The air unit of the Royal Malaysian Police is tasked with the battle to combat smuggling and piracy as well as illegal immigration and fishing – all in addition to law enforcement. A report by Suresh Abraham.
THE AIR UNIT of the Royal Malaysian Police (Unit Udara Polis — UUP) was created in 1978 to combat smuggling, illegal immigration, piracy, and illegal fishing which includes the practice of ‘fish bombing’.
Initially, it was mainly concerned with patrolling the 12nm (22km) stretch of Malaysian Territorial Waters. It has since expanded its activities and its primary mission now takes in aerial patrol and surveillance. Other roles see the unit assisting with law enforcement in cities and rural areas as well as coastal waters. It also supports ground and marine police units, as well as government agencies (by covert or overt means) and provides help in the event of a natural disaster. Secondary tasking includes SAR and assisting the Department of the Environment with pollution control. In addition, it also provides transportation for VIPs and senior police officers on official duties.
The unit began flying operations in 1979 using four single-engined Cessna U206 aircraft. Its success in drastically reducing illegal activities led to the purchase of an additional seven Pilatus PC-6 B2-H4 Turbo Porter aircraft in 1986. They were used to complement the Cessnas on coastal surveillance operations in the Malaysian Peninsular as well as in Sabah and Sarawak.
In 1990, the unit took delivery of its first rotary wing equipment, comprising a pair of twin-engined Aerospatiale AS 355 F2 Ecureuils and one single-engined Bell 206L-3. They are used mainly over cities and populated areas, regulating traffic and monitoring/controlling pollution in rural and urban areas. In 1993, their operations were extended to include anti-crime patrols in residential areas.
To comply with recent safety regulations only the Ecureuils are used over densely-populated areas. They are equipped with airborne television, a 30 million candle power Nightsun searchlight and FUR. The Bell is usually assigned to duties along the interstate highways.
The UUP operations centre is situated at Subang International Airport in Kuala Lumpur. All the helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are based there, with the exception of two PC-6s which are kept at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, for operations in that locality and Sarawak. However, the helicopters moved to their new city base at Sungai Besi late last year.
Training and aircrew selection
The first batch of five helicopter pilots were trained in the United States, where they also took advantage of brief stints with local law and drug enforcement units in Florida and Los Angeles. The original group of 12 fixed wing pilots were initially trained at the Royal Selangor Flying Club at Sungai Besi. Training was later undertaken at the Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca and in the Philippines. With the establishment of its own training facilities in Ipoh, all initial training is now carried out locally.
Potential candidates are recruited from officers within the ranks. The fixed wing pilots undergo basic and operational training on the Cessna 206 for about 11 months and then work towards their Commercial Pilots Licence at the Malaysian Flying Academy. Rotary wing candidates are sent to Australia for five months where they also train for night flying.
Maintenance for all the fixed wing aircraft is carried out at the base in Subang, whilst helicopter maintenance is contracted to Malaysian Helicopter Services.
Expansion and future plans
In line with its fleet expansion, the Air Unit has ordered six US-built eight-seater Cessna Caravan I aircraft to replace the three Cessnas and two PC-6s lost in accidents. It also plans to purchase four more light twin-engined helicopters and up to six twin-engined fixed wing aircraft, which will eventually replace all the single-engined aircraft.
As the country rapidly develops, these plans will ensure that the UUP is poised to play an even greater role in effective law enforcement.
Acknowledgement: The author wishes to thank the Commander of the Police Air Unit, Assistant Commissioner of Police ACP Ali Hanafiah Hashim.