SINGAPORE: The perennial crowd favourite Red Lions will perform a wingsuit jump for the first time at the National Day Parade (NDP) this year, from a record height of 3,800 metres, it was announced on Saturday (Jul 14).
The Singapore Army's parachute display team will also be executing the free fall segment with the Republic of Singapore Navy's naval combat divers - another NDP first.
The 10 Red Lions had to undergo a special two-week wingsuit training programme in the US to prepare for the performance, which will see them "flying" from a C-130 in Sentosa placed more than 750m higher than before.
They will then glide at a speed of up to 200km/hr towards the Marina Bay floating platform before experiencing a minute-long free fall, which is double the time taken for their normal jumps.
"We've been doing (the free fall segment) for many years, so we've been looking ... how we can improve in the show and how we can even excite the crowd even more," said First Warrant Officer (1WO) Ivan Low, team leader of the Red Lions for this year’s NDP.
"We decided to stretch the benchmark a bit higher so we can have a better show for the audiences. We have the challenge of bringing the whole group right to the middle of the show area. The responsibility is a lot, but we have practised more than enough for this show," he added.
Before the Red Lions performance, the eight-member Naval Diving Unit (NDU) will free fall more than 1,800 metres towards the water from a Super Puma helicopter - an operational capability that it utilises for actual operations.
"The showcase gives an insight to the maritime operations conducted by the divers when they need to enter an area of operation that is not easily or quickly accessible by other means," the NDP organising committee said in a press release. "During actual operations, an accompanying sea boat is also first deployed from the air into water, serving as a platform for the divers to move off quickly for their mission."
In their debut NDP free fall performance, the divers will deploy their parachutes at about 1,200 metres in the air before descending to a designated drop zone in the waters around the floating platform.
"We have to do a lot of competency training to make sure we are able to fall stable and fall as a team," said Master Warrant Officer Eric Tay, who is the team lead of the NDU's free fall water jump.
Landing in the water means the divers have to battle water currents on top of the wind changes from all directions. They also have to do more than carry a parachute on their descent. They have to wear tactical vests, and carry an assault rifle and dive fins, all amounting to about 50kg.
"When you are at a free fall, approximately at a speed of 120km/hr and with the big flap behind your legs, it catches a lot of wind,” he said. “That is the difficulty we face apart from the equipment that we wear that change the aerodynamics."