffe, Mathew (2017). "Losing the Blanket, Building a Fence: Australian Anxiety and the End of Military Colonialism in Malaysia". The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. 45 (6): 1026–1048. doi:10.1080/03086534.2017.1379669.