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Brunei
Thursday, September 29, 2022
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Brunei
Thursday, September 29, 2022
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    Serving the nation from above

    The Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAirF) celebrating its 55th anniversary, has remained steadfast as a significant supporting element in the Royal Brunei Armed Forces’ (RBAF) vision and mission to defend the national airspace sovereignty and territorial integrity, while upholding the national philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) and staying true to the core values of RBAF.

    Its growth from a humble beginning is evident with the progressive expansion of its units and advancement of assets.

    As the RBAirF looks back to its formative years, its air capabilities have grown significantly and propelled the RBAirF to expand from what was once a small helicopter platoon to the organisation it is today. Since the year 2000, with operational demands on the rise, RBAirF has continuously provided support nationally, and has also been involved in numerous operations regionally.

    In order to meet RBAF operational requirements, the RBAirF provides support to both the maritime and land domains. Close air support (CAS) by delivering air strikes to the enemy on the ground was made possible by utilising Bolkow 105 helicopters which were fitted with SURA 81mm rockets, which was then replaced by the FZ rocket system. Meanwhile, the procurement of the CN235-110M as a strategic airlift capability also provided the RBAF with the ability to conduct maritime surveillance operations. The ability to perform these operations contribute to a better maritime awareness in territorial waters and the economic exclusive zone (EEZ).

    DEFENDING THE AIRSPACE

    The RBAirF also plays an important role in the defence of national airspace. It started with the introduction of Rapier Short Range Air Defence (SHORAD) System which provided wide area defence of key national infrastructures. This was further strengthened with the acquisition of Mistral Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) system providing the RBAirF with a layered air defence capability.

    Sikorsky Black Hawk S-70i helicopter and crew in action. PHOTOS: RBAIRF
    CASA CN235 during a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission

    REGIONAL RESPONSE

    Regionally, the RBAirF has also contributed to missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), search and rescue (SAR) and medical evacuation. The most notable HADR mission carried out was Operation Badai Berlalu in Aceh after the devastating Tsunami in 2004. The RBAirF deployed its CN235-110M and Black Hawk S-70A along with 42 personnel to provide assistance in the form of distributing essential aid and rendering medical support.

    In the same year, the Black Hawk S-70A was again put into action with the Bell 212 to support the SAR effort in locating a missing helicopter, crashed in the dense jungle of Bario district in the neighbouring Malaysian state of Sarawak.

    Meanwhile, the RBAirF’s CN235-110M has been called upon to carry out aeromedical evacuation missions. The first mission was in 2006 when a Bruneian involved in a road traffic accident in Sandakan, Sabah was transported back to Brunei to receive intensive medical care. A similar mission on a larger scale was carried out in 2011 when multiple flights were made to transport 10 patients involved in a bus crash in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

    In 2013, another HADR operation was carried out in Tacloban, in the Philippines. The CN235-110M was deployed to send out a relief team and basic essential items to the affected area which suffered the aftermath of the Tropical Storm Haiyan.

    Apart from regional operations, RBAirF’s contribution in supporting national tasks has been continuous since its inception. The flying doctor service to rural areas, aerial firefighting, and air lift support to other government agencies are routine tasks that are still part and parcel of its daily air operations.

    With RBAF’s continuous pursuit in developing and modernising its capabilities, the introduction of Sikorsky Black Hawk updated version of S-70i was one of RBAirF’s major revamps in its aircraft platforms. The first of 12 Black Hawk S-70i helicopters was unveiled during the Brunei International Defence Exhibition (BRIDEX) 2013 by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, providing increased capacity for more efficient execution of missions. These medium-lift helicopters have provided the added durability and mobility the RBAF requires in carrying out its roles and responsibilities. The Black Hawk S-70i platform is versatile in its ability to carry out tasks; from tactical airlift of troops and flying doctor service, to national security missions such as border surveillance and counter terrorism. The Black Hawk S-70i also demonstrates its prowess in supporting roles for national requirements which include fire-fighting and medical evacuation.

    ENHANCED SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

    The new Boeing Insitu Integrator Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) was introduced to RBAirF’s repertoire and officially unveiled during the RBAF Diamond Jubilee celebration on May 31 by His Majesty. It marked a significant milestone in RBAirF’s capabilities expansion. With the UAS ability for extensive endurance and swift employability; the RBAirF will be able to provide improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability and enhanced situational awareness.

    As a result, this will allow RBAF to respond more effectively and rapidly to support national security requirements.

    The RBAirF will continue to be forward-looking in fulfilling its mandated roles and responsibilities, while expanding its force structure in parallel with the diverse global security and environmental threats.

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