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.


Unknown said...

PAPI lights are actually standard even at most civilian airports and not like those on aircraft carriers. Carriers use another type of light. These lights give an indication on the glideslope for their rate of descent.

David Boey said...

Hi Name Less,
An improvised airstrip is different from an airfield runway. For one, it is smaller and safety tolerances are much tighter as there is less room to manoeuvre for aircraft using the improvised strip. In the case of Lim Chu Kang Road, the E-2C's wingspan (25m) exceeded the width of the 24m wide road.

Had used the aircraft carrier as an example to show how approaching aircraft are guided to the small landing area via visual cues.

You're right in pointing out that the system on carriers is different. Many thanks for the clarification.