In 1968, when Britain announced her decision to pull out all her forces from the region by March 1971, Singapore had to raise an air force from scratch to quickly take over the critical role of air defence for Singapore from the Royal Air Force (RAF). There were no local operational auxiliary or volunteer air force elements functioning at that time as air force operations require highly specialised manpower which was not readily available in Singapore. The most urgent need then was to create a nucleus of trained pilots, controllers, technical personnel and weapon operators who subsequently went on to build-up the earlier Singapore Air Defence Command (SADC). From our humble beginnings, generations of committed and determined airmen and women worked tirelessly over the past 50 years to establish the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) – undertaking the critical mission of keeping Singapore's skies safe, and defending our home and interests. Today, the RSAF is one of the most advanced and capable air force in the region; superior in the air, able to decisively influence the ground and maritime battles, and ready and capable of taking on different types of operations from peace-to-war.
First Generation RSAF (1968 - 1984): Early Years of the RSAF
Facing the impending withdrawal of the RAF, SADC was formed in 1968 to provide air defence for the nation. SADC was managed by a General Staff department in MINDEF who was centrally managing the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)'s land, sea and air elements. During the SADC years, pioneering assets such as the Alouette III helicopter, Oerlikon 35mm anti-aircraft gun, Bloodhound missiles and Hawker Hunter jet aircraft - RSAF's first fighter aircraft - were brought into service.
The RSAF was formally inaugurated on 1 Apr 1975 as an independent service to accelerate the development of the air capability. In the following 10 years, the RSAF embarked on increasingly sophisticated developments and phased in more advanced weapon systems. The RSAF ushered in the realm of supersonic flight with the F-5 fighter jets in 1979. To hone the proficiency of the RSAF personnel, the RSAF trained overseas with the Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) and the United States Air Force (USAF). Besides addressing the air defence needs of Singapore, the capabilities built-up also allowed the RSAF to be deployed for peacetime missions such as the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR) operation during the 1971 Kuantan flood and the cable car rescue operations in 1983.
Second Generation RSAF(1985 - 2005): Spreading Wings and Forging Ahead
In the Second Generation (1985 - 2005), the RSAF increased participation in overseas exercises such as Exercise PITCH BLACK and Exercise COPE TIGER. Till today, these exercises continue to be useful platforms to strengthen defence ties and enhance the training with foreign air forces. The RSAF continued to develop her capabilities by enhancing our aircraft fleet and ground-based air defence (GBAD) systems.
The introduction of new and more capable platforms strengthened the RSAF's operational capabilities and also allowed the RSAF to contribute more significantly towards global causes. Consequently, our defence relationships with foreign militaries and the United Nations were enhanced.
Third Generation RSAF (2006 - Present): Full Spectrum, Integrated and Ready
Faced with a widened spectrum of unconventional and non-traditional security threats, the RSAF went through a period of transformation and restructuring to enhance her ability to defend Singapore. The 3rd Generation RSAF was conceptualised to be a highly responsive force capable of handling a spectrum of missions from peace to war. In peace, it is able to remain operationally ready to provide 24/7 air defence, as well as to be deployed for contingency missions in our region and beyond when called upon. In war, it will employ air power to continue air defence and achieve air superiority for the SAF. In addition, the restructuring will also enable the RSAF to harness emerging technologies, bold battlefield concepts and integrated capabilities to enhance the air force's effectiveness.
As part of the 3rd Generation transformation, the RSAF restructured itself into six commands, namely Air Defence and Operations Command (ADOC), Air Combat Command (ACC), Participation Command (PC), Air Power Generation Command (APGC), UAV Command (UC) and Air Force Training Command (AFTC).
The RSAF also continued its modernisation through the operationalisation of more advanced systems, such as F-15SG fighter aircraft, Gulfstream 550 - Airborne Early Warning (AEW), Multi-Mission Radar (MMR), SPYDER ground-based air defence system and the Heron 1 UAV.