RSAF marks 25th year in Aussie drill

Soldiers fan out and adopt the prone position after deplaning from an RSAF Chinook during a rehearsal for the advance party's landing, part of the helicopter operations in Exercise Trident.
Soldiers fan out and adopt the prone position after deplaning from an RSAF Chinook during a rehearsal for the advance party's landing, part of the helicopter operations in Exercise Trident.ST PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG
Exercise Trident is the third phase of Exercise Wallaby, which is SAF's largest overseas training exercise and began in September.
Exercise Trident is the third phase of Exercise Wallaby, which is SAF's largest overseas training exercise and began in September.ST PHOTOS: CHONG JUN LIANG

Ship-to-shore operation highlight of phase 3 of bilateral Exercise Wallaby

To launch a full-scale ship-to-shore operation on enemy land, an advance party is first sent in by helicopter to secure the area before the main forces arrive.

Providing this air support is one of the key roles of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) in Exercise Trident this year - the signature bilateral exercise between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Australian Defence Force.

Today's ship-to-shore operation will be the highlight of the exercise, and will be observed by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How and Australian Assistant Defence Minister David Fawcett.

Exercise Trident is the third phase of Exercise Wallaby, which is SAF's largest overseas training exercise and began in September.

A rehearsal for the advance party's landing was conducted yesterday in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, where Exercise Trident is being conducted from Oct 31 to Nov 14.

The air force first participated in Exercise Wallaby in 1993.

In the past 25 years, the annual drill has been a platform to test new capabilities.

CAREFUL COORDINATION

By having our airmen, sailors and soldiers all together within one arena, we go through a very deliberate planning and coordination process to make sure we develop a close understanding of each other's platforms, capabilities and operational requirements.

SENIOR LIEUTENANT-COLONEL MAXMILLION GOH, Exercise Trident's air director, on the value of having the three services train together.

In 2006, AH-64D Apache helicopters joined army battalions in Exercise Wallaby for the first time.

Three years after the F-15 fighter jets were declared fully operational in 2013, they made their debut in 2016.

 
 
 

While there are no new capabilities being tested this year, the air force has deployed six AS332 Super Puma helicopters, four CH-47D Chinook helicopters, 12 vehicles and systems, and about 200 personnel for Exercise Trident.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Max-million Goh, 42, who is Exercise Trident's air director, said its value lies in how the three services can train together.

"By having our airmen, sailors and soldiers all together within one arena, we go through a very deliberate planning and coordination process to make sure we develop a close understanding of each other's platforms, capabilities and operational requirements," he said.

Other than the troop lift using two types of helicopters - the Chinook and the Super Puma - RSAF personnel also coordinate the airspace for the tri-service operation, and are on standby for any life-threatening medical evacuation.

Captain Eileen Yeo, 30, an air-land tactical controller, said: "Our training area in Singapore is much smaller, and we don't get to practise much on a tri-service level. In Singapore, we focus more on improving our own skills."

Her job involves ensuring that there are no conflicts among the different forces when they are in the same area. For instance, information about where not to fly when there is live-firing is given to pilots.

Master Sergeant (NS) Han Jun Kwang, 29, who is a Super Puma air crew specialist, said the Australian terrain presents different challenges compared with flying in Singapore.

"Over here, because of the dry terrain, when we land, there's a chance there might be a brown-out (where dust or sand can surround the aircraft and reduce visibility). This is something that might not happen back in Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2018, with the headline 'RSAF marks 25th year in Aussie drill'. Print Edition | Subscribe