These national servicemen have been working tirelessly to keep the RSAF's operations going at this massive multinational air combat exercise in Australia.
Over 400 Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel are taking part in Exercise Pitch Black 2022, a large-scale multinational air combat exercise in Darwin, Australia.
These include more than 35 Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen).
F-15SG pilot Major (MAJ) (NS) Robin Chew is one of them. He has been training alongside various aircraft from different air forces, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
A typical day at the exercise usually lasts about 12 hours, including mission planning, flying and debriefing, said MAJ (NS) Chew. "Being deployed to this kind of exercise helps us to hone our capabilities, to better ourselves and make sure that we are kept up to date with the operations."
The exercise is being held from 19 Aug to 9 Sep, and involves up to 100 aircraft from 17 nations.
MAJ (NS) Chew had volunteered to take part in this year's exercise. On why it is important for NSmen to participate, he said: "NS is not just about showing numbers. We (have) to be a credible force out there, so we need to be able to come here and keep up our skills."
The 43-year-old, who has a 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, added that without the support of his wife and employer, it would not have been possible for him to be away from home for two-and-a-half weeks in Ex Pitch Black.
He left the RSAF in 2013 and now works as an outsourced F-15SG flight simulator instructor. As an NSman, he flies a sortie once every fortnight to keep his skills current.
Challenging work conditions
Another NSman who volunteered for the exercise is Military Expert (ME) 1 (NS) Isaac Ee, 30, an F-15SG Air Force Engineer.
Training has been challenging for the ground crew as they have to work in scorching heat for hours to maintain and prepare the aircraft for operation, he shared. "It really takes a lot out of us."
This is because, unlike in Singapore where aircraft are kept in sheltered hangars, aircraft at Ex Pitch Black are parked at the flight line, he explained.
To sustain the high-tempo operations through day and night, the ground crew must complete their aircraft checks quickly but without compromising on safety.
ME1 (NS) Ee, who described his job almost like a game of "spot the difference", has to concentrate hard to look out for slight, unnoticeable oddities such as a loose screw.
He said: "The training experience has been great. Our aircraft are very consistent (in their performance) and everybody's working very well together."
Enriching experience for NSFs
For the NSFs, working in a foreign flight line at a large-scale exercise involving 17 nations has been an eye-opening experience.
"Although it has been more fast-paced and (there's) more workload, my colleagues' guidance and the training I received in Singapore have helped to pull me through this exercise," said 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Navin Rai, 22, an F-15SG Air Force Technician.
Fellow NSF Specialist Cadet (SCT) Sim Jin Xiang, 21, agreed, saying: "The weather in Singapore is hot but here it's even hotter. But I think it's worth it when our planes take off safely."
Interactions with ground crew from other air forces, he added, allowed him to learn different practices. "It's an experience for me because you get to see many different models of aircraft, and (personnel from) different countries together," said the F-16D+ Air Force Technician.
SCT Soh Hattori Mizuki is just glad to be given the chance to take part in an overseas exercise as an NSF. He helps to maintain the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Aircraft that is making its debut at Ex Pitch Black.
The 20-year-old Air Force Technician said: "I feel very proud that my work as a flight line crew is able to contribute to our mission success."