SINGAPORE: The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) stepped up to the challenge of US President Donald Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and showed the world it was operationally ready, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the RSAF50 Parade on Saturday (Sep 1).
Speaking at Tengah Air Base, PM Lee, who was the guest of honour at the parade, cited the summit as one of the "extraordinary circumstances" that required RSAF officers to answer to the call of duty at short notice.
"The RSAF showed the world during the Summit that you are operationally ready," said Mr Lee. "You were tasked to defend our skies by forming a protective 'dome' over Singapore.
"You had more than 20 aircraft in the air or ready to take off, at any moment; more than 10 ground-based air defence systems stood guard, and unmanned aerial vehicles were on standby. This was a live operation, not a dry exercise."
Mr Lee noted that the officers had only two weeks to prepare for the historic event and that many had to cancel leave plans and forfeit vacation bookings.
"But you stepped up to the challenge, and showed Singapore and the world your capabilities and dedication," he said.
In his speech, the prime minister also raised the "continuing and unending task" of making sure Singapore's equipment, technology and systems are up to date.
He said that as the Air Force grew, it improvised with what it had, and progressively built up and renewed its equipment.
"It must be pursued consistently and resolutely, with adequate resources, conscious of our defence needs and the international context," said Mr Lee.
"We do not simply go for the most expensive and newest. But we always acquire what makes the most operational sense for us. Sometimes, we even buy second-hand equipment, such as the KC-135 air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft," he added.
The parade, which consisted of a marching contingent of almost 500 personnel and flypasts involving 20 aircraft, was held in conjunction with the RSAF’s 50th anniversary.
It also capped off the RSAF’s Golden Jubilee celebrations this year, which began in February with the Singapore Airshow.
Other events held earlier this year in the lead up to the parade included live demonstrations, static displays and interactive exhibits at five different locations islandwide as well as the biggest aerial showcase of the year at the RSAF50@Marina Barrage.
A display of a blue RSAF50-themed F-15SG kickstarted the parade, wowing a crowd of close to 1,400 guests, including Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen and Chief of Air Force Major General (MG) Mervyn Tan.
Bringing together elements of the past, present and future, the parade paid tribute to the forefathers of the RSAF, with a mobile column drive-past featuring pioneer personnel saluting the crowd.
Capping off the show was a flypast which involved a sequence of aircraft such as the CH-47 Chinook Helicopter, F-16D+ fighter jets and six F-15SGs.
Another highlight for guests was a static display, which included current and retired aircraft.
PM Lee was also on hand to view the newest addition to the RSAF’s fleet - the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT). The aerial refuelling aircraft arrived in Singapore last month and was making its first public appearance.
As part of the celebrations, PM Lee also unveiled the RSAF 50 commemorative mural at a post-parade gallery.
The 10m by 4m canvas mural is a collage of 50,000 photographs collected from members of the public as well as contributors such as President Halimah Yacob and the PM himself. It aims to showcase the achievements of the RSAF over the last 50 years and will be permanently displayed in the Air Force Museum.
“It was important for us to have something to hold on to (and) remember what we have done so far,” explained ME 5 Edward Kang, RSAF50 commemorative mural sub-committee chairman. “I hope when Singaporeans see it, they will have the quiet confidence that the RSAF is there for them to defend their skies.”
“The (parade’s) theme of honouring the past, celebrating the present and inspiring the future is designed to round off the year,” said parade chairman Col Lau Boon Ping. “It is really to describe the journey that we have taken over the past 50 years.”