Circa 1975, after years, if not decades of putting up with flying “junk” from the obsoleted fleets of other countries’ airforces, TUDM decided it was time to upgrade and get up to speed, literally.
Bravo ! Give the men a Tiger ! And yes, 14 single-seat F5E Tiger II fighters and 2 two-seat versions were purchased from Northrop and added to the fleet. For the first time the airmen went supersonic, at Mach 1.6.
The salient features of this aircraft were the long sharp nose, and small wings. It is amazing that such ‘tiny’ wings could bear up to more than 11,000 kg maximum take-off weight.
I think they have been replaced by other modern jet fighters and fighter-bombers.
Interestingly, in Dec 2007, several of the J85-21 engines that powered these jets were stolen and sold in the Uruguayan black market.
That was “How It All Began”, when in 1967, RMAF received its first combat aircraft – putting real ‘tentera’ into TUDM.
The 20 machines were Canadair CL-41G Tutors – basic jet trainers that could double up as light ground attack fighter-bombers. TUDM called them ‘Tebuan’ (meaning ‘Wasp’). These remained in service until 1985. They probably stung the CPM out of existence.
I remember seeing some of them flying over my old kampong house in Butterworth – sometimes low enough to make out the two airmen seated side-by-side in the cockpit.
However, it was only in 2013 when I finally got to see a specimen really up close. That was during a visit to the Muzium TUDM in Sungai Besi. Oh, by the way, there is another exhibit at the Muzium Tentera Darat at Port Dickson.
Between 1966 and 1973, RMAF received 18 of these rugged short-haul transport planes. Made by DeHavilland Canada, the DHC-4A, was also better known as Caribou (which is a very large species of reindeer).
I remember seeing these rather ungainly-looking aircraft — note the huge tail fin — flying at low speed around the airbase in Butterworth, with the typical low-frequency droning from its two piston engines. They could carry up to 36 troops, or 3640kg of cargo, and land on grass strips.
These have been retired since September 2000, and replaced by Indonesian-made aircraft. But there are specimens on static display, one at the RMAF Museum in Sungei Besi (KL), and another one at the Army Museum in Port Dickson. I have visited both places in recent times.