SINGAPORE - He might have flown the F-16 for the last 24 years but fighter pilot Kwok Yong Kuan still felt nerves in the cockpit on Wednesday (Jan 27) as he swooped in on "targets".
His mission, to locate the enemy target, strike it with precision and fight his way out, was part of the biennial Hotshot Challenge (HSC).
It is one of seven different challenges to test the capabilities of the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) platforms, such as fighter jets and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and airmen.
The 44-year-old, who left the RSAF two years ago to become a commercial pilot, said: "The difficulty is in handling the anxieties as everyone wants to do well especially in such an important event."
Maj (NS) Kwok joins 131 different personnel, a mix of RSAF regulars, NSFs and NSmen in competing for this year's Best Hotshot Squadron.
Four squadrons, 140, 143, 145 and 149 SQN are vying for the title. Altogether, 15 F-16 and five F-15SG fighter jets will compete in basic weaponry skills and tactical employment.
Colonel Linus Tan, Commander Fighter Group, said: "These challenges provide an excellent opportunity to better appreciate each other's role to achieving mission success."
A high level of integration and coordination across the different platforms is needed for teams to succeed.
The Hotshot Challenge will test aircrews' skills in deploying unguided bombs and guns in four different scenarios. They are also required to successfully destroy a ground target amid realistic threats in roughly 90 minutes.
Equally important in a team's success is the ground crew handling of the logistics of a mission. They will similarly be tested in four different components.
Part of that crew is 3SG Alvindev Singh, a 25-year-old NSF Senior Technician from 140 SQN. Under normal circumstances, he is the ground marshal for the pilot but for this competition, he heads his squadron's creative marshalling segment.
The creative marshalling segment allows each squadron to come up with different and unique ways for the ground crew to communicate with the pilot in launching and parking the aircraft.
3SG Singh said: "Normally, we end with a final salute to the pilot so this challenges us to come up with a creative way to send the pilot off." Once the aircraft is parked, instead of the usual simple salute, the squadrons have to come up with a more creative display.
While tight lipped on what he has planned for this Friday's challenge, he said it would involve six people, instead of the usual one, and took about three weeks to finalise.
An idea of how creative marshalling can get is in the viral video posted by RSAF in 2014 in which ME1 Tan Wen Kai helped to launch a F-15SG with a series of breakdancing moves including a windmill, cartwheel and backflip.