When night fallsFlying the S'pore flag high: RSAF warbirds prowl the skies over Darwin, Australia at Exercise Pitch Black, the largest multinational aerial exercise in the region.
// STORY BENITA TEO
// PHOTOS CHUA SOON LYE
Day and night, they laboured tirelessly. Working both in the light and in near-darkness, they kept these magnificent steel birds flying in the air. PIONEER shines a light on the airmen and women behind the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) warbirds that participated in the biggest edition of Exercise Pitch Black. What does it take to get the 13 jets ready for battle at dawn and dusk, alongside military aircraft from 15 other countries?
"When you're launching a jet from the flight line, you have to be aware of the person beside you, and make sure that he's not taxiing (a plane) out (at the same time), otherwise you might be hit by the jet blast."
"It's important to come here to update my skills in a large-scale exercise and validate our tactics. I also get to share my experience with the junior pilots — they have to pick up quite a lot of skills during their few weeks here, and I can teach them what to expect."
"It's one of our strongest relationships…with a foreign country. Singapore brings state-of-the-art equipment and quality people. Flying with the Singapore aircrew is great, and flying against them can be challenging, so I really enjoy it."
"Through interaction during the planning cycle, we find out more about their platforms' capabilities from the operators themselves."
"We pit our aircrew against aircrew from many different nations who all fly different aircraft (and) use tactics different from what we're used to. Training with such a diverse population of aircrew makes us more effective and adaptable."
"Here, night falls very fast. Unlike in Singapore, it's almost totally dark so we need flashlights to guide us along. We are also given designated tasks to focus on. We trained a lot in Singapore, and must apply what we've learnt to make sure we don't make any mistakes."
"I can see the mutual trust between the air forces — the trust they have in us by coming to us for refuelling, and the trust that we have in them (to observe our safety measures) so that we can transfer the fuel safely and efficiently."