Fact Sheet: History of RSAF

Fact Sheet: History of RSAF


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.

Date Key Milestones
First Generation (1968 - 1984)
Sep 1968 Singapore Air Defence Command, or SADC, was formed.
1968 SADC purchased her first aircraft; eight Cessna 172Ks training aircraft 
Jul 1969 The first helicopter squadron, 120 Squadron, was formed shortly after the first four Alouettes III helicopters arrived in Singapore.
Oct 1969 SADC awarded a contract to British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) to refurbish, modify, recondition and deliver the Bloodhound Mark II Surface-to-Air missiles. SADC also purchased the Oerlikon 35mm anti-aircraft guns for air base defence.
1970 Singapore witnessed its first NDP flag, measuring 8ft by 6ft, flypast conducted by an Alouette III helicopter.
Sep 1970 SADC's first fighter squadron, 140 Squadron, was formed, operating SADC's first fighter aircraft – the Hawker Hunter.
Jan 1971 SADC's first overseas deployment. At the request for assistance from the Malaysian Government, 120 Squadron was activated for the Kuantan flood relief operation.
1971-1972 SADC purchased ex-US Navy A4B Skyhawks in 1971, and MINDEF entered into a contract with Lockheed Aircraft Service in Jul 1972 to refurbish and modify the Skyhawks.
1972-1973 MINDEF purchased six twin turboprop-engined Skyvan transport aircraft in 1972 to meet the SAF's air transport and Search and Locate needs. 121 Squadron, the first transport squadron, was inaugurated in 1973 to operate the Skyvan.
Apr 1975 The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) was inaugurated.
1977 The RSAF took delivery of the Lockheed Hercules C-130s – a more capable airlift platform with greater range and capacity to better meet the needs of the wider SAF.
1977 120 Squadron took delivery of three Bell 212 and 17 UH-1H Huey helicopters.
1979 Singapore Air Defence Artillery was formed and all Air Defence Artillery units were unified under a single command.

The US-made Improved Homing All the Way Killer (I-Hawk) system was procured to meet the RSAF's medium range air defence requirements. The laser-guided and man-portable Swedish Bofors RBS 70 missile system was also acquired to better meet Singapore's air defence requirements.
Feb 1979 144 Squadron was inaugurated, following the arrival of the F-5s. The arrival of the F-5s heralded the RSAF's entry into the realm of supersonic flight.
1980 and 1982 The RSAF participated in the inaugural Exercise ELANG INDOPURA, a bilateral air exercise with Indonesia in 1980. The RSAF also participated for the first time in Exercise RED FLAG held in the United States in 1982.
Jan 1983 The RSAF was activated to rescue the stranded passengers during the 1983 Cable Car disaster, saving 13 lives.
1984 145 Squadron was formed in Apr 1984 to operate the A-4. A month later, 145 Squadron was deployed overseas for the first time to Pekan Baru in Indonesia for Ex ELANG INDOPURA.


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.

Date Key Milestone
Second Generation (1985 - 2005)
Jun 1985 149 Squadron - the RSAF's second F-5 squadron - was inaugurated.
Oct 1985 125 Squadron was inaugurated to operate the AS-332 Super Puma helicopters. 
Mar 1986 The RSAF deployed helicopters to evacuate casualties from the Hotel New World collapse to Singapore General Hospital.
Apr 1986 The RSAF conducted the first Exercise TORRENT, an exercise to launch and recover aircraft from public roads.
Oct 1986 ST Aerospace modified the C-130B aircraft to be capable of air-to-air refuelling. The aircraft was designated as KC-130B and was operated by 122 Squadron.
1987 The RSAF became the first air force in the region to have airborne early warning (AEW) capability with the introduction of the Northrop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye aircraft.
1987 The NDP flag flypast was taken over by the Super Puma helicopters. The flag, increased in size to 90ft by 60ft, was the largest in the world to be underslung.
1988 Peace Carvin Detachment was established in Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, USA with the delivery of the F-16A/Bs.
1988 - 1989 The RSAF took over command of the Field Photo Unit which was renamed 128 Squadron. 128 Squadron operated the Scout Remote Piloted Vehicle.

In 1989, the Tactical Air Support Command was formed to better meet the SAF's demands for tactical air support.
1988-1990 The RSAF worked with home-grown industry partners to upgrade the A4 Skyhawks to A4SU Super Skyhawks. The aircraft were fitted with new engines, weapons delivery and navigational systems. A unique dual-cockpit configuration - the TA-4SU - was also developed.
1990 The RSAF participated in Exercise PITCH BLACK for the first time with the United States Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force in Darwin, Australia. Exercise WALLABY was also started in the same year at Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia.
Oct 1990 The RSAF delivered relief and medical supplies to Amman, Jordan in a joint Singapore-Brunei humanitarian effort in response to an appeal for aid by the United Nations (UN) to handle the humanitarian crisis created by the first Gulf War.
June 1991 A C-130 delivered aid for the evacuees of the Mount Pinatubo eruption.
1991 - 1994 The F-5s underwent a significant upgrade programme to modernise the platform and enhance its operational capabilities.
1993 The RSAF acquired nine Fokker-50s to replace the ageing Skyvans. The Fokker-50s served as utility transport aircraft and maritime patrol aircraft.
May 1993 The RSAF participated in its first UN peacekeeping mission. The RSAF deployed four Super Puma helicopters and 65 personnel from 126 Squadron to support the UN sponsored elections in Cambodia.
Aug 1994 The RSAF established Exercise COPE TIGER with the United States Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force.
1994 - 1996 The RSAF acquired the Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopters to meet the SAF's lift requirements.
1998 - 1999 In March 1998, the RSAF inaugurated the Searcher unmanned aerial vehicle to replace the Scout remotely piloted vehicle (RPV).

119 Squadron was formed in Jul 1998 to support the RSAF's expanding UAV capabilities and requirements.
1999 The RSAF acquired the AH-64D Apache Attack Helicopter.
Jan 2000 A C-130 detachment with 24 crew members and 3 military officers was deployed to Timor-Leste to assist in the transition from International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) to UN Transitional Administration to East Timor (UNTAET).
Jun 2000 121 Squadron and 122 Squadron each flew a Fokker-50 and a C-130 respectively to earthquake-struck Sumatra with a 20-man medical team along with medical supplies and tents to support in the relief efforts.
Dec 2000 112 Squadron was inaugurated. 112 Squadron operates the KC-135R Air-to-Air refuelling tanker.
Sep 2002 RSAF deployed a 72-man helicopter detachment with four UH-1H helicopters from 120 Squadron to Suai in south-western Timor-Leste to provide aviation support to the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET).
Feb 2004 The RSAF sent its first C-130 transport aircraft detachment as part of the SAF's contribution to the multinational reconstruction effort in Iraq.
Dec 2004 - Feb 2005 Following the Boxing Day Tsunami, the RSAF activated Chinooks, Super Pumas, C-130s, and Fokker-50s to Thailand and Indonesia for Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief Operations.
Sep 2005

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, three CH-47 Chinooks helicopters from Peace Prairie Detachment, Texas, were deployed to assist in relief operations in Louisiana.


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.

Date Key Milestones
Third Generation (2006 - Present)
2007 - 2008 The six RSAF Commands were inaugurated.
Apr 2007 The RSAF unveiled the indigenous networked air defence system and introduced the Ericsson Giraffe agile multiple beam radar, upgraded I-HAWK, mechainised IGLA system and enhanced remote weapon display to improve the RASF's operational capabilities.
May 2007 The RSAF expanded the UAV fleet with the induction of the Hermes 450 (H-450) UAV.
2007 The RSAF acquired the Gulfstream 550 - Airborne Early Warning (G550-AEW) in 2007 to replace the RSAF's E-2C AEW.
2009 The RSAF deployed two Super Pumas as part of the SAF Task Group deployed to the Gulf of Aden to support international counter-piracy efforts.
May 2009 The RSAF took delivery of the first batch of F-15SG fighter aircraft.
2010 A 52-man UAV Task Group was deployed to Afghanistan to augment the International Security Assistance Force’s air intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability.
Apr 2010 The RSAF acquired 12 Alenia Aermacchi M-346 master trainer aircraft to replace the A-4SU Super Skyhawk for the Advanced Jet Training programme.
2011 The RSAF Fokker-50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) was deployed to Djibouti to support international counter piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.
2011 The Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk helicopter was inaugurated into 123 Squadron.
May 2012 The Heron 1 UAV was inaugurated into 119 Squadron.
Mar 2014 The RSAF deployed a C-130 transport aircraft, a Fokker-50 MPA, and a Sikorsky S-70B helicopter in the search for the missing Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
2015 The RSAF deployed an RSAF KC-135R and an Imagery Analysis Team to support the multinational coalition against extremist threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mar 2015 Two CH-47SD Chinooks helicopters were deployed to Chiang Mai to conduct aerial firefighting and ferry operations.
April 2015 The RSAF deployed a C-130 to airlift the Singapore relief contingent and their equipment, and evacuated survivors following the Nepal Earthquake.
Aug 2017 The RSAF deployed C-130s, Fokker-50s, Super Pumas and Chinooks in support of the Search and Locate efforts following the collision of USS John S McCain and an oil tanker.
Aug 2017 CH-47 Chinooks helicopters were deployed from Peace Prairie Detachment, Texas, to support relief operations in Temple, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
2018 The RSAF celebrates its 50th anniversary.
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