RSAF to join French jets in flypast on Bastille Day

Above: Pilot trainee Lim Zhi Ler at the Cazaux Air Base, where over 180 Republic of Singapore Air Force fighter aircrew have trained in the past two decades. Below: Captains Jerevin Chia Min Feng and Yeap Wei Jiun will fly an M-346 Advanced Jet Train
Above: Pilot trainee Lim Zhi Ler at the Cazaux Air Base, where over 180 Republic of Singapore Air Force fighter aircrew have trained in the past two decades. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Above: Pilot trainee Lim Zhi Ler at the Cazaux Air Base, where over 180 Republic of Singapore Air Force fighter aircrew have trained in the past two decades. Below: Captains Jerevin Chia Min Feng and Yeap Wei Jiun will fly an M-346 Advanced Jet Train
Captains Jerevin Chia Min Feng and Yeap Wei Jiun will fly an M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft alongside five French Alpha Jets.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

In a symbolic gesture of strong bilateral ties, jets from the Singapore and French air forces will soar over Paris in a combined flypast on Saturday, Bastille Day.

It is the first time the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) - which has a training detachment in south-western France - will be taking part in the French national day parade.

An RSAF M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft will fly alongside five French Alpha Jets in close formation.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will also be attending the parade as a guest of honour - the first such distinction granted to a Singapore leader.

The RSAF jet will be flown by the Officer Commanding of 150 Squadron, Captain Yeap Wei Jiun, 36, and Qualified Flying Instructor Jerevin Chia Min Feng, 32.

Both are from the Cazaux Air Base, which is over 60km from Bordeaux.

Capt Yeap told the Singapore media visiting the base yesterday that the invitation to participate in the flypast "means a huge deal for the squadron".

Capt Chia said the lead Alpha Jet will be flanked by a pair of wingmen on each side and the RSAF M-346 will be trailing behind the leader. This is called a "line astern" position.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of RSAF's detachment in France.

At a celebration today, a time capsule will be installed and a commemorative tail flash unveiled. A flypast by an M-346 and two Alpha Jets will also mark the occasion.

Over the past two decades, more than 180 RSAF fighter air crew have been trained at Cazaux Air Base.

Fighter aircrew spend about a year in Cazaux undergoing an advanced jet training programme and flying the M-346, before they operate more sophisticated warplanes such as the F-15SG and F-16.

The M-346 features modern avionics systems, aerodynamic performance and sophisticated simulations, allowing them to hone their capabilities on a wide range of operational missions.

The French base also offers the pilots the chance to train in an airspace 32 times the size of Singapore.

There are currently 277 personnel in the Cazaux detachment, comprising RSAF instructors, trainees, engineers, support staff and their families, along with Singapore Technologies Aerospace Engineering staff and their families.

Capt Yeap, who has been at Cazaux for 21/2 years with his family, said: "The Ministry of Education (MOE) has a good arrangement. We have an MOE-sponsored Mandarin teacher here... The local French school has English teachers.. who get syllabus updates from MOE."

"That puts my heart at ease while I work here," said the father of two boys, aged six and nine years.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2018, with the headline 'RSAF to join French jets in flypast on Bastille Day'. Print Edition | Subscribe