The Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) inaugurated its third helicopter squadron, 503 Squadron, along with RMN Kota Kinabalu Air Station, on 1 July. The latter squadron formally stood up on 4 March 2021. This air station, which forms part of the RMN Kota Kinabalu Naval Base will host both 503 Squadron and 601 UAS Squadron, which operates 12 ScanEagle UAVs donated by the US in 2020-21. Shepard Media reported that 503 Squadron will operate three Leonardo AW139 maritime operations helicopters, ordered in 2020. Two were received in April and are now operational, while a third will be delivered in September.
The acquisition of three AW139 helicopters by the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) at the Eastern Fleet Command Headquarters here will further enhance operational capabilities in maintaining the security and sovereignty of the country’s waters. Two of which were received today and another expected in September – would enable enforcement patrols to be carried out together with existing assets to strengthen airspace surveillance in Sabah and Sarawak waters. The purchase of the AW139 helicopters was made in line with the wishes of the end-user, namely the RMN, which is in dire need of Maritime Operations Helicopters (HOM). Squadron 503 will be under the command of Kota Kinabalu Naval Air Station (SUKK).
Squadron 503 was set up to increase the operational efficiency of HOM, apart from performing several other key tasks, including monitoring the Malaysian maritime zone, special forces operations as well as air and crew training. The new squadron would also perform secondary duties such as assisting in search and rescue (SAR) operations, medical evacuations, casualties evacuations, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. For a start, he said, a total of 25 officers and 92 personnel of various ranks would operate the new squadron and be assigned to four divisions, namely aviation safety, operations and training, administration and logistics, and aerospace engineering.
The AgustaWestland AW139 is a 15-seat medium-sized twin-engined helicopter developed and built by AgustaWestland (now part of Leonardo). It is marketed at several different roles, including VIP/corporate transport, offshore transport, fire fighting, law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical service, disaster relief, and maritime patrol. On 24 September 2018, the United States Air Force announced that the MH-139 (an AW139 variant) had won a competition to replace the Air Force’s Vietnam-era UH-1Ns. The Air Force is to buy up to 84 MH-139s, with deliveries to start in fiscal year 2021. The Air Force received the first MH-139A Grey Wolf at Eglin Air Force Base on 19 December 2019.