THE Republic of Singapore Air Force has declared its newest training jets operationally ready, raising the bar for its rookie fighter pilots.
The 12 Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master jet trainers - which were delivered and first deployed for training in 2012 - were officially inaugurated on Wednesday,
The Italian-made advanced jets replace the ageing Singapore-modified TA-4SU planes, which pilot trainees from the RSAF's 150 Squadron that is based in south-west France had been using.
Declaring the jet trainers operationally ready at Cazaux Airbase in France on Wednesday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said they will improve the realism and quality of flying training, allowing the RSAF to produce fighter air crew who are well-equipped "to operate current and future fighter platforms".
Dr Ng added: "It allows our trainee pilots to be able to be exposed to air combat environments within the cockpit - they can be simulated, as in handling electronic warfare systems, multi-mode radar and Beyond Visual Range missiles, early in their training."
Presently, only the RSAF and Israeli air force are flying the M-346 jets.
The addition of the M-346s to the fleet is part of the RSAF's push to modernise its fleet and upgrade the training of its pilots, who already fly some of the world's most advanced warplanes.
Promising fighter pilots will hone their skills on the new training jets before moving on to more powerful warplanes such as the RSAF's F-15s or F-16s.
The inauguration of the M-346s also comes at a time when the RSAF is in the final stages of deciding if it will buy the next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.