Finding their bearings amid choppy seas

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RSAF'S NDP AERIAL DISPLAYS SET TO RETURN TO NDP
05 Jul 2024 | COMMUNITY

RSAF'S NDP AERIAL DISPLAYS SET TO RETURN TO NDP

The RSAF's fighter jets and helicopters will be making their rounds around the Padang, Marina Bay and the heartlands around Singapore for NDP 2024.

// STORY BY JOSHUA DE SOUZA / PHOTOS BY PIONEER PHOTOGRAPHERS

Singaporeans have been looking to the skies on Saturday evenings to catch a glimpse of F-16 fighter planes soaring through the skies in formation, or helicopters flying the flag high.

Yes, it's that time of the year again – and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is back with their National Day classics!

A total of 16 RSAF assets will be involved in this year's NDP aerial segments. Audience members will be able to spot them at the Padang, Marina Bay and in the heartlands all across the island.

The CH-47F Heavy Lift Helicopter (left), with two AH-64D Apache escorts, will carry the State Flag into the heartlands.
This is the fifth year that the RSAF is performing Fly Our Flag – it began in 2020 to bring the state flag flypast closer to Singaporeans all across the island. [File photo]

In the heartlands

Now in its fifth year, the Fly Our Flag segment has become an NDP favourite for many. From 5.45pm to 6.30pm, two groups of CH-47 helicopters carrying the state flag – together with two AH-64D escorts each – will make their way across the eastern and western parts of Singapore.

The eastern route includes Seletar, Sengkang, Punggol, Pasir Ris, Bedok and East Coast; while the Western route will pass by Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok, Jurong and West Coast.

Also returning is the Island Flypast, with six F-16 fighter jets flying in delta formation over areas like Clementi, Jurong West, Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Batok, Woodlands, Toa Payoh, Seletar, Punggol and Bendemeer. This will take place from about 6pm to 6.30pm.

Keep your eyes (and ears) sharp for the Island Flypast as six F-16s roar across the skies. [File photo]

Thrilling audiences at the Padang

Those joining in the celebrations at the Padang or Marina Bay area can expect to catch the return of traditional fan-favourites such as the Salute To The Nation bomb-burst, which will be performed by five F-16 fighter jets.

Five F-16s will be performing the signature bomb-burst manoeuvre as a salute to the nation.

Safety was of utmost priority when it came to planning for the RSAF's NDP performances at the Padang, said Captain (CPT) Ong Yan Zhuan, the Deputy Flying Display Marshall in this year's Air Participation Committee.

The tight airspace in the area poses new challenges and considerations for the aerial displays, given the proximity to high-rise buildings and how audiences are seated facing multiple viewing angles, he explained.

Giving an example of how they give the best view of the aircraft to as many spectators as possible, CPT Ong said: "(As a lot of) the audience will be facing towards the National Gallery, the AH-64 will fly over the Padang area to ensure the audiences are able to see the performance."

CPT Ong has been involved in planning the RSAF's aerial displays since November 2023 as a Deputy Flying Display Marshall in the NDP Air Participation Committee. The 31-year-old is an Apache pilot from 120 Squadron.

Preparations began as early as November 2023 with the planning of displays, assets and flight routes that the RSAF will deliver at NDP this year. The pilots began their progressive training for the flight routes in May.

As part of the new Total Defence 40 Dynamic Defence Display at the Padang this year, two pairs of F-16s will demonstrate their agility in thrilling aerial manoeuvres such as a twin Vertical Climb and a Flythrough with afterburners.

Showcase of strength in dynamic defence display

Apache pilot MAJ Ingkiriwang Reeve – an NDP veteran of eight years – is looking forward to showcasing to viewers what the agile helicopter is capable of.

"I sincerely hope that audiences will enjoy the show and appreciate the Apaches and other RSAF assets in action," said the 36-year-old Officer Commanding of 120 Squadron (SQN).

MAJ Ingkiriwang will be flying the Apache helicopter not only during the Fly Our Flag segment along the Eastern route, but also in the new Total Defence (TD) 40 Dynamic Defence Display (D3) at the Padang.

The D3 scenario – which involves both air and land assets from the RSAF – promises a showcase of military and civil prowess from the Singapore Armed Forces and other national agencies.

The D3 segment will also see a pair of AH-64D Apache Attack Helicopters performing coordinated aerial-maritime manoeuvres and a steep dive towards show centre. [File photo]
It's not just about aircraft in the sky: The SPYDER will also play a role at the Padang as part of the TD40 D3, showing how the RSAF and other SAF assets can carry out a coordinated aerial-surface response against threats.

Over cloud nine

The nation's birthday is an extra special date for F-16 pilot Major (MAJ) Ervin Ng – it's also his wedding anniversary.

"I got together with my wife on NDP 2013, we got engaged exactly one year later, and we got married on NDP 2015," said MAJ Ng. "My wife and I were married in the morning on 9 Aug 2015, and I flew in the SG50 flypast that very evening."

The 36-year-old pilot, who is the Officer Commanding of 140 SQN, will be taking part in the Island Flypast across Singapore, as well as the Salute to the Nation bomb-burst at the Padang, and the air threat interception scenario in the TD40 D3.

For F-16 pilot MAJ Ng, 9 Aug is a special date that not only marks the nation's birthday – it's also his wedding anniversary!

This year, his wife and two children – aged four and six – will be watching him soar through the skies after an anniversary lunch.

"They know that I'm in one of the aircraft and they will keep shouting "Papa" all the way until I fly past the showground over Padang."

"Whenever I watch the video my wife takes of our kids, I can see the excitement they have and the joy when they are jumping up and down, and that motivates me to do well during the flypast."

A group effort: (from left) Chinook pilot CPT Lim is supported by crew like ME2 Suryanarayanan and ME3 (NS) Ng who help ensure that State Flag Flypast goes off without a hitch.
MAJ Ingkiriwang (right) paid tribute to the effort of "unseen" team members like 3SG Benjamin Ng, in ensuring the AH-64 helicopters deliver a good show at NDP. The Air Force Technician extended his full-time NS by six months to take part in various key events this year such as the Singapore Airshow and, of course, NDP.

Unsung heroes

The stars of the show may be the magnificent aircraft soaring through the skies but there is plenty of ground work required before, during and after the flight.

For example, the size of the flag used in the State Flag Flypast and Fly Our Flag segments measures 30m-by-20m, weighs 2,900 pounds (over 1,300kg), and requires 20 men to roll it up properly for transport and hooking to the CH-47 helicopter.

CPT Lim Jing Han Galex – a 36-year-old pilot from 127 SQN who will be flying Stallion One, the lead CH-47 helicopter in the State Flag Flypast – paid tribute to the professionalism and support of the team supporting him.

This includes Military Expert (ME) 2 A Suryanarayanan, 30, of the NDP 2024 Flag Team, who helps prepare the flag to ensure that it unfurls and streams smoothly in flight; and ME3 Thomas (NS) Ng Choon Yong, 45, who is serving his In-Camp Training as part of Stallion One's crew and ensures the State Flag is hooked up securely to the helicopter.

ME3 Sugeetha (left) and CPT Ow both feel a great sense of pride for their behind-the-scenes work in ensuring a smooth flight for the RSAF's assets during NDP.

NDP dreams come true

Also working hard behind the scenes are personnel like ME3 Sugeetha Jayakumaran, who  helps to prepare and ensure that the F-16s are serviceable and ready for flight during NDP training and rehearsals.

"My kids will see the (F-16s) on TV and say 'That's mummy's jet! Mummy worked on that jet,'" said the 43-year-old Air Force Engineer from 815 SQN.

"I may not be (so) directly involved in NDP (like the pilots)…but there is a great sense of pride knowing I'm able to contribute, and seeing my children feel proud of what I do."

As for Air Traffic Controller CPT Adeline Ow, her work involves coordinating communications and airspace clearance between the Island Flypast and Fly Our Flag teams as well as civilian aircraft around the Tengah aerodrome, to ensure a smooth flight for all these aircraft.

Playing her part in NDP has been a childhood wish come true for the 26-year-old from 205 SQN. "As a kid, I watched the aircraft fly at NDP… Now, after joining the RSAF – being able to participate and watch the aircraft take off –  it's really a dream."

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