SAF ends mission to help transport Afghan refugees

The Republic of Singapore Air Force's Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft has returned to Singapore after completing its humanitarian mission to evacuate people from Afghanistan.

The plane was deployed on Aug 26 to Al Udeid Airbase in Qatar to ferry them to Germany, after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban on Aug 15 following the withdrawal of the United States.

More than 2,000 evacuees were transported over two weeks, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement yesterday.

The returning aircraft was received at Changi Airbase (East) yesterday by Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, together with other senior military officers, including Chief of Army, Major-General Goh Si Hou, and Chief of Air Force, Major-General Kelvin Khong.

The deployment involved 77 personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces, including pilots, aircrew, engineers and security personnel from the Singapore Army.

Open-source flight data showed that the tanker aircraft, which was declared fully operational in April, had been shuttling between the Al Udeid Airbase and two US military airbases in south-west Germany - Ramstein and Spangdahlem.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had offered the MRTT to help the US with the evacuation efforts on Aug 23, during US Vice-President Kamala Harris' visit to Singapore.

Charge d'affaires of the US Embassy in Singapore Rafik Mansour thanked Singapore yesterday for its assistance in evacuating the civilians from Afghanistan.

"On behalf of the American people, I thank Prime Minister Lee and our partners in the Singapore Armed Forces for supporting the evacuation operation," he said.

Mr Mansour was speaking at a remembrance ceremony at the US Embassy, where staff and families commemorated the anniversary of the Sept 11 attacks in 2001 with a moment of silence.

"In the days following the attacks, Americans united as one. Our friends, allies, and neighbours both near and far stood tall and offered their hands of friendship and their shoulders to cry on. The outpouring of support we received from around the globe represented the very best of humanity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2021, with the headline 'SAF ends mission to help transport Afghan refugees'. Subscribe