Naval divers join Red Lions in free fall

Naval combat divers will join the Red Lions in a free-fall jump at this year's National Day Parade. The divers will drop from a height of 1,800m into the waters around the Marina Bay Floating Platform.
Eight divers from the Republic of Singapore Navy's Naval Diving Unit doing their first freefall water jump into Marina Bay yesterday. They have to carry gear weighing 50kg and wear dive fins during their drop from a Super Puma helicopter at a height
Eight divers from the Republic of Singapore Navy's Naval Diving Unit doing their first freefall water jump into Marina Bay yesterday. They have to carry gear weighing 50kg and wear dive fins during their drop from a Super Puma helicopter at a height of 1,800m. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR .
Eight divers from the Republic of Singapore Navy's Naval Diving Unit doing their first freefall water jump into Marina Bay yesterday. They have to carry gear weighing 50kg and wear dive fins during their drop from a Super Puma helicopter at a height
A Red Lion in a tailor-made wing suit "flying" yestrday during the team's free fall from a height of 3,800m, the highest in NDP historyST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR .

As divers plunge into water, paratroopers in wing suits make their jump from record height

Aerial treats at the National Day Parade (NDP) will be bigger this year, with naval divers joining the crowd favourite Red Lions in a free-fall jump for the first time in parade history.

The divers from the Republic of Singapore Navy's Naval Diving Unit (NDU) will drop 1,800m from a Super Puma helicopter into the waters around the Marina Bay floating platform. They will be followed closely by the Red Lions, who, for the first time, will be jumping in wing suits for the parade, and will land on the platform itself.

The NDU's manoeuvre on Aug 9, called the free-fall water jump, is used in actual operations to access areas that are hard to reach by other means, such as boarding a ship out at sea.

Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Eric Tay, 47, leads the group of eight divers and said they will be carrying gear weighing 50kg and wearing dive fins while falling.

"This is to showcase the operational capabilities of the navy to the public," he said, adding that operational gear, which includes an assault rifle, can weigh up to 70kg.

MWO Tay said the fins catch a lot of wind when divers fall through the air, making it more difficult to control their movements. Once they land in the water, they remove their parachutes, perform an equipment check, regroup and move off.

MWO Tay has jumped more than 750 times and has performed thrice as a Red Lion for the NDP.

"The first time I jumped was in 2009, and my dream was to someday have a bunch of combat divers doing the jump, so this is a dream come true for me."

  • 50kg

    Weight of gear carried by the divers.

  • 3,800m

    Height from which the Red Lions will make their display jump this year.

  • 1 min

    Total free-falling time with the additional height.

In another series of NDP firsts, the Red Lions will be making their famed display jump from a greater height of 3,800m, the highest in NDP history.

The higher-altitude jump - up from about 3,000m - will give the team one minute of free fall. Normal free-fall jumps in previous NDP displays were 30 seconds long.

The bright-red wing suits the team will be donning also allow them to "fly" and use their body positions to navigate.

One of the challenges with the suit is keeping arms and legs extended to maintain a rigid "wing" that will allow jumpers to navigate the skies, said Red Lion, Major Arnold Low , 42.

They will jump from the Republic of Singapore Air Force's C-130 transport aircraft above Sentosa and glide at speeds of up to 200kmh towards the floating platform.

The wing suits, which are made of parachute material with air pockets, are tailor-made.

Red Lions team leader, First Warrant Officer (1WO) Ivan Low, 44, said preparations for the parade started in February.

1WO Low's job is to navigate the jump process and act as a point of reference for the others when the team form a diamond shape in the sky during the display. He will also work closely with the air force and pay strict attention to weather conditions before each jump.

1WO Low has done 1,400 jumps in his career and this will be his sixth jump for the NDP.

"There's definitely anxiety before every jump, but we learn to focus on the job rather than on the distractions," he said.

Added Maj Low, who will be jumping for his fifth NDP and has 1,100 jumps under his belt: "The adrenaline rush and the sense of satisfaction when you successfully complete a jump never get old."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 15, 2018, with the headline 'Naval divers join Red Lions in free fall'. Print Edition | Subscribe