5 firsts for the RSAF

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01 Sep 2022 | MILESTONES

5 firsts for the RSAF

// Story Sherlyn Quek

// Photos PIONEER photographers & the RSAF

English 华文

As the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) marks its 54th birthday on 1 Sep, here are five "first" facts that you may not know.

The Hawker Hunter jets [Photo: RSAF Facebook]

1) Have you ever heard the howl of the Hawker Hunter? This was the RSAF's first fighter plane!

Purchased in 1968, the British-made Hawker Hunter jet formed 140 Squadron (SQN) in 1970. Also known as the Ospreys, 140 SQN was the first fighter squadron in the Singapore Air Defence Command (SADC), which was officially renamed to the RSAF in 1975.

The SADC's second fighter squadron, 141 SQN or the Merlins, was established two years later.

These planes – which were powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon engine with 10,000lbs of thrust and could fly at a maximum speed of 1,150kmh – were also used by the RSAF's first aerobatic team, aptly named the Osprey Reds, in 1973. The team was later renamed the Black Knights.

In the mid-1970s, the Hawker Hunters went through major upgrading which included improved avionics and additional weapon stations. They were eventually phased out in the 1990s after the introduction of the F-16 Fighting Falcons.

PS. Did you know you can see a model of the Hawker Hunter at the Singapore Air Force Museum?

An Alouette III arriving at Seletar Air Base in 1969. [Photo: RSAF Facebook]

2) The Alouette III was the RSAF's first helicopter!

The RSAF received the first of eight French-made Alouette III helicopters on 30 Sep 1969 at Seletar Air Base. Later that same year on 1 Oct, it formed its pioneer helicopter unit which took on transport, patrol and search-and-rescue missions.

Simply named Alouette Squadron in the beginning, it was later renamed 120 SQN when the SADC changed its naming system for the squadrons to using numbers instead.

With the acquisition of the Bell 212 and UH-1H Huey helicopters in 1977, the ageing Alouette fleet was retired in early 1979 after serving for almost a decade.


PS. Did you know the first National Day Parade State Flag Flypast in 1970 (pictured above) was flown by the Alouette helicopters? Back then, the flag was only 3m by 2m – its size has since increased over 100 times and now measures 30 by 20m!


3) The 35mm Oerlikon guns formed the foundation of the fledging RSAF's ground-based air defence system

Purchased in October 1969, the 35mm Oerlikon Anti-Aircraft Guns were the SADC's first air defence weapon. This all-weather anti-aircraft system was operated by 160 Battalion that was formed on 1 Jun 1970 at Seletar Air Base.

Guided by radar and fully automatic, the gun's distinctive twin-barrel cannons could spit out over 1,000 rounds per minute in tandem, and had a range of 4km.

Together with the Bloodhound Mark II Surface-to-Air missiles (which were inherited from the British), the 35mm anti-aircraft guns laid the foundation of Singapore's Ground-Based Air Defence capabilities.

The pilots and support crew of the RSAF's first-ever HADR operation. [Photo: RSAF Facebook]

4) RSAF was called upon for its first Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) mission in 1971

Responding to the Malaysian Government's request for assistance, the SADC took part in the Kuantan flood relief efforts on 6 Jan 1971. This was not only the SADC's first HADR mission, but also its first overseas operational deployment.

Five Alouette III helicopters and crew from 120 SQN were mobilised for this mission, ferrying aid and medical supplies as well as rescuing stranded flood victims over 11 days.

To train its first pilots, the SADC had to borrow two Cessna 172 aircraft from the Singapore Flying Club back in 1968. Check out the iconic old insignia near the tail number! [Photo: MINDEF Facebook]

5) The RSAF's current logo is its third design

When SADC was formed in 1968, its insignia comprised an inner red circle surrounded by an outer red circle – an adaptation of the British Royal Air Force's roundel (which has an outer ring of blue).

Can you spot the old yin-yang inspired RSAF insignia on these Bloodhound missiles?

In 1974, it became a stylised "S" or yin-yang inspired emblem. Did you know the design was based on a winning entry submitted in a logo competition held by MINDEF in 1973?

The F-15SG sporting a special blue RSAF50 theme in 2018 to mark the Air Force's golden jubilee The Lion Head roundel can be seen near the cockpit. [Photo: RSAF Facebook]

The RSAF's current logo, introduced in 1990, features Singapore's national symbol – the lion – in a roundel. The red Lion Head represents courage, strength and resolve, while the roundel signifies unity of purpose.

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