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"Butterworth Airfield", "RAF Butterworth" & "RAAF Station Butterworth/RAAF Butterworth" redirect here.
RMAF Butterworth
TUDM Butterworth
Airport type Military
Owner Ministry of Defence (Malaysia)
Operator Royal Malaysian Air Force
Location Butterworth, Penang, Malaysia
Elevation AMSL 8 ft / 2.4 m
Coordinates 05°27′58″N 100°23′28″E / 5.46611°N 100.39111°E / 5.46611; 100.39111
Direction Length Surface
m ft
18/36 2,438 7,999 Asphalt
Sources: AIP Malaysia[1] and DAFIF[2][3]

RMAF Butterworth (Malay language: TUDM Butterworth, formerly the RAF Butterworth & RAAF Butterworth) (IATA: BWH, ICAO: WMKB) is an Air Force Station of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) situated near the town of Butterworth in the state of Penang, directly opposite the island itself. It is currently the headquarters of the Five Power Defence Arrangements Integrated Area Defence System for Malaysia and Singapore, which is commanded by an Australian Air Vice Marshal.


RAF Butterworth

File:RAF Butterworth Crest.jpg

RAF Butterworth crest

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 some damage as a direct result of aerial bombing from Mitsubishi G3M and Mitsubishi G4M bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service based in Saigon, South Vietnam. Brewster Buffalos from the airbase 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 Dec 1941 and the control of the airbase was to remain in the hands of IJA until the end of hostilities in September 1945. Whereupon 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 resuming air operations 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.

RAAF Butterworth

No. 45 Squadron RAF de Havilland Venoms at RAF Butterworth, 1957 during the Malayan Emergency

An Avro Vulcan in 1965.

In 1957, the RAF closed the station and it was transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force and it was promptly renamed as 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 incursions by MiG-21 fighter jets of the Indonesian Air Force flying towards Malaysian airspace but the Indonesian aircraft always turned back before crossing the international boundary, thereby averting possible escalation.[4]

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's, Hercules and Andover transports and RAF Victor tankers when transiting fighter aircraft such as Lightnings through to Singapore.

Another notable unit was the No. 75 Squadron RAAF operating the Mirage IIIOs, it was based at the airfield from 18 May 1967 to 10 August 1983, with a detachment at RAF Tengah in Singapore.[5]

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. 324 Combat Support 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.

RMAF Butterworth

On 30 June 1988, the airfield was handed over by RAAF to the Royal Malaysian Air Force and was renamed as RMAF Station Butterworth. The flying squadrons stationed here are:

See also


  1. AIP Malaysia: WMKB - Butterworth at Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia
  2. Airport information for WMKB at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.Source: DAFIF.
  3. Airport information for BWH at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective Oct. 2006).
  4. "Research Note no. 26 2002-03". Australia Parliamentary Library. 18 March 2003. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  5. Wilson 2002, p. 180.
  • RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force. A Concise History. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra.
  • Wilson, David. Seek and Strike: 75 Squadron RAAF 1942–2002. Maryborough, Australia: Banner, 2002. ISBN 1-875593-23-3.

External links

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