SINGAPORE - On Thursday morning, the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) F-15SG fighter jets took off from Paya Lebar Air Base with two Rafale fighter jets from the French Air and Space Force (FASF).
In the backseat of one of the French fighter jets was French Ambassador to Singapore Marc Abensour, as the planes flew towards the southern region of the South China Sea to engage in a dogfight as part of training.
The joint training, which started on Wednesday and will end on Friday, is part of the Pegase mission, a month-long operation to boost France's presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Since the mission began on Aug 10, the FASF has made layovers in various countries, including Indonesia and Australia, where it took part in the multinational Exercise Pitch Black.
A total of six aircraft were sent to Singapore for this leg of the operation, including three Rafale fighters, two A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) planes and an A400M troop carrier aircraft, along with170 personnel.
Besides training with the RSAF, the FASF will also engage in air diplomacy and interact with French nationals living here.
Speaking to reporters, Mr Abensour said the operation was important, especially with the presence of French territories in the region.
"There is clearly a very high level of engagement of France in the Indo-Pacific region… I think Pegase is a perfect demonstration of that," he added.
At Paya Lebar Air Base, reporters witnessed the fighter jets taking off for training, before they landed about an hour later.
The mission director, Major-General Stephane Groen, chief of staff of French Air Defence and Operations Command, said both air forces shared a long history of working together, with the RSAF's 150 Squadron stationed in Cazaux in France since 1998.
"We are two air forces that are very like-minded. I would say that the level of expertise is the same," he said.
He added that this was a boon for situations that require interoperability, which received a further boost with the signing of the mutual logistics support arrangement between Singapore and France in June.
As part of the agreement, both countries' armed forces will be able to provide logistical support, which Maj-Gen Groen said included the use of training space.
"If we have any issues with our MRTTs, any problems with our spare parts, thanks to the agreement, we are able to exchange parts with the RSAF," he said.
"Our Singaporean friends can help us fix our jets, should we require it. Fingers crossed, I hope it will not happen."