Brunei Expands Airlift Capability With Airbus C295s

 - December 9, 2022, 4:19 AM
Brunei’s current military airlift capability relies on this single Airbus CN235, which has been in service for 25 years. (Photo: David Donald)

Brunei’s Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has announced orders for Airbus to supply new C295MW transport aircraft. The contract was signed this week by Mindef’s permanent secretary for policy, finance and administration, Colonel (Retired) Norsuriati binti Haji Sharbini, and was witnessed by the country's deputy defense minister and chief of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF).

The number of aircraft has not been publicly confirmed, although the Mindef release notes that multiple aircraft are “expected to be delivered to the RBAF in two batches.” Regional media has suggested three or four of the twin turboprop C295s are being procured.

Brunei’s small air force—known locally as Angkatan Tentera Udara Diraja Brunei (ATUDB, Royal Brunei air force)—operates from a military area of the country’s international airport. The force's 7 Wing unit undertakes training with Pilatus PC-7 Mk IIs and Bell 206B-3s, while 1 Wing is the main operational organization, with Sikorsky S-70A/i Black Hawk helicopters as the primary equipment. The wing’s 15 Squadron operates the RBAF’s only current fixed-wing transport asset, an Airbus CN235-110M, that was delivered in 1997.

Replacing the single CN235 with multiple examples of the larger C295MW provides the RBAF with a far greater tactical airlift capability, but also expands the small force’s ability to conduct disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and search and rescue operations. The latest variant of the C295 can operate from short, semi-prepared strips, and its healthy range makes it a good platform for maritime search and surveillance missions.

Southeast Asia has proved to be a good market for the C295, and the type is operational with Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Worldwide the aircraft serves in 30 countries, and over 200 have been delivered.