SINGAPORE: The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has reduced its local training “as far as possible” and introduced measures to reduce the noise from flying, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday (Oct 5).
He was responding to a parliamentary question from Member of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin, who asked if the RSAF will consider reducing the number of early morning training sessions of military aircraft near residential areas, given that more residents are working from home due to COVID-19 measures.
In his written reply, Dr Ng said that while the ministry recognises the inconvenience and disruption to residents, there is a need for a capable and operationally-ready RSAF.
"That we have a capable RSAF today able to defend our skies is taken for granted. It’s a virtuous state of affairs, but one that can slip if ever the capabilities of our pilots and planes degrade," he said.
"And to keep up their skills, RSAF pilots need to train adequately."
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“MINDEF/SAF has done as much as we can to keep the RSAF training tempo locally to essential levels and activity," Dr Ng added.
"The RSAF has reduced its local training as far as possible," he said, noting that about half of actual flying training occurs overseas in countries that are willing to provide Singapore with those opportunities.
As for local training, a “significant proportion” is done through simulators, he said, adding that even during actual flying, measures have been introduced to reduce the noise.
“First, most of the local flying is conducted over waters rather than land, and avoiding residential areas except during take-off, landing and transit to and from training areas,” Dr Ng explained.
“To illustrate, the northern end of the runway at Paya Lebar Air Base is approximately 6km from our territorial boundary. The fighter pilots have mere seconds after take-off to bank a sharp left in order to keep within our territorial airspace.
"Sorties taking off from Paya Lebar Air Base and Tengah Air Base are already clustered where possible, in multiple groups, even when smaller number of aircraft are involved."
He noted that the RSAF also adjusted its training tempo to accommodate sensitive periods such as national examinations.
“During this COVID-19 pandemic where more residents are working and studying from home, the RSAF has kept the level of local flying activities to the minimum needed to maintain operational readiness,” he said.
Flying is also spread across the week and on selected weekends.
“This regular training both locally and overseas keep the RSAF sharp and able to protect us well. It’s not against theoretical or imagined threats,” Dr Ng said, adding that on any given year, the RSAF responds to more than 350 suspicious air threats.
“As a small country with no strategic depth, it is critical for Singapore’s survival to maintain a capable and operationally-ready RSAF," said the defence minister.
“Without this crucial deterrence, Singapore’s national defences can easily be compromised and with potentially catastrophic consequences.
“This state of high operational readiness of the RSAF is only possible with regular and realistic training.”