Air Wing of the Armed Forces of Malta

Summary

The Air Wing of the Armed Forces of Malta (Maltese: L-Iskwadra tal-Ajru tal-FAM)[1] is the aerial component of the current Maltese military. The Air Wing has responsibility for the security of Maltese airspace, conducts maritime patrol and Search and Rescue duties, medical evacuation, VIP transport and provides military assistance to other government departments of Malta.[2]

Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing
L-Iskwadra tal-Ajru tal-FAM
Malta Air Wing emblem.svg
Malta Air Wing emblem
Active1973–Present
Country Malta
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size15 aircraft
Part ofArmed Forces of Malta
DecorationsMLT Medal for Service to the Republic BAR.svg
Commanders
Commanding OfficerLt Col James Thomas Grech
Insignia
RoundelRoundel of Malta.svg
Fin flashFin Flash of Malta.svg
Aircraft flown
PatrolBeechcraft Super King Air, AgustaWestland AW139, Agusta-Bell AB 212
ReconnaissanceAérospatiale Alouette III, Agusta-Bell AB 212
TrainerScottish Aviation Bulldog
TransportBritten-Norman Islander, Beechcraft Super King Air

The Air Wing of the Armed Forces is based at the AFM terminal at the Malta International Airport.

HistoryEdit

While Malta has a rather long tradition of military aviation within its territory, including the housing of Royal Air Force bases and squadrons during World War II, the nation had no official military aviation of its own until gaining independence in 1964 (and the building of an independent national military that followed).

The Air Wing was founded as an operational branch of the Armed Forces of Malta in the early 1970s. The Air Wing serves primarily as a support branch of the ground forces (as troops transport, security escort and fire support) and Maritime Squadron of the AFM (for maritime surveillance and border control mission) and has so far never operated combat aircraft. The Air Wing's current Commanding Officer is Lt. Col James Thomas Grech.[2]

On 13 December 2013, the Air Wing of the AFM was awarded the 'Midalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika' (MQR) in recognition of its distinguished service toward safety at sea, humanitarian assistance to people in distress and to the welfare of Maltese people.[2][3]

In a bilateral agreement with Italy, the Italian Air Force provided two AB 212 helicopters to perform SAR duties with Maltese rescuers on board.[4] This was operated under the name of Italian Military in Malta which was initially intended to help the Maltese Government establish and maintain a modern military force as well operate a SAR detachment. This lasted more than 40 years with the Italian AB212's and their predecessors the AB 204 logging over 15,000 flight hours in both training and SAR missions whilst saving over 270 people. By 2015 the intended role of this mission had been fulfilled with the Maltese Air Wing able to operate a modern SAR force and due to budget cuts the mission started to wind down until eventually the final chapter of service was closed in 2016 with the Italian AB212's going home.[5]

StructureEdit

The main divisions of the Air Wing are :

  • The Air Wing Headquarters – Tasked with command, control, and coordination of the air wing's divisions and sub-units, in order to ensure unit readiness for responding to various operational requirements, both locally and overseas.
  • The Headquarters Squadron – Provides logistical and service support to the other sub-units of the AFM Air Wing. It is responsible for transport management, logistics procurement, and human resources administration required for the air wing's daily duties and commitments. The Integrated Logistics Division within the Headquarters Squadron is tasked with ensuring of the stocking up of all aircraft parts and aircraft maintenance documentation.
  • The Operations Squadron – The main operations element of the AFM's Air Wing, in charge of utilizing the aircraft inventory. It consists of three subdivisions :
    • The Fixed Wing Flight – In charge of coastal and offshore patrolling, sighting and reporting of irregular migration at sea and interdiction, fisheries patrols, and several other varied flight duties.
    • The Rotary Wing Flight – Handles all helicopter operations, ranging from offshore casualty evacuation and rescue to air ambulance as well as patient transfer between the Islands' two main hospitals. It also provides assistance to other government entities as required.
    • The Rescue Section – A small unit of soldiers and rescue personnel specially trained for rescue operations on land and at sea. Each rescue-swimmer is qualified in first aid, life saving, and other specialist skills. Membership in the unit requires a high level of physical fitness.
  • The Support Squadron – By far the largest of the Air Wing's divisions, the Support Squadron is in charge of the maintenance of the aircraft inventory. The ground crew personnel are also responsible for aircraft and equipment handling on the ground, emergency fire fighting, aircraft marshalling, aircraft towing, aircraft refuelling, and other essential line duties.[6]

AircraftEdit

Below is a list of aircraft operated by the Armed Forces of Malta Air Wing. The Air Wing operates 4 fixed-wing aircraft and 6 helicopters. Since its founding, the Air Wing has never operated jet-powered or combat aircraft.

 
An AFM AW139 over Malta International
 
A Maltese King Air 200 on display at the Farnborough Air Show
 
An Agusta-Bell 47G-2 over Malta Int'l airport

Current inventoryEdit

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Maritime Patrol
BN-2 Islander United Kingdom maritime patrol BN-2B/T[7] 1[8]
Super King Air United States maritime patrol B200 3[8] fitted with a maritime surveillance radar[9]
Helicopters
Alouette III France SAR / utility SA316B 3[8] left behind by LARAF in 1980[10][11]
AgustaWestland AW139 Italy SAR / maritime patrol 3[8]
UAV
IAI Heron Israel surveillance 1[12]

In a bilateral agreement with Italy, the Italian Air Force provides two AB 212 helicopters to performs SAR duty with Maltese rescuers on board.[4]

RetiredEdit

Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Maritime Patrol
BAe Bulldog United Kingdom training / patrol Model 121 5[13] removed from service[14]
CASA C-212 Spain SAR / maritime patrol 1[15] 3-month lease from CAE Aviation of Luxemburg
Surveillance
Cessna 0-1 United States observation 0-1E 5[16] retired from service
Helicopters
Agusta-Bell 47 Italy maritime patrol 47G2/G 3/1[16] Three G2's were former West German Army aircraft
Agusta-Bell 206 Italy SAR / utility Agusta-206A 1[16]
MD 500 Italy SAR / utility NH-500M 2[16] licensed built Hughes 500 by Breda Nardi

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Rapport Annwali tad-Dipartiment tal-Gvern – 2016 Ministeru għall-Intern u s-Sigurtà Nazzjonali, pg 41, 44" (PDF). mfin.gov.mt. Ministry of the Home Affairs and National Security. 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Air Wing". afm.gov.mt. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Aġġornat: Persuni minn sfond differenti onorati f'Jum ir-Repubblika" (in Maltese). inewsmalta.com. 13 December 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  4. ^ a b "AGUSTA BELL 212". afm.gov.mt. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  5. ^ "Italian Military Mission in Malta to wind down". Archived from the original on 16 December 2015. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  6. ^ "Official AFM website – Overview of the AFM Air Wing's operational structure, divisions and subdivisions". Archived from the original on 25 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  7. ^ "BRITTEN NORMAN BN-2B ISLANDER". afm.gov.mt. Archived from the original on 25 March 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d "World Air Forces 2022". Flightglobal. 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  9. ^ "New AFM patrol aircraft rolled out". timesofmalta.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  10. ^ "AFM Aerospatiale SA.316B Alouette III". aeroflight.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  11. ^ Zerafa, Mark. "Malta's Alouettes". Archived from the original on 28 April 2017. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  12. ^ Gruber, Jan (10 May 2021). "Malta: Air forces deploy first drone". Aviation Direct. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  13. ^ "Details of Bulldog Service in Maltese Armed Forces". aeroflight.co.uk. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  14. ^ "SA Bulldog".
  15. ^ "AFM gets maritime patrol aircraft". timesofmalta.com. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  16. ^ a b c d "World Air Forces 1994 pg. 48". Flightglobal Insight. 1994. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.

External linksEdit

  • Overview of the AFM Air Wing at the official AFM website
  • Overview of AFM AW aircraft at the official AFM website