Monday, October 31, 2016

Exercise Torrent preview: Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF sound blaster reduces bird strike hazard

Think your car's sound system is powerful?

Here's a Tengah Air Base (TAB) vehicle with a sound system that will wake up the neighbourhood.

Photographed during Exercise Torrent V in November 2002, this modified twin cab pick-up was seen driving up and down Lim Chu Kang Road before flying commenced on the road. The 2,500m long, 24m wide six-lane carriageway had been turned into an Alternate Runway by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

Blaring distress calls made by local birds repeatedly, the vehicle was one of the safety measures implemented by the RSAF to reduce the possibility of bird strikes by its warplanes. The distress calls cleared the area of birds, keeping our avian friends a safe distance away from the Alternate Runway until it was safe for their return later in the day.

While take-offs and landings by RSAF warplanes from the improvised airstrip make for great TV and newspaper stories, such flying - safely and professionally executed - is enabled by low-profile TAB units such as the Airbase Civil Engineering Squadron and Control Squadron.

Out-of-base activity outside the TAB fence line is also supported by Air Base Sustainment squadrons such as 205 SQN, 505 SQN, 605 SQN and 705 SQN and Air Force maintenance squadrons.

They will swing into action soon in a major out-of-base deployment codenamed Exercise Torrent VII. Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Exercise Torrent preview: Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF F-16D+ night attack fighters

These heavy hitters from 145 Squadron were the most powerful warplanes seen during Exercise Torrent VI in November 2008.

A pair of F-16D+ with conformal tanks and wing tanks, as well as a full suite of night attack sensors, thundered off Lim Chu Kang Road, which had been converted into an Alternate Runway by the RSAF Air Power Generation Command.

The upcoming Ex Torrent VII will feature a larger RSAF warplane whose potent suite of air-to-air, air-to-ground and datalink capabilities complement what the RSAF F-16D+ community can bring to the fight.

Can you guess which large warplane will roar off Lim Chu Kang Road for the first time during Torrent VII?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Exercise Torrent preview: Guiding lights from the RSAF's Airfield Damage Recovery Flight, Airbase Civil Engineering Squadron

Turning a road to runway involves a flurry of activity that takes place behind-the-scenes, out of the public eye over a 48-hour window.

The Tengah Air Base (TAB) the Airfield Damage Recovery Flight (ADRF) from 505 Squadron, for instance, was responsible for maintaining and deploying the gadgets seen above after extensive site surveys of both ends of the 2,500m long Lim Chu Kang Road.

Seen here are Precision Approach Path Indicators or PAPIs, which guide RSAF pilots on their approach vector and glide path using coloured lights - much like how pilots are guided back to land on aircraft carrier decks.

The PAPIs are, quite literally, the guiding lights for RSAF pilots tasked to practice take-offs and landings from the Alternate Runway. Solar cells, backed up by a generator, ensure the PAPIs are operational rain or shine.

The ADRF is part of the Airbase Civil Engineering Squadron at TAB. The squadron is one of a number of Air Base Sustainment squadrons from the airbase who will have their capabilities tested at the upcoming Alternate Runway Exercise, codenamed Torrent VII. Such squadrons are grouped under the RSAF Air Power Generation Command (APGC).

The gap of several years between each Torrent exercise underscores the value of more regular interactions during APGC's  Eagle Challenge, which pits squadrons from RSAF air bases against one another and against the clock under realistic conditions that simulate what the RSAF could face during operations.
Size matters: The PAPI may resemble desktop projectors used for Powerpoint presentations, but the devices are huge. This image gives you an idea of the size of each PAPI. These PAPIs, deployed by the ADRF of 505 SQN for Torrent VI in November 2008, are likely to see action again in the upcoming exercise.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Torrent alternate runway exercise preview: Last Republic of Singapore Air Force A-4 Skyhawk to land on a road

In November 2002, Exercise Torrent V marked the last time Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Super Skyhawks landed on the 2,500m long alternate runway. The exercise involving converting the 24m wide six-lane carriageway Lim Chu Kang Road to an improvised airstrip in about 48 hours.

RSAF A-4SU Super Skyhawk 926 was the last of two A-4SUs (its wingman was 969) to touch down.

Each Super Skyhawk that flew during Ex Torrent V deployed its drag chute and opened its airbrakes upon landing to slow down the warplane on the alternate runway.

On 1 April 2005, the RSAF's A-4 Skyhawks were officially stood down.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Exercise Torrent: Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF Alternate Runway Exercise Airbase Civil Engineering Squadron

Aptly named the FOD Killer, this is a road sweeper designed to suck debris that could cause foreign object damage (FOD) to Republic of Singapore Air Force assets.

The Operations Support Flight (OSF) of 505 Squadron, which is the Airbase Civil Engineering Squadron at Tengah Air Base, operates the single-seat vehicle, known as the FMC Vanguard V7000 FOD Killer.

The FOD Killer doesn't just give large paved areas a good suck. It has a magnetised hood mounted in front of the vehicle that can pick up metal objects like nuts and bolts from runways, taxiways and aircraft aprons.

The use of Lim Chu Kang Road as an alternate runway is made possible by the tireless efforts of personnel from 505 SQN, whose OSF FOD Killers make umpteen trips up and down the 2,500m long road to remove FOD hazards before warplanes are allowed onto the alternate runway.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Exercise Torrent: RSAF Alternate Runway Exercise Field Defence Squadron

Force protection troopers from the Field Defence Squadron, Tengah Air Base (FDS TAB) patrol the length of Lim Chu Kang Road before flying activities for Exercise Torrent V commence in November 2002.

The 2,500m long, six-land carriageway (24m wide), designated as an Emergency Runway (ER), was protected by FDS TAB for the duration of the 48-hour long exercise.

Seen on the ER are a V-200 armed with a 20mm Oerlikon cannon and six Mercedes-Benz MB240GDs armed with pintle-mounted 7.62mm GPMGs.

FDS troopers also hone their tactics during war games such as Iron Arrow and the Eagle Challenge, organised for Air Power Generation Command units. The FDS has since been renamed the Force Protection Squadron.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Torrent update: Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF Alternate Runway Exercise

Breaking the speed limit along Lim Chu Kang Road, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16A Fighting Falcons from 140 Squadron thunder off the six-lane carriageway on full reheat during Exercise Torrent III in 1992.

The F-16As took part in three Torrent war games before the type was supplanted by the more advanced F-16C/Ds from Ex Torrent V onwards.

The pictures below show an F-16A demonstrating the touch-and-go manoeuvre. Note the second F-16A in the landing circuit in the image below.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Exercise Torrent VII 2016: Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF alternate runway exercise

Cleared for take-off: Every type of frontline RSAF warplane was represented at Exercise Torrent III, held on 1 November 1992. Seen here are A-4SU Super Skyhawks, which accelerated for take-off immediately after making the right-hand turn onto Lim Chu Kang Road after emerging from Tengah Air Base. 

The following essay was published in The Straits Times on 1 December 2008, to mark the successful staging of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Exercise Torrent VI, which tested the Air Force's ability to launch and recover warplanes from an alternate runway.

This essay will be updated this year to reflect upcoming changes in the number and location of runways on mainland Singapore, in time to come.

Do look out for the revised essay and daily updates as we crank up the tempo ahead of Ex Torrent VII. Have witnessed Torrent III, Torrent V and Torrent VI. Will share pictures from these exercises in the run-up to the upcoming war game.

Hit the road, jets
By David Boey
For The Straits Times
1 December 2008

The 20 minutes of air activity at the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) exercise at Lim Chu Kang Road yesterday ranked as one of the air force’s shortest war games.

Despite its brevity, however, the conversion of a public road into an improvised military airstrip during Exercise Torrent VI provided a vivid demonstration of the degree to which Singapore’s air power resides with the RSAF’s Air Power Generation Command (APGC).

Some 400 personnel from the command took 48 hours to transform the 2,500m long road into a runway. 

Twelve warplanes – representing all of the RSAF’s fighter types in service and one E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning plane from the RSAF’s Air Combat Command (APGC) – broke the speed limit along Lim Chu Kang Road as they showcased the air force’s little-known capability to launch and recover aircraft using a public road.

Even less known is the fact that the groundwork for Exercise Torrent was laid more than 30 years ago. The capabilities the RSAF demonstrated yesterday can be traced to the Operational Master Plan (OMP) for RSAF air bases that the Ministry of Defence drew up in the mid-1970s. Dr Goh Keng Swee, the architect of the Singapore Armed Forces, was defence minister and Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the prime minister. Singapore’s defence planners recognised even then that attacks against air bases could clip the RSAF’s wings.

The RSAF’s warplane fleet would count for nothing if runways were damaged and its air power grounded. Lack of air cover would, in turn, jeopardise the mobilisation of SAF units during the critical hours of an emergency when large numbers of citizen soldiers reporting at mobilisation centres would present the enemy with a target-rich environment.

The OMP mapped out how the RSAF would plan, develop, test and revise operational concepts for air bases during periods of tension and hostilities. This led to the formation of specialised, non-flying squadrons in the early 1980s. These included squadrons tasked with runway surface repairs, disposal of enemy ordnance such as unexploded bombs or munitions with time delay fuses, as well as the maintenance of essential services such as power, fuel and water. A network of fibre optic cables was buried in hardened conduits to reduce the air force’s reliance on radio communications which can be intercepted and jammed by a technically competent foe.

At the same time, the number of runways available to RSAF warplanes was doubled, from six in the 1980s to 11 today – more if you count narrow taxiways that the fighters can also use. This includes a runway built on Pulau Sudong.

Roads that could be converted into runways were identified and plans were drawn up for the RSAF to practise operating from such improvised runways. Buildings, such as warehouses, that can serve as temporary aircraft hangars were also identified. Complementing such infrastructure were war games that allowed RSAF personnel to think about how they could maximise air power generation from all the runways.

Taking off is a simple enough matter. Far more complex is the safe and orderly launch of combat aircraft in the right sequence, armed with the right weapons and put in the take-off queue according to operational priorities.

With more than 100 combat aircraft in the RSAF’s fleet – not to mention hundreds of weapon, fuel tank and sensor configurations for each aircraft – this was no simple task. The APGC’s tagline, “Air power starts with us”, sums up how the sharp end of the RSAF relies on, and is sustained by, robust air base infrastructure.

The RSAF helicopter fleet has also practised out-of-base operations , deploying and rearming choppers from places such as open fields and golf courses. Only a handful of air forces, including those of Finland, Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan, practise such capabilities.

A clear signal of the importance of such capabilities occurred in April 1986, when RSAF fighters soared off a road for the first time. The landmark war game, held when Singapore was recovering from the 1985 economic slump, underlined the nation’s commitment to investing in defence even during tough times.

The RSAF has staged Exercise Torrent six times in the past 22 years. The speed with which the air force has transformed itself into a Third Generation fighting force becomes evident when one considers that the only common elements between the first and latest exercise are these: the road itself and the professionalism of the RSAF’s personnel.

Everything else, from the warplanes used and to the RSAF’s uniforms, has evolved or been upgraded. Even the term Mindef uses to describe Lim Chu Kang Road has changed. It is now called an “alternate runway” as opposed to “emergency runway”, a term which probably connotes that something dire to the aircraft's function may have occurred.

Lim Chu Kang Road is a key element in Singapore’s defence infrastructure. Its absence from databases that purportedly rate military power shows that simply counting soldiers and war machines as a measure of a country's military muscle is inadequate.

Such capabilities inject uncertainty into the calculations of hostile powers that may want to cripple Singapore’s air power. A larger number of runways means the enemy would have more targets to hit. This in turn would call for the enemy to deploy more military assets – be it rocket artillery units or air strikes. And the larger the attack force, the higher would be the chance it will be detected by the SAF’s intelligence network. A larger force would also be more vulnerable to the comprehensive suite of the SAF’s defences.

Combat readiness aside, Singapore also places emphasis on defence diplomacy as a key element in maintaining peace in its neighbourhood. This is why foreign military observers were invited yesterday to see Exercise Torrent VI. Closer to home, defence diplomacy includes overtures to community leaders, who helped residents in the vicinity understand, and appreciate, the RSAF’s mission.

One hopes that no one makes a strategic miscalculation that would force Singapore to deploy its airpower islandwide, because the torrent of air strikes the RSAF can muster will be robust, continuous and devastating.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Republic of Singapore Air Force Exercise Torrent VII

Have been keenly following the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) alternate runway exercise (renamed from emergency runway exercise), codenamed Torrent, since the first one in 1986.

We're counting down to Exercise Torrent VII. Look out for special reports on this long-running and long-awaited war game.

Check Six!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

#RedArrowsinSG Red Arrows visit to Singapore postponed to Sat 15 Oct 2016

The British High Commission announced this afternoon that the Royal Air Force’s Aerobatic Team or Red Arrows' visit to Singapore that was scheduled for this Thursday (13 October 2016) has been postponed to Saturday, 15 October 2016

The rescheduling was caused by an unexpected weather system in the South Asian region, said a British High Commission statement. 

The Red Arrows’ Flypast over the vicinity of Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay and Sentosa will now take place from around 12.30pm to about 1.00pm this Saturday (15 October 2016).

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Singapore signs pledge for export and use of UCAVs

The United States Department of State announced on 5 October 2016 that the US and 42 nations have signed an agreement that guides the export and subsequent use of armed or strike-enabled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Among the ASEAN partners, the Philippines and Singapore are the only signatories to the declaration.

The full statement from the DOS is appended below.

This agreement signals that the next evolution of UAVs designed and made in Singapore will unfold in a responsible manner, as prescribed by the declaration.

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
October 5, 2016

The following Joint Declaration was issued today by the United States and the governments of Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

Joint Declaration for the Export and Subsequent Use of Armed or Strike-Enabled
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)
An increasing number of States are acquiring and employing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to support a range of missions, including military missions that promote peace and security. Individual States may already have laws and policies in place to ensure the responsible export and use of UAVs that are armed, or that include equipment related uniquely to the deployment or delivery of weapons. However, recognizing that misuse of armed or strike-enabled UAVs could fuel conflict and instability, and facilitate terrorism and organized crime, the international community must take appropriate transparency measures to ensure the responsible export and subsequent use of these systems. In this context, we continue to recognize the following principles, none of which should be construed to undermine the legitimate interest of any State to indigenously produce, export, or acquire such systems for legitimate purposes:

A. The applicability of international law, including both the law of armed conflict and international human rights law, as applicable, to the use of armed or strike-enabled UAVs, as with other weapon systems;

B. The importance of engaging in the responsible export of armed or strike-enabled UAVs in line with existing relevant international arms control and disarmament norms that help build confidence as to the peaceful intention of States;

C. That the export of armed or strike-enabled UAVs should be done consistent with the principles of existing multilateral export control and nonproliferation regimes, taking into account the potential recipient country’s history regarding adherence to its relevant international obligations and commitments;

D. The importance of appropriate voluntary transparency measures on the export of armed or strike-enabled UAVs including reporting of military exports through existing mechanisms, where appropriate, and with due regard to national security considerations; and

E. That in light of the rapid development of UAV technology and the benefit of setting international standards for the export and subsequent use of such systems, we are resolved to continue discussions on how these capabilities are transferred and used responsibly by all States.

We call upon other governments to support this declaration.

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RSAF Airbus A330 MRTT aerial refuelling tanker makes debut flight

Photo credit: Airbus Defence and Space

Full statement from Airbus Defence and Space on the first flight by the new standard Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), which the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has chosen to replace its KC-135R Stratotankers.

The event is of interest to us because the aircraft above is the first of six A330 MRTTs bound for the RSAF.

"Airbus Defence and Space has successfully completed the maiden flight of the first new standard A330 MRTT Multi Role Tanker Transport. This model incorporates a number of enhancements introduced on the basic A330 as well as upgraded military systems as part of Airbus and Airbus Defence and Space’s continuous product improvement programme. The three-hour flight took place on 30 September and the crew reported that the aircraft performed in line with expectations. The new standard A330 MRTT features structural modifications, aerodynamic improvements giving a fuel-burn reduction of up to 1%, upgraded avionics computers and enhanced military systems. First delivery is due in 2018. A total of 51 A330 MRTTs have been ordered by 10 nations of which 28 have been delivered."

Monday, October 3, 2016

Royal Air Force Red Arrows aerobatics team in SG Thurs 13 Oct'16

Photo credit: Ministry of Defence, United Kingdom

Stick around Marina Bay Sands and look skyward next Thursday around noon if you want to see the Royal Air Force (RAF) Red Arrows in Diamond Nine formation (as above).

The Red Arrows will fly into Singapore on 13 Oct'16 as part of their visit to the Far East, including countries like China, India and Malaysia.

While no aerobatic displays are planned while the Reds are in town, it is understood that photo calls involving the nine-aircraft team will be staged around the Singapore waterfront and, possibly, over the Kranji War Memorial. The team flies the BAE Systems Hawk T.1 aircraft, which is the RAF's advanced fast jet trainer. While in Singapore, the Red Arrows T.1s will roost at Paya Lebar Air Base.

The RAF has deployed to the region in strength this year as part of a capability demonstration codenamed Eastern Venture. The deployment will underscore the United Kingdom's continued ability to project and sustain frontline air power from the UK to the region at short notice and in strength.

Eastern Venture harks back to the 1988 strategic deployment of four 29(Fighter) Squadron Tornado F.3 fighters from RAF Coningsby to Singapore under the banner of the Golden Eagle deployment.

The first phase of Eastern Venture involves fielding eight Typhoons and two C-130 Hercules aircraft for Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) war games, codenamed Bersama Lima (Malay for Five in Unity). 

The FPDA war games involving air forces from Australia, Britain, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore will run from tomorrow till 21 October 2016. After Bersama Lima, the RAF Typhoons will then deploy for exercises in Japan and South Korea. Eastern Venture is expected to reward RAF pilots with substantial experience in dissimilar air combat training when pitted alongside and against warplanes from host nations during air warfare exercises. 

The Typhoons from 1(Fighter) Squadron, based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland, arrived at TUDM Butterworth in Malaysia yesterday. The fighter deployment was made possible via multiple mid-air refuelling brackets with Voyager tanker/transports.

Wing Commander Mike Sutton, Commanding Officer 1(Fighter) Squadron, RAF Lossiemouth, said:“ We are really looking forward to Exercise Bersama Lima and we are really grateful to Malaysia for hosting this exercise. Every day we will be conducting large training missions with all of the air forces. This exercise provides us with a fantastic opportunity to train and improve our integration and effectiveness with all the participating countries”.

British High Commissioner HE Scott Wightman said, “We are excited by the visit of the Red Arrows and their participation in a number of activities in Singapore that will deepen the strong ties between Singapore and the UK. Their visit, alongside that of eight RAF Typhoon fighter aircraft and two C130 transporters to the Bersama Lima exercise, underscores our commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) and the UK’s capability to exercise with our allies around the world”.