It was a sight to behold: Audiences were greeted with machines which generated clouds in a bottle, electricity from urine, and even one that allowed them to switch on a floating light bulb without having to touch it.
These were some of the fascinating physical science phenomena demonstrated by entries in this year's Amazing Science-X Challenge (ASCX), which saw a record participation of 480 primary and tertiary students.
In his keynote address, guest of honour 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing noted the importance of scientists to the development of Singapore. Citing examples such as using the latest technology to recycle and collect water in order to make Singapore self-sufficient with water, he said: They never let current limitations stop them from realising their dream.
When they had a dream, and they realised that the dream could not be fulfilled because there were no standards to achieve the dream, they created the standards, and that is how we have survived and thrived as a country.
Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore, shared the same sentiments, and emphasised the importance of creativity in his welcome address. We are making textbooks come alive. This process is creative, and creativity is one of the key things we aspire to achieve.
And we all know that...without creativity, we cannot survive as a nation.
Jointly organised by DSO National Laboratories (DSO), the National University of Singapore, and Science Centre Singapore, the ASXC is part of the DSO Amazing Series of Competitions.
In this competition, teams are tasked to design and build a stand-alone exhibit that best explains a physical science phenomenon in an engaging and interactive way. Teams are grouped into four categories - category A for Primary One to Six; B for Secondary One to Four; C for Junior Colleges; and D is an open category.
One of the gold award winners for Category C was team ASPIRE from Serangoon Junior College, consisting of 17-year-olds Santhiya, Htet San, and Bram. Their project, The Secret Painting, utilised rotating polarising filters to reveal an impression of the Mona Lisa.
Despite the many challenges that the team had faced, team member Santhiya noted it had been a rewarding experience working on the project: We had to stay back for a few hours every week, even during our school holidays.
But we learnt that hard work pays off, and seeing the end product come together made it all worth it.
The speed and capabilities of Guardsmen have been invaluable in peace support as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations undertaken by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen visited Guardsmen who had participated in past SAF overseas deployments on 19 Sep at the Lim Chu Kang Live-Firing Area.
Better known for their heli-rapelling abilities, the Guardsmen are elite infantry soldiers who specialise in rapid deployment. Over the years, servicemen from the Guards Formation have taken part in over 20 peacetime missions, alongside other personnel in the SAF.
These include the United Nations peace keeping operations in Timor Leste from 1999 to 2003, and, more recently, the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2013.
During his visit, Dr Ng was updated on the Guards Formation's latest peacetime capabilities.
He tried his hands on firing an electric stun gun, as well as foam projectile rounds from a multiple grenade launcher. These are weapons used to immobilise a hostile person and to disperse a crowd respectively.
Dr Ng also witnessed their drill and tactics. The Guardsmen demonstrated how they counterattacked, regrouped, and pulled out of a hot spot if their convoy had been ambushed.
He also viewed a static display of equipment such as the mobile field kitchen and water purification unit. These equipment enable the troops to sustain themselves in long-term peace support operations.
After the visit, Dr Ng wrote in a Facebook post: The Guards know that they have to be independent and self-sustaining in these areas, where conditions can be harsh… Good to know they are on top of things.
Chief Guards Officer Brigadier-General (BG) Melvyn Ong noted that the Guards formation had helped to strengthen the SAF's peacetime capabilities by building on its servicemen's experience in operations.
Our people have done well and learnt a great deal from these operations. This has… enabled Singapore to contribute as a responsible member of the international community.
As divers, we work in small teams, so (one of) the values that we inculcate in our divers is that we must take care of one another. (Participating in the) Community Chest is a way in which our guys can manifest the values of looking after one another and the community.
The fact that our little contributions have been recognised on a national level is an honour for us.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sng Meng Wah, Commanding Officer of the Dive School, was speaking on behalf of the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) in receiving the gold award for SHARE, a monthly donation programme under the Community Chest (ComChest) which provides a dedicated source of funds for its beneficiaries.
This year, 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing presented the annual SHARE awards to 131 Ministry of Defence and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) units and departments at the Concorde Hotel on 17 Sep.
The awards are presented based on the participation rate of the employees and staff strength of an organisation. To be eligible for the Gold SHARE Awards, organisations must make a minimum annual contribution of $100,000, and attain a participation rate of between 40 to 94 percent depending on their staff strength.
Above the Gold SHARE Award, there is the Platinum SHARE Award, requiring a minimum annual contribution of $300,000, and a participation rate of between 70 to 100 percent.
Along with NDU, 201 Squadron (SQN) from the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) Participation Command clinched the Gold SHARE Award.
Commanding Officer of 201 SQN, LTC Tony Ong said that the squadron had a strong culture of contributing to the ComChest which was driven by the passion for giving back to society.
We will continue to foster the charitable spirit of sharing among personnel to increase our participation rate to above 95 percent in the coming years. I am touched by the squadron members who have contributed towards attaining this award for the seventh year running.
We hope to sustain this streak and achieve the 10-year Outstanding SHARE Award.
Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) could be adding another option to their plate of fitness programmes aimed at helping them get fitter.
The latest initiative by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is called Self-Administered IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT), and starts on 18 Sep.
The four-month trial will see NSmen from a selected unit using fitness-tracker technology to clock IPT sessions at their own time. They can use either the Health Promotion Board's interactive Diet and Activity Tracker (iDAT) app or wearable Fitbit fitness bands.
The larger intent behind these changes to the physical fitness system is to encourage NSmen to take greater responsibility for their fitness, said Head of the National Service Affairs Department Colonel (COL) Chua Boon Keat.
Those using the fitness bands will have to clock 75 active minutes weekly to clock one IPT session, while those using the iDAT app will have to achieve 75 minutes of running at an average pace of seven minutes per kilometre. For more details, see the first infographic below.
Under the trial, NSmen will continue to do their first and last IPT sessions at one of the Fitness Conditioning Centres (FCCs) where they will take the IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test).
That's our control measure. When the NSmen take the IPPT at the tenth session, we will know if their fitness has really improved, said COL Chua Boon Keat.
The SAF also started a four-month trial of another fitness initiative, IPT-in-the-Park, on 18 Sep. Besides the four FCCs, NSmen can sign up to do their IPT in five designated locations - The Promontory@Marina Bay, MOE Co-Curricular Activities Branch, Jurong Central Park, Bishan Park and Punggol Park.
2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing visited the first session of IPT-in-the-Park held at Bishan Park this evening. IPT-in-the-Park will bring greater convenience to NSmen; they now have nine locations across the island to do their IPT. The session was attended by 20 NSmen.
Explaining the slew of measures, Mr Chan said: We want NSmen to take greater ownership (of their fitness) because we believe this is the best way to motivate them.
We want to do what we can to help them to keep fit while they work and, at the same time, serve their national duties.
One of the NSmen who attended the IPT-in-the-Park session, 2nd Sergeant (2SG) (NS) Joel Chua, said: The intensity is as effective as what we experience in the FCC.
It's more convenient and accessible; I will be able to come more often and do more sessions in a week, added the 24-year-old IT consultant who served in the Signals Formation.
The SAF had announced changes to the IPPT format this July, simplifying the test to a three-station format of push-ups, sit-ups and a 2.4km run.
Following the new IPPT format, the SAF rolled out a new IPT system on 1 Sep. NSmen can choose to take part in five programmes targeted at boosting different aspects of fitness. Other changes to IPT included shorter session times (75mins, down from two hours) and smaller class-sizes of 30 (previously 50).
In 2010, the SAF revised the combat fitness training system with the introduction of Vocation Related Exercises, Vocation Obstacle Course and a redesigned Standard Obstacle Course.
This year, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Central Band received the rock star treatment when it was invited to perform for the very first time at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Edinburgh Castle. The ancient stronghold of Scottish military might, and home to one of the world's biggest stages for military bands - the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (REMT).
Each year, the finest military bands from across the globe are invited to perform at the castle esplanade, an outdoor stage set against the backdrop of this magnificent fortress atop Scotland's Castle Rock.
And making its way this year into this prestigious guest list is the SAF Central Band.
By invite only
The SAF Central Band has been a familiar face in the tattoo circuit for more than a decade, garnering fans in countries like Russia, Korea and Sweden. But its arrival at Edinburgh, the birthplace of military tattoos, happened almost serendipitously.
It was the year 2012. The SAF Central Band was playing at the International Military Music Festival in Moscow, unaware that they had caught the eye of then-REMT producer, Major-General Euan Loudon.
The show (they had put together) was very precise and had a variety of representations (of Singapore culture), explained Brigadier David Allfrey MBE, producer of the 2014 REMT, on why he was drawn to the Band's performance in Moscow.
The Tattoo decided to extend their invitation to the Band because they are one of the great military bands in the world, and they bring an extraordinary quality, not just of precision, but also the flavour and mix of everybody who lives in Singapore.
With that affirmation, the 51 musicians, together with six SAF Music and Drama Company (MDC) dancers and 14 Military Policemen from the SAF Silent Precision Drill Squad (SPDS), were ready to put up the performance of their lives.
Making a grand entrance
The multicultural dimension of the SAF Central Band's shows has endeared audiences worldwide, and the Band has remained steadfast to its trademark. However, to mark its debut at the Tattoo, it decided to shake things up with elements that had never been done before in the Band's history.
One of these was to feature an original composition. Written by Military Expert (ME) 1-1 Dax Wilson Liang Qingxiang, who also arranged the music for the Band's set, Forest Dreams was specially composed for the Chinese folksong segment of the show.
I wanted a folk song that's distinctly Chinese, particularly to the non-Singaporean and non-Chinese ear, explained instructor and horn player ME1-1 Liang of his decision to compose his own piece. He was hoping to find a strong counterpart to the popular Malay and Indian folksongs, which tended to have tunes that were easily identifiable to their respective cultures.
Played on the Chinese flute and drums and accompanied by the flowing costumes of the twirling MDC dancers, the song created a festive atmosphere. To complement the fluidity of the piece, the SPDS devised a new move as well, standing in a line to toss and catch their rifles before kneeling one after the other, creating a wave pattern.
Another first that the Band could boast of was being the first Singaporean band to use the tin whistle in a performance.
A small woodwind instrument resembling the humble recorder, the tin whistle has an echoey ring that is characteristic of traditional Celtic music. And it was the perfect accompaniment to the Band's tribute to their host, an acapella rendition of the popular Scottish folksong,Wild Mountain Thyme.
The local songs we've performed so far have all been in foreign languages. Since this is an English song, we added the tin whistle to give it a Scottish flavour, explained ME2-1 Ang Yi Xiang, Associate Principal Player (Saxophone) and the show's choreographer.
Hopefully, the audience will feel our sincerity and passion, he added.
…til the band sings
The proof was in the piping. ME2-1 Ang's tin whistle solo pierced through the esplanade, and the audience fell silent. The Band started to sing, quietly and carefully at first, a single voice hanging in the air.
But by the time it reached the chorus, the voice was no longer alone: the audience was singing along, many swaying gently to the rhythm. As the Band marched out, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers, warming up the cold Scottish night.
Ms Margaret Baxter, who had travelled from England to see the Tattoo, was captivated. Wild Mountain Thyme was excellent, I joined in as well! she said excitedly.
The show was very lively and colourful, and I loved the dancers too. I haven't stopped smiling.
And that was a send-off fit for a rock star.
Should a major disaster happen in the region, the affected country will be able to tap on a regional centre based in Singapore to coordinate better the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts of foreign militaries.
Located at the Changi Command and Control (C2) Centre, the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre (RHCC) will be fully operational in 2015 and staffed by up to 50 personnel.
Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing marked the set-up of the RHCC by unveiling the RHCC logo on 12 Sep.
In an impending disaster, the RHCC will piece together a comprehensive situational picture of a potential disaster zone by fusing information from regional disaster early-warning centres, partner agencies, and open sources.
It will include, among other details, the likely path of destruction, possible staging areas, roads leading to the disaster zone, and existing emergency services.
The situational picture will be broadcasted to partner militaries through its OPERA Command and Control Information System (CCIS) web portal. It will be updated constantly when the disaster occurs, in particular, with data on the available aid.
By understanding the needs on the ground, militaries can better prepare their response, and minimise duplication and gaps in the provision of assistance.
If the affected country agrees, planning for a possible multinational HADR will commence at the RHCC. It will tap on a network of international liaison officers, and links with operations centres of partner militaries for tighter coordination.
If necessary, the RHCC can also deploy a mobile coordination unit to support the affected country's military in coordination efforts on the ground.
Mr Chan, who was officiating at the closing of the Regional Conference for Building Civil-Military Capacity for Disaster Relief Operations at Changi C2 Centre, explained the reasons for setting up the RHCC in his closing address.
He noted that militaries were often the first responders in a disaster because of their 24/7 readiness, but there was a need for better coordination, hence Singapore offered to host a coordination centre.
He said: The RHCC seeks to facilitate military-to-military coordination in disaster response, by supporting an Affected State's military in coordinating the foreign military assistance provided, and liaising with disaster response stakeholders.
Speaking to the media, the Singapore Armed Forces' Director of Joint Operations, Brigadier-General (BG) Desmond Tan, added that the RHCC would help to enhance military coordination that was currently done on an ad hoc basis whenever a disaster happened.
He said: What we are trying to do is to set up a permanent structure that will allow the militaries to have a single point of contact, a focal point, so that we can have more preparations before the disaster… When disaster happens, we hope that this will be the centre that can allow militaries to coordinate their efforts so that they can reach the disaster area faster and more effectively.
BG Tan said Singapore was an ideal country to host the RHCC because it was disaster free, and had the necessary infrastructure. For instance, the RHCC is tapping on the Republic of Singapore Navy's Information Fusion Centre (IFC) that is used for regional maritime security information sharing.
Mr Chan noted in his address that the RHCC, which focused on the militaries, would seamlessly complement existing coordination centres working with civilian agencies, such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Jakarta-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA).
Agreeing with this point was Major-General Jet B. Velarmino, who directed the Typhoon Haiyan HADR operations in the Philippines last year.
Sharing his personal views, the Commander of 8th Division, Philippine Army, said: Instead of AHA talking to the different nations' militaries, it can be just talking to one coordinating centre, which is the RHCC, where the military capabilities are integrated.
He added: For coordination and networking, it will be easier.
To raise awareness of what National Service (NS) does for Singapore and Singaporean sons, and change the mindset of parents who may be resistant to their sons serving NS.
These are among the engagement ideas which ACCORD's Family and Community (FC) Council will be looking at to strengthen family and community support for NS, at their inaugural meeting on 12 Sep, held at SAFRA Toa Payoh.
ACCORD refers to the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence and the meeting was co-chaired by Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman and Ms Claire Chiang, Senior Vice-President of Banyan Tree Holdings.
Speaking as a mother whose son is enlisting for NS next year, Ms Joni Ong, a member of the FC Council, revealed that she was taken aback when she found out that some parents were reluctant to let their sons serve NS.
I'm quite shocked that this sentiment exists, and these same parents are the ones whose kids (will be) resistant to NS because (of) their parents, explained the President of I Love Children Organisation.
I want to go out there to educate on what NS does for our country and for our sons. And to raise public awareness that what parents say to their children will have an impact on their children's views towards NS as well.
Ms Ong belongs to one of the four working groups - strengthening and recognising family and community support for NS - which the FC Council has already formed. The other three groups will be focusing on driving and recognising community support for NS, enhancing outreach to women through women's organisations, and reaching out to New Citizens and Permanent Residents to support defence and NS.
Following the FC Council meeting in the morning, the Educational Institutions (EI) Council held their first meeting at the same place in the afternoon.
Co-chaired by Dr Maliki and Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah, the EI Council has formed five working groups to address issues such as enhancing mental and physical preparedness of pre-enlistees for NS, increasing outreach to government, private and international schools, and encouraging participation in the SAF Volunteers Corps.
EI Council member Professor Cheong Hee Kiat noted the importance of easing Full-time National Servicemen's transition back to school after their two years of NS.
He said: We will want to help them ease back in, perhaps providing some courses for them during NS, or maybe helping them adjust through the first semester in school.
The President of UniSim added that even as they go on to universities, engaging these NSmen on defence matters should not cease, as this would help them understand their roles as NSmen from a deeper perspective.
Similarly, the idea of continued education on the importance of NS was brought up when the EI Council discussed increasing outreach to primary and secondary schools.
Mrs Lucy Toh, Principal of St Andrews' Secondary School, explained that National Education was something teachers and schools took seriously, and there were always opportunities to refresh students' knowledge of NS and defence matters.
We should not assume that students will automatically understand the necessity of having to serve the country. Each generation should hear the stories of their own fathers and (male) teachers - what they went through when served their NS - and why defence continues to be important, said Mrs Toh.
Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations can often be chaotic and slow due to a lack of coordination among the military forces and civilian aid agencies involved. But the first 48 hours are critical for saving lives. This is the reason HADR practitioners from the military and civilian sectors of 16 countries have gathered for a two-day conference in Singapore to foster cooperation in future HADR operations.
The Regional Conference for Building Civil-Military Capacity for Disaster Relief Operations is jointly organised by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the United States Centre for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance.
Chief of Defence Lieutenant-General (LG) Ng Chee Meng opened the conference with a keynote address on 11 Sep. Speaking to more than 100 participants, he noted that no country could handle a major disaster alone, and that militaries were increasingly relied on to lead HADR operations because of their 24/7 readiness.
But he pointed out that a lack of coordination among the different militaries and civilian agencies could hamper relief effort. For instance, international aid supplies may arrive fast in the disaster-hit country, but there may be delays in delivering them to where they are most needed due to a lack of prior coordination.
If we do not foster dialogue and deeper understanding, the differences in the operating procedures and terminology of civilian agencies and militaries can be a gross impediment to relief efforts, said LG Ng.
He said: This conference hopes to do so, through promoting dialogue and discussion on key topics in disaster response, from the perspective of both the military and civilian realms.
Speakers from the militaries and civilian agencies will take turns to share their experiences from previous HADR operations. The second day of the conference will include speakers from Google and DHL. They will share insights into how technology can be tapped to boost the effectiveness of HADR operations, for instance, sharing information in real time.
The first speaker, Major General (MG) Jet B. Velarmino, Commander of 8th Division, Philippine Army, was involved in the Typhoon Haiyan HADR operation in 2013.
He recalled that the relevant local agencies were themselves hit by the typhoon, and communication links were cut off. He thus recommended that liaison officers from the various militaries, civilian agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) be stationed at the HADR operations headquarters to facilitate coordination.
This is one of the best practices that could be adopted regionally, he said.
For participant Terry Sherwood, he hoped to gain deeper insights into how the military works in HADR operations. A regional security adviser of Plan, an NGO, he was involved in delivering temporary shelters to victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
He said: I am here to learn how the top-level military people work together to get those connections going, so that we can close the gaps earlier on, and work together more effectively in disaster operations.
Following the changes to the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) to a simpler three-station format announced in July this year, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has also made the IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT) system more flexible.
The move is to encourage Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) to take personal ownership of their fitness by giving them more flexibility to plan and train, said Assistant Chief of the General Staff (Training) Colonel (COL) Ng Ying Thong.
Under the new IPT system which the SAF rolled out on 1 Sep, NSmen can choose to take part in five programmes targeted at boosting different aspects of fitness. One thing remains: NSmen will still have to meet or surpass the Personal Performance Targets set out for them when they attend the initial IPT session.
For example, NSmen who want to build their power and endurance can choose to take part in metabolic circuit training which puts them through an intensive session of kettlebell lifts and other exercises punctuated by bouts of running. For the other programmes, see infographic below.
The training is still as tough as before. Said Lance Corporal (LCP) (NS) Abdullah Zai Dani: I thought the new programmes would be easy. After I tried the metabolic circuit, it's not easy at all! He was at the Maju Fitness Conditioning Centre (FCC), located in Clementi, where the new IPT programmes are being offered to NSmen.
The 23-year-old is an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. Since completing his full-time National Service in 2012, his fitness level has dropped, and he has failed to meet the mark for his 2.4km in the IPPT. The enhanced IPT will help him do better and keep fit at the same time.
More IPT sessions and flexibility
Other changes introduced include IPT sessions being shortened to 75 minutes, down from two hours; and NSmen being able to book and do their IPT and Remedial Training (RT) sessions on the same day, when previously, they had to book IPT and RT by 12pm for next-day sessions.
There will also be more sessions for IPT and RT sessions at the FCCs on weekdays and weekends. Lunch-time IPT sessions will also be trialled.
We will conduct lunch-hour sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays to see what the take-up rate is like, said COL Ng.
The reason for all these changes? To give NSmen more flexibility in getting fit, in the hope that more will make fitness a part of their daily lives. We are moving from a one-size-fits-all approach for IPT and RT, to one that gives NSmen more choices, said COL Ng.
We are giving NSmen more flexibility because we believe that by doing that, we can encourage greater ownership (of fitness) which will eventually lead to better fitness levels.
And it is clearly working. I prefer to have choice. The time spent is quite intense. The next day my muscles always feel a little sore, said Corporal (CPL) (NS) Yau Chee Ming, 36. He has been volunteering for IPT for the past five cycles, after struggling to pass IPPT.
The new IPT format is also rewarding because it gives me the flexibility to manage my time to keep fit and I can feel myself improving.
The new IPT system sees trainer-to-trainee ratio drop from 1-to-50 to a smaller 1-to-30 class. Fitness trainer Tan Wei Xian commented that having smaller group sizes helps him to coach NSmen better.
The high-intensity training is effective because it causes a spike in their metabolic rate. It also gives NSmen a good challenge - those who are fitter can push themselves while the less fit ones can do it at their own pace.
IPT in the park
In the same vein of giving NSmen more choices when it comes to fitness, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be rolling out a four-month trial of a new initiative called IPT-in-the-park.
Under the new initiative, the SAF will take IPT out of the FCCs into five locations across the island.
The whole idea is to bring IPT nearer to where NSmen work and live so that they can better manage their NS and other responsibilities, said COL Chua Boon Keat, Head of the National Service Affairs Department.
The trial of IPT-in-the-park will start on 18 Sep.
Commenting on the slew of recent changes to the SAF's physical fitness system, COL Ng said: We are constantly trying to help our NSmen keep fit.
These changes are in line with the SAF's holistic approach to fitness. The whole SAF fitness system comprises two parts: the physical fitness and combat fitness systems, explained COL Ng.
In September 2010, the SAF revised the combat fitness system with changes to the Standard Obstacle Course, and the introduction of Vocation Obstacle Course and Vocation-Related Exercises.
It's timely (to make these changes to IPT) because we have looked into combat fitness, looked at IPPT, and now IPT, said COL Ng.
These enhancements to the IPT system follow changes to IPPT announced in July this year. The IPPT has been simplified to a three-station test comprising push-ups, sit-ups and a 2.4km run.
Naval divers are all they are made out to be - hardy, resilient and calm in the face of danger. The Naval Diving Unit (NDU) opens its doors for a rare glimpse into a week of the Combat Diver Course (CDC). Pass this week and they get to call themselves frogmen.
When people think of the Air Force, it's usually the pilots and fighter planes which come to mind. But behind them, there is a team of people working silently and tirelessly.
Sometimes, it's nice to shine the spotlight on those behind the scenes.
Beneath the Above All motto of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) lies a crew of ground personnel who make up the majority of the Air Force. Among them are the Air Force Engineers (AFEs) from 9 Air Engineering and Logistics Group (9 AELG).
Formerly known as the Air Engineering and Logistics Squadron, 9 AELG was inaugurated in May this year, comprising two new squadrons - 809 Squadron (SQN) and 819 SQN.
The newer generations of air defence systems are networked and utilise a wider range of technologies, so they require more expertise and a deeper understanding of the technologies to keep them running smoothly, said Military Expert (ME) 4-2 Kenneth Tang, Officer-in-Charge of Electro Mechanical Systems Flight from 819 SQN.
The restructuring (to 9 AELG)allows us to make better use of our resources and time to build up our expertise (in maintenance and engineering) to keep our systems more reliable.
809 SQN focuses on providing day-to-day maintenance and immediate recovery of air defence systems, while 819 SQN resolves complex platform-level defects and prevents them from occurring again.
Maintaining day-to-day ops
The primary role of the squadron is to recover these air defence assets such that we sustain 24/7 air defence operations, said ME 5-1 Edwin Leong.
The Officer Commanding of Integrated Maintenance Flight, Command and Control (C2) from 809 SQN explained that the squadron maintains a range of weapons, sensors and C2 systems.
Among them is the Portable Search and Target Acquisition Radar (PSTAR), which ME1-1 Yong Siang maintains.
On a regular basis, the 22-year-old conducts checks on the physical condition of the system to look for corrosion or loose cable connections, and also to check whether the system is functioning according to specifications. If he finds any faults, he has to fix them on the spot.
Some defects can be fixed quickly, and they (809 SQN) can swop out the unserviceable item. For others, we would need to run more analytics to identify the fault. There are different components in each system and a fault could be caused by multiple components, said ME4-2 Tang.
He added that as engineers, 819 SQN's role was to study defect trends, assess if there are any reliability concerns and propose improvements.
For instance, ME1-1 Jolean Lim used to handle maintenance of the C2 systems, but now, as part of 819 SQN, she has to study and further analyse the system in order to fix complex faults and prevent them from happening again.
We primarily work to recover the system immediately so that it does not affect operations. But later, we analyse the fault to find out the root cause of failure, said the 26-year-old.
Since the inauguration of 9 AELG, the AFEs have had more time to focus on their designated field of expertise.
ME2-1 Ganesan, an AFE from 809 SQN, explained: Now, my only aim is to maintain these systems and make sure that when my ops unit requires the system, it is serviceable for the mission. Each squadron can just focus on their respective roles.
Through taking up courses, making sure that the manuals they use are up to date and passing on knowledge to new AFEs, the 29-year-old ensures that no new system falls short of being operationally ready.
For 809 SQN, the challenge now is to rectify faults within a shorter time and get familiar with new systems faster. For 819 SQN, the challenge comes from learning new systems, such as the Surface-to-Air PYthon and DERby (SPYDER), from scratch. Explained ME4-2 Tang: When we bought traditional systems, things were more established.
Now that we're buying or coming up with new systems, it's uncharted territory and more difficult for us as there are no past lessons or experiences we can glean from.
Despite these challenges, the 28-year-old is happier. Having always had a passion for engineering, he enjoys being able to explore deeper issues and boost the reliability of the systems.
The solutions that I implement will help the systems stay up for a longer period of time in the future, he said with a smile.
For ME1-1 Lim, working with more weapons is something that she is looking forward to, as she has always wanted to explore different systems and understand them better.
There'll be lots of preparation. With every new system, we'll need to work closely with the manufacturer to understand all the nuts and bolts, so it's going to be busier. But it's very fulfilling because I know what I do helps to keep our air defence network intact and our skies safe.
With the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) new advanced jet trainer Alenia Aermacchi M-346, fighter pilot trainees can now train in more realistic air combat environments, handle sophisticated systems early in their training, and be better equipped for fighter operations.
The RSAF marked a milestone in its transformation of flying training as it inaugurated the M-346 aircraft into 150 Squadron (SQN) on 3 Sep at Cazaux Air Base in France. Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, who officiated at the inauguration ceremony, highlighted the enhancements to the quality and realism of the RSAF’s fighter flying training that the M-346 aircraft has brought about.
The M-346 - its aerodynamic performance, excellent handling qualities and modern avionics systems - allows our pilots to be better trained, he said, adding that the advanced jet trainer stood out from its predecessors because it could expose pilot trainees to realistic operational environments at the early stage of their training.
Acquired in 2010 as part of the RSAF's Advanced Jet Trainer replacement programme to replace the A-4SU Super Skyhawk, the M-346 aircraft replicates the flight performance and avionics of advanced modern-day fighter aircraft. The RSAF took delivery of the first aircraft in 2012. To date, it has received the full fleet of 12 M-346 jet trainers.
Noting that the global industry of fighter planes was undergoing revolutionary technological change, Dr Ng said the introduction of the M-346 aircraft was timely as it would enable a smooth transition from the advanced fighter jet trainers to the actual fighter aircraft.
On the capabilities which the M-346 aircraft brings to the RSAF, Commanding Officer 150 SQN Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Kelvin Wan said: The M-346 aircraft helps to enhance pilot training by introducing advanced combat skills at an earlier stage of training. Skills such as radar employment, Beyond-Visual-Range missile engagements and precision weapons delivery are all possible now, with the M-346 aircraft.
At the inauguration ceremony, Dr Ng also commended the air and ground crew of 150 SQN for their competence and dedication, which were evident in their recent achievements. In February, the squadron became the first in the world to operationalise the M-346 aircraft for its ab-initio (starting from scratch) aircrew training. In March, it produced the first pilot trainee in the world to fly solo on the advanced jet trainer. Maintaining high safety standards, the squadron achieved its first 1000 accident-free hours on the M-346 aircraft in June. In the same month, 150 SQN participated in the Cazaux Air Show with a combined aerial fly-past of three M-346s with the French Alpha jets.
Sharing his thoughts on being the first pilot trainee who flew solo on the advanced jet trainer, Lieutenant (LTA) Pan Shang Hua said: I'm definitely proud and honoured to be the first student pilot to fly solo on the M-346.
I think it reflects very well on the confidence that the RSAF has in the aircraft, as well as the confidence the instructors have in me.
The inauguration of the M-346 aircraft into 150 SQN also marked the significance of the RSAF's overseas training in honing its operational readiness and professionalism, and in enhancing bilateral defence ties with the host country. The RSAF's training in France began in 1998, and both air forces agreed in 2011 to extend the Cazaux detachment to 2035.
Dr Ng, who is in France for an introductory visit, also met French Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, and visited the French Analysis Centre for Defensive Cyber Operations.