RSAF celebrates 20th anniversary of training at French air base

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13jul18_news
13 Jul 2018 | MILESTONES

RSAF celebrates 20th anniversary of training at French air base

//Report by Dionne De Souza

//Photos by Wayne Wong, Rachel Teng & courtesy of RSAF

English 华文

Just one wingspan apart, a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) M-346 aircraft flew over Cazaux Air Base in Arrowhead formation with two French Air Force (FAF) Alpha Jets, in salute to the 150 Squadron's (SQN's) 20th anniversary there.

This combined flypast on 12 Jul marked a milestone for the RSAF detachment. Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, who was present at the commemorative ceremony, unveiled a plaque and a specially-designed tailflash.

Two decades ago, about 100 servicemen and women from the RSAF travelled to south-western France to establish a new base, operating 10 A4-SU Super Skyhawk aircraft as part of their Advanced Jet Training (AJT) programme.

Today, it is home to 150 Squadron (SQN), which comprises more than 250 RSAF instructors, trainees, engineers, support staff and their families. 

The squadron now flies the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Advanced Jet Trainer aircraft, which better replicates the flight performance and avionics of advanced, modern-day fighter aircraft. 

This allows fighter aircrew – both Pilots and Weapon Systems Officers – to handle more sophisticated systems in a more realistic training environment at an earlier stage in their training, in turn better preparing them to operate the RSAF's F-15SGs and F-16s.

During Dr Ng's speech, he highlighted the invaluable opportunities that the training area provided the RSAF: "Cazaux Air Base offers an airspace that is 32 times that of the whole of Singapore. It provides our young pilots with sprawling skies to hone our flying skills and build confidence. 

"But more importantly, (being able to) train alongside highly skilled French pilots allows the RSAF to learn from and peg itself against a world-class air force."

He also thanked the FAF and the Ministry of the Armed Forces for their hospitality, and for facilitating the upgrading of the RSAF's flying training system with the M-346 in 2014. 

More than 190 RSAF pilots have trained at Cazaux Air Base. 150 SQN was the first in the world to operationalise the M-346 aircraft for its ab-initio (starting from scratch) aircrew training. It clocked 10,000 safe flying hours in June this year.

The ceremony was attended by Secretary of State to the Minister for the Armed Forces Geneviève Darrieussecq and representatives from the FAF, who also joined attendees in adding items to a time capsule that would be opened in 20 years.

For the first time, 150 SQN and other Singapore Armed Forces troops will be participating in the French National Day celebrations with an M-346 and a marching contingent. The M-346 will fly alongside five FAF Alpha Jets in close formation.

Captain (CPT) Yeap Wei Jiun, Officer Commanding of 150 SQN, will be one of two pilots flying in the M-346. He credited the close working relationship with their French counterparts for how smoothly rehearsals have gone: "We have been operating in France for 20 years and we know each other's procedures very well. 

"On a day to day basis, when we fly, we're controlled by the French Air Traffic Controllers. We're used to one another and our operating norms are quite similar."

Adding that he felt privileged and honoured to be part of this flypast team, CPT Yeap said: "This is the first time they have invited us to take part in the National Day flypast – I think this speaks a lot for the mutual trust we have in one another and the deep friendship between the RSAF and the FAF."

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