RSAF takes part in flypast at French National Day Parade, with PM Lee as guest of honour

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2018.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron shakes hands with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attends the French National Day parade at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attends the French National Day parade at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
RSAF participated in the French National Day parade with one of the M-346 Advanced Trainer aircraft in the Singapore-France combined flypast on Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14, 2018.
RSAF participated in the French National Day parade with one of the M-346 Advanced Trainer aircraft in the Singapore-France combined flypast on Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris on July 14, 2018.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

PARIS - The jaunty tunes played by the French military band were unmistakably European, the crowds standing at attention French citizens, but two of the flags that were being marched down the Champs-Elysees and past the grandstand were of Asian nations - Singapore and Japan.

For the first time, Singapore took part in France's National Day Parade this year.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was in attendance, invited by French President Emmanuel Macron as guest of honour. He is the first Singaporean leader to be invited to the parade.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono was also there, in place of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was also invited as the parade's guest of honour but had to cancel his trip to deal with floods and landslides in Japan's western region.

The National Day Parade is also known as the Bastille Day parade. It marks the fall of Bastille during the French Revolution in 1789 - and featured this year some 4,000 soldiers, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 aircraft and 30 helicopters.

Among these were the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)'s 150 Squadron personnel based in Cazaux Air Base, in south western France.

Of the six RSAF personnel involved, two were in the combined flypast with the French Air Force while four participated in the parade as Singapore's Flag Party.

The flypast began with nine jets zooming across the sky leaving behind jet trails in the French national colours of red, white and blue.

Later, a combined flypast involving one RSAF M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer and five French Air Force Alpha Jets flew across the sky as well.

The officers flying the trainer were Captain Yeap Wei Jiun and Captain Jerevin Chia Min Feng.

Singapore's Flag Party, led by an RSAF Contingent Commander Major Nicholas Tong Jun, carried Singapore's National Flag during the parade. Other officers in the party were Captain Jerome Tan Shang-Yang, Lieutenant Tan Yi and Lieutenant Jacob Lee Yong Jin.

Singapore's participation in the parade comes as the RSAF celebrates the 150 Squadron's 20th anniversary this year. More than 180 RSAF fighter aircrew trainees from the squadron have undergone training at Cazaux over the past two decades.

Helicopters began circling in the sky above the Champs-Elysees and Place de la Concorde around 8am, before the parade started.

The parade began around 9.30am with an inspection of the French troops by general officers commanding the foot and motorised troop columns.

Mr Macron arrived at 10am, making his way from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysees in an armoured vehicle to the Place de la Concorde, where he was received by army general Francois Lecointre, and inspected the troops.

He then took his seat in between his wife Brigitte and Mr Lee.


French President Emmanuel Macron (left) welcomes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for the annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

 

The French citizens watching the parade, along the Champs-Elysees and at the Place de la Concorde, were a reserved crowd, applauding at key moments. They also clapped in encouragement when two motorcyles in the parade collided with each other - nobody was injured - but otherwise remained quiet and respectful.

After the flypast, special tribute troops started from the Arc de Triomphe and made their way down the Champs-Elysees, ending at the Place de la Concorde.

There was then a march-past of foot soldiers, followed by a helicopter flypast, and a mobile column of armoured vehicles.

After a display of stallion gallentry when a mounted column on horses trotted past, the parade closed with a military choir singing traditional military songs and the French national anthem - the rousing La Marseillaise.

Mr Macron, Mrs Macron and their guests left the parade at around 12:30pm.