SINGAPORE: The chopping noise from the rotors of a helicopter pounded louder as it made its way through clear skies towards the SAFTI Live Firing Area. The hostile aircraft was in Singapore airspace, posing a clear and immediate danger as it navigated its way over the rough terrain.
In a matter of seconds, personnel from the Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) units jumped into action and readied their missiles, anticipating an order to take down the suspicious aircraft.
That was the scenario played out on Wednesday (Jan 18), as part of Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) Flaming Arrow Challenge (FAC) 2017. It's an annual cross-command competition involving GBAD units.
In this segment, various units are brought together to test their ability to neutralise aerial threats from fighter aircraft and helicopters.
A Super Puma helicopter simulating the suspicious aircraft in FAC 2017. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
GBAD - part of the RSAF’s multi-layered air defence system - has to pre-empt threats and safeguard the country with surface-to-air missiles.
The SPYDER is a surface-to-air missile system capable of engaging a wide spectrum of aerial threats. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
Speaking with the media on Wednesday, the commander of the Divisional Air Defence Group (DAG) Colonel Alvin Yeo said the FAC serves as another avenue for the RSAF to test out its skills and tactics in a competitive environment. “When you train in respective areas and in different settings, the scenario may not be as rich,” he said.
“But if you have everyone together, there will be a lot of interactions and a lot more uncertainty in the whole scenario building. So, this adds some complexity as well as a more operationally challenging environment for them.”
An RBS-70 GBAD system mounted on a camouflaged V200 armoured vehicle. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman visited the SAFTI Live Firing Area on Wednesday morning, where he witnessed the operations conducted by the GBAD units. He also gained first-hand experience of the execution of flight manoeuvres to evade surface-to-air missiles on board a Super Puma helicopter.
Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman trying out the RBS 70 Missile System at the SAFTI Live Firing Area on Wednesday. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
FAC was first introduced in 2014, as part of the annual RSAF Command Challenges. It includes six other competitions.
Col Yeo also said that in recent years, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have been introduced to make FAC more challenging. For instance, the UAVs will be up in the air and flying over the training area to identify the firing units deployed. Points will be awarded to the GBAD if the UAVs are unable to do so, he added.
“We will try to fine tune the challenge year on year,” said Col Yeo. “Previously, there was not as much interaction and the UAV is an example of how every year we try to improve and make it more challenging.”
GBAD personnel readying their missiles and anticipating an order to take down the suspicious aircraft. (Photo: Xabryna Kek)
The RSAF added that its systems and people are constantly put to the test through realistic training and operations to ensure operational readiness, which is especially crucial given the current threat from terrorism.
A total of 132 personnel are involved in FAC 2017, and about half of them are NSmen.