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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tragedy 26 April 1976...Aerial Bombing

10 days before the tragedy...on 16 April 1976, for the first time in the history of the RMAF, both the F5Es (top pic) and CL-41G 'Tebuans' (bottom pic) aircraft were deployed to bomb the suspected communist terrorists' camps along the border of Malaysia/Thailand near Gubir. The bombing continued the next day. And of course...who else if not the 'old but faithful' indispensable Nuri helicopters to insert the troops in the hostile areas. Even escorted by Alouette gunships, Nuri were still CTs' main target. They were successful in bringing down one Nuri on that tragic day...26 April 1976.

Well...now you have the opportunity the read the experiences of Col Zakaria Salleh TUDM (B) who participated in the bombing missions with his 'Tebuan'. With his kind permission, I publish his article.

Once upon a time....

 I started learning how to fly on Bulldog aircraft. But it was not until I was sent to RMAF Kuantan that I began to appreciate much about air force type of flying. At No. 9 and 6 Squadrons I was taught not only to fly but to use the aircraft as a weapon platform. This aircraft was a tiny Tebuan CL-41G — a Canadian trainer, but also used as a 'day fighter ground attack' by the RMAF. Here I underwent both basic jet and tactical flying. Tactical conversion itself was an exciting experience especially navigation, preplanned strike and air to ground sorties using rockets, practice bombs and mini-guns.

Just after I had finished my tactical conversion, on April 16, 1976, No. 6 Squadron had the task of flying in the Ops Kota Gubir operation. The Malaysian Army had identified a few Communist Terrorist (CT) camps at the Malaysia/Thai border near Gubir in Kedah. Army battalions surrounded the area while the RMAF was called to conduct air strikes. This was one of the biggest operations that RMAF had been involved in, and I was excited about it because it was my first operational experience.

The CT had been causing problems to our country since the end of the Japanese occupation. Malaysia was to be turned into a Communist country. Our population was intimidated. Many of our ground troops were killed by their booby traps. This operation was conducted in order to harass them from continuing their menace.

The RMAF was given this important task. We were to strike the CT camps along the Malaysia/Thai border near Gubir, Kedah with air to ground weaponry. The army had surrounded the area. And after the air strike they were to capture those camps. Half of our Tebuan CL-41G 'day fighter ground attack' aircraft were equipped with mini-guns and rockets, while another half of the fleet was with 500 lb bombs.

On the morning of April 16, 1976, we went airborne for the targets. An Allouette was also flown as the Forward Air Controller (FAC) to direct the strike aircraft to the targets. It used smoke grenades to mark targets and any correction was to be made by radio. Other aircraft were also involved. The F-5s were assigned to strike, while the Nuri Helicopters were to transport ground troops to forward locations. All of these movements were planned with precise timings. The weather was fine with few clouds hanging over the target areas, however it was not too difficult for small aircraft like the Tebuan to accomplish the mission. The operation was conducted smoothly throughout the day. I felt just like we were at war -- truly, we were at war with the CTs.

After the first wave, we realised that our bombs and ammunition were no match for the CT's hideouts. Some of our rockets and bombs probably hit the targets but the fire power was relatively small to blast the thick jungle. On the other hand, while the target could be identified and marked by smoke-grenades from an Allouette aircraft, it was not easy to spot it from the air. The jungle was thick and it was impossible to see what was underneath. Thus we depended solely on FAC aircraft to guide us to the targets. More sorties were needed to give better result. We flew wave after wave rocketing, bombing and firing our mini-guns on the camps until the end of day-light.

The next day reports arrived. There were mixed feelings on the result of our bombings. CT camps were hit but unfortunately the occupants escaped death and fled across the border. According to the report there might have been some injuries as indicated by blood stains found in the area.

The operation was exiting. At that time, I felt we needed more pilots and better aircraft to do the job. All aircrew and ground crew worked hard. I still remember when our aircraft landed and we had to remain strapped in the cockpits while ground crew refueled and replenished the ammunition. Time was running short. We had to bombard the CTs before they slipped away. Once the job was completed, the army would move in.

Meanwhile helicopters were sent over the target area to assess the situation and send more ground-troops. Few of the helicopters were shot. There were many bullet holes around its body. As for the Tebuans, we were unsure whether we were fired or not. It might have been because our aircraft was small or because of our faster airspeed that we escaped.

The bombing continued on the April 17, 1976. We had to make sure at least more than half of the targets were destroyed. Ground-troops were to be lifted-in once the harassment was completed. In the midst of the operation one of our Nuri helicopters was shot down. It was a tragedy. All crew and soldiers in the helicopter perished. This was the darkest day of the RMAF.

The result of the operation was encouraging. The army moved into CT camps. They had captured a few of the biggest camps. All of the CTs fled across the border with injuries leaving a few dead comrades behind. The operation was successful but the tragic helicopter crash has left a black mark in the RMAF history of air operation against the CTs.

I flew many more operational missions while in Tebuan Squadron and later with the F-5. We strafed and bombed them. We continued to harass them. Many more missions were as exciting, but my operational mission at Gubir Ops is the one I remember most because it was my 'first experience'. In this operation also I lost a few friends and a brother in-law who was a helicopter pilot. Al-fatihah. I think they would be very happy if they knew that the battle against the CTs is now over. We won.

His brother-in-law was my squad-mate, the late Captain (U) Mustapha Kamal.

9 comments:

Kamal Sanusi said...

Salam Tuan

I just wonder do our current fighter pilots have the same expertise as what those pilots at your time had, real aerial bombing.

Practicing dropping the bomb at some islands near Pulau Bidan without any pressure being hit by enemy and real war situation would only make them less competent.

This couple with "playing" war games in air-cond hotel ballroom like Exercise Angsa can be read as wasting tax-payer monies.

Is there anyway to boost-up morale of our military other than playing golf especially the officers and sport time for LLP?

Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman said...

Dear Kamal,

Frankly, I can't answer your questions. I suppose members of the MAF are a happy lot nowadays because...less work..more pay & golfing! Unlike during my time, our lives (Nuri aircrew) were at the muzzles of terrorists' weapons.

Our fighters should excell at aerobatic displays.

Kol Z said...

Setiap kali saya mengenangkan peristiwa tragedi ini, rasa sebak didada dan air mata berderai turun.
Semoga sahabat-sahabatku perwira negara yang terkorban dalam perjuangan menentang kominis dicucuri rahmat Allah hendaknya...Amin.

Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman said...

Kol Z,

Betul tu. Itu sebabnya saya 'struggle' agar wira-wira tersebut tidak dilupai. Saya sungguh kecewa dengan TUDM yang diam sepi-sesepinya. Mengapalah agaknya mereka enggan mengiktiraf wira mereka sendiri!!

Anonymous said...

Tuan,
harap tuan dapat jadikan semua coretan dlm blog ini sbg satu buku.
Saya sangat setuju dgn perkara2 yg di utarakan.Ia boleh di jadikan sbg
rujukan dan renungan buat generasi
skg dan yg akan dtg.

Salam dari Bumi Kenyalang.

Apai Sibu

Capt's Longhouse said...

guys,

,,,most of you don't realise how difficult for us aircrew, to send our friends/buddies in and at times bringing back their bodies in our choppers !.
,,,"SEBAK" is the word here, i still get a lump in my neck everytime i think of it !. Sad memories indeed of all my fallen soldiers/police field forces and also civilians badly injured/killed by the darm CTs. I still have a score to settle with Chin Peng for my dead buddies.

Capt's Longhouse said...

kamal sanusi,

,,,1st principle of war, we soldier/airman/navy should be fully trained and ready for WAR.
,,,no question about it !.

...in fact, we ex-servicemen are fully prepared to be called back for king and country ANYTIME ANY DAY too...kalau boleh berjalan lagi-lah. hehehe !

Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman said...

Saudara Apai,

Terima kasih kerana membaca kisah silam veteran Nuri pilot. InsyaAllah, kalau kalau ada rezeki, mungkin dibukukan coretan berkaitan dalam blog ini.

Sharif,

Mereka yang tidak pernah terbabit semasa operasi menentang pengganas komunis, tidak akan memahami perasaan kita yang kerap ditugaskan untuk mengambil 'casevac' dan 'bodivac'.

Fauziddin Mahyuddin said...

A s-Salamu 'alaikum Akhi,

Tentera-tentera Udara di Zaman Jet/ Airforces in the Jet Age

Cubaan menarik perhatian kepada bilangan pesawat latihan antaraan (transition trainer) (serta jet pejuang milik TUDM) dan bilangan ayat di dalam Surah di dalam A l-Quran untuk dibaca di dalam Raka'at tertentu sewaktu seseorang mendirikan sembahyang (di samping ianya sebagai suatu tribut kepada "Ops Kota Gubir")

In Finland (Fouga Magister (1958 - 1988))
FiAF Fougas flown from France -- 18
FiAF Fougas manufactured at home on Finnish soil -- 62

الصلاة عماد الدين
ركعة ڤرتام سوره الحجرات 18 ايات ركعة كدوا سوره النجم 62 ايات

Pesawat-pesawat Northrop F-5E Tiger milik TUDM
Perolehan awal 1970-an (sebelum "Ops Kota Gubir" 16/04/1976) -- 14 buah
Pesawat-pesawat Tebuan milik TUDM (1967) -- 20 buah

الصلاة عماد الدين

ركعة ڤرتام سوره الصف 14 ايات ركعة كدوا سوره المزمل 20 ايات
ركعة ڤرتام سوره الصف 14 ايات ركعة كدوا سوره البلد 20 ايات

"Ops Kota Gubir" (April 16th. 1976/ Jamadi l-Akhir 16hb. 1396)
Malaysia 50th. Merdeka Day update
by CK Loo, CK Tang, Aidy Abdullah, Hilmi, Brian Param, Thomas Ng
http://www.aircraftresourcecenter.com/Gal7/6501-6600/gal6568-F-5/00.shtm
http://malaysiaflyingherald.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/rmaf-jet-trainers-from-tebuan-to-the-future/
http://malaysiaflyingherald.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/rmafs-tiger-still-prawling-and-roaring/

Terima kasih. Wa s-Salam.