An aerial flypast of more than 20 aircraft over the Marina Bay area during the National Day weekend will be one of the key events for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.
Other events include another aerial display featuring one F-15SG and two F-16C fighter jets at the Singapore Airshow next month, heartland exhibitions across the island between March and May, and a commemorative parade with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as the guest of honour on Sept 1.
The RSAF50@Marina Barrage event will take place during the Aug 11 to 12 National Day Parade weekend, and the flypast will include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the first time. All types of flying assets - fighters, helicopters, UAVs and transport aircraft - will be represented.
There will also be an aerial display performance by a formation of two AH-64D attack helicopters, and F-15SG and F-16 fighter aircraft.
The air force will also be taking the celebrations to three new heartland locations this year - Bedok, Sembawang and Punggol. This is in addition to two locations - Toa Payoh and Jurong East - where the RSAF also had heartland activities to mark its 45th anniversary. The heartland exhibitions this year will each last for two days over a weekend.
Other than exhibition panels and static aircraft displays, another first will be live demonstrations at each event, such as a display of helicopter operations at the Sembawang event from March 31 to April 1.
The events were announced by Brigadier-General Kelvin Khong, who chairs the RSAF50 steering committee, during a media briefing at the Air Force Museum in Paya Lebar yesterday.
• Feb 7: Official launch of RSAF50 celebrations by President Halimah Yacob at the Singapore Airshow, where she will unveil an RSAF50-themed F-15SG
• Feb 6 to 11: Aerial display featuring two F-16s and one F-15SG fighter jet performing aerobatic manoeuvres
• March 10 to 11: RSAF50@ Toa Payoh
• March 31 to April 1: RSAF50@ Sembawang
• April 14 to 15: RSAF50@ Punggol
• May 12 to 13: RSAF50@ Bedok
• May 26 to 27: RSAF50@ Jurong East
• Aug 11 to 12: RSAF50@ Marina Barrage, with an aerial flypast of more than 20 RSAF flying assets, and aerial displays by the F-15SG and F-16 fighter jets and AH-64D attack helicopters.
• Sept 1: Parade with march past and mobile column, and featuring the new Multi-Role Tanker Transport. The guest of honour will be Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Explaining the theme of the celebration, BG Khong, 41, who is also the Chief-of-Staff (Air Staff), said: "The air force is here defending Singapore, but more than that, we are here for Singaporeans. That is why we have designed our themes to be 'Our Home, Above All'."
Details of the flypast manoeuvres and other event highlights will be revealed in months to come, he added.
The RSAF began as the Singapore Air Defence Command in 1968, and was formally inaugurated as the RSAF on April 1, 1975.
"What we have achieved so far is possible only with the dedication and commitment of every one of us. Looking forward to the future, we want to inspire the next generation to continue this legacy," said BG Khong.
FACES OF THE RSAF
PIONEER HELICOPTER PILOT DEPLOYED IN RSAF DISASTER RELIEF MISSION
Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Leo Tin Boon, 68, was among the first batch of helicopter pilots trained under the Singapore Air Defence Command in 1968, as the air force was known before the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) was inaugurated in 1975.
In 1971, less than a year after he became an operational pilot, he was deployed to help in flood relief efforts in Kuantan, where he flew more than 20 missions in 11 days to deliver food and medical supplies. He also flew one of three helicopters involved in the first National Day Parade state flag fly-past in 1970.
The father of two sons and three grandchildren said of current and future RSAF servicemen: "Whether in the past, now or the future, it is my hope that the focus on knowing their duty of defending the nation is the very reason for them to be joining the force."
EX-NATIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER TURNED COMMANDER
She once represented Singapore in football but after university, officer commanding Military Expert 4 (ME4) Kristy Rose Ryan decided to return to her childhood dream of working with planes.
ME4 Kristy, 31, who has served in the force for eight years, credits her airplane-enthusiast father for developing her interest by taking her to the Asian Aerospace show every other year since she was five.
"My father likes the thrill of knowing the capabilities of each aircraft and collects magazines on them to share with the family," she said.
The air force engineer in 808 Squadron, who has an engineering degree from Nanyang Technological University, added that having worked under many nurturing mentors in the force has inspired her to be a better commander to the roughly 20 men under her charge.
FIRST FEMALE HELICOPTER PILOT BELIEVES THERE IS NO GLASS CEILING
Within a day of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, Lieutenant-Colonel Christine Sim, 46, a Super Puma helicopter pilot, was on board the Republic of Singapore Navy's Landing Ship Tank to aid in relief efforts.
LTC Sim is the RSAF's first female helicopter pilot and has flown more than 20 search-and-rescue missions in her 27 years in service.
She said: "To me, I think whatever the guys can do, women can do too. Physique-wise, if you think about having to endure the G-forces as a fighter pilot - we have iron ladies, so I don't think physique is a barrier at all."
She added that Brigadier-General Gan Siow Huang, 43 - the first woman in the RSAF to hold that rank - is testament that there is no glass ceiling. BG Gan is also chairman of the RSAF50 events at the Singapore Airshow and in the heartland.
FATHER INSPIRED HIM TO BE AN ENGINEER TOO
For air force engineer Military Expert 4 (ME4) Andrew Tan, 30, his father was the main factor in his decision to sign on six years ago. His father - ME5 Richard Tan, 58, who has served for 39 years - taught him how to tell the type of RSAF aircraft that flew by based on the sound of its engines.
"So, I thought I should follow him since he was the one who inspired me to join. Moreover, since young, I liked to take things apart," said ME4 Tan.
Chiming in, the elder Tan said his son broke a few of his precious watches and clocks. He added that initially, he was shocked when he heard from his commanding officer that his son had applied to join, but that the surprise eventually gave way to pride.
Correction note: The story has been edited for clarity.