The Armed Forces of Malta’s air wing is the country’s sole military aviation unit, which means it deploys aircraft to fit a wide variety of missions, ranging from search and rescue or maritime patrol, to transporting VIPs like the Prime Minister.
First starting flying in 1973, the unit has evolved over the years. Originally formed using donated aircraft, the air wing has managed to acquire new aircraft recently, allowing it to expand it’s capabilities.
Beechcraft Super King Air
The King Air is the air wing’s fastest aircraft, and it’s used mostly for maritime patrol and to locate missing ships or aircraft out at sea. The spacious cabin is home to an array of sensor and camera systems, and the aircraft has a hatch through which a life raft can be dropped.
The AFM themselves released a cool video last year shot on a King Air training flight, featuring impressive low level footage of flying around the island.
The AFM currently operates three variants of the AW139, a modern and powerful helicopter that the unit deploys in a variety of situations where the helicopter has to recover people via its winch.
The AW139 is also the first twin engined helicopter that the AFM operates, allowing it to fly far out to sea.
Aérospatiale Alouette III
Largely replaced by the AW139, the Alouette III’s are still being used in a limited surveillance and search and rescue role. They also remained, until recently, the aircraft of choice for ferrying patients requiring urgent medical attention from Gozo to Malta, since they could accommodate a full length stretcher.
Here’s a video released by the AFM a couple of years ago showing the winching aboard of a diver in distress.
Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander
Like the Alouette, the Islander’s role has largely been taken over by the larger and faster King Air. In the past however, the Islander was the the AFM’s sole long ranged fix wing aircraft, and prior to the days where an infrared camera was installed, search and rescues were mostly carried out by a crew of AFM spotters visually searching their designated areas.
All images courtesy of the Armed Forces of Malta.
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