Behind that fast, furious, sky-high NDP salute

4 07 2014

It is in a very brief but spectacular moment that five of Singapore’s most advanced fighter jets the F-15SG, with their afterburners on, will, from some 300 to 400 metres above Marina Bay, will wow the crowds at this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) in their salute to the nation. The display, a regular feature of more recent NDPs, “A Salute to the Nation”, has to surely be a crowd favourite that involves only the best-of-the-best in air crew in a demonstration of extreme piloting skill that sees the jets separated, wing-tip to wing-tip, by a distance of just 3 feet (0.9 metres).

149 SQN's F-15SGs lining up for take-off at Paya Lebar Air Base for the NDP 2014 practice session (photo courtesy of  MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

149 SQN’s F-15SGs lining up for take-off at Paya Lebar Air Base for the NDP 2014 practice session (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

I was provided with the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes that allowed me to get a glimpse of what does go on in the lead up to that fleeting wow moment with a visit to the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) 149 SQN, at Paya Lebar Air Base on Saturday. The visit, arranged for a group of bloggers, provided the chance to understand some of the challenges that the execution of the salute presents to the air crew, get a first-hand view of some of the preparations, and get up close with the pilots and aircraft, along with the thrill of seeing the jets take-off for Saturday’s NDP practice session right by the runway (as we understand it – there are a total of seven practices that the team participates in – four of which are carried out during the NDP rehearsals).

On the runway before take-off (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

On the runway before take-off (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

In the informative briefing that was provided by Commanding Officer MAJ Nick Wong – who also leads the display team, we were introduced to the six pairs of air crew – each comprising a Pilot and a Weapons Systems Officer (Fighter) –  a sixth aircraft in the five aircraft display is always on standby and maintains a holding position as a replacement in event one of the five aircraft has for some reason to pull out.

The six pairs of men who will take the F-15SGs up into the air for the Salute to the Nation.

The six pairs of men who will take the F-15SGs up into the air for the Salute to the Nation.

The line-up.

The line-up.

Among the challenges that MAJ Wong spoke of was the importance of getting the timing right in the execution as well as in maintaining a correct line and formation, especially when the move involves the use of the afterburners. Rapid decision making is often required in response to always changing timings in order to ensure that the execution is perfect.

Shadow play - MAJ Nick Wong demonstrating how tight the aircraft are in maintaining formation.

Shadow play – MAJ Nick Wong demonstrating how tight the aircraft are in maintaining formation.

The group also got to see some of the preparations before each flight including the kitting up of the air crew and the pre-flight inspection and start-up routine for the aircraft. The kit that the crew puts on includes a anti-G suit to counter the effects of the G-Forces experienced by the crew (the crew can be subjected to acceleration forces that reach as much as 9G during flight manoeuvres). Interestingly, there is also a bag into which the crew, when needed, answer the call of nature into. The bag is filled with a powder substance that turns into a gel on contact with liquid waste.

Kitted out with the Anti-G suit.

Kitted out with the Anti-G suit.

The man they call "Shrek", CPT Chia, showing the bag the crew answer the call of nature into.

The man they call “Shrek”, CPT Chia, showing the bag the crew answer the call of nature into.

The flight helmet.

The flight helmet.

The entire flight kit weighs as much as 15 kg.

The entire flight kit weighs as much as 15 kg.

At the weather shed, we got up-close to one of the aircraft being prepared. The pre-flight checks and preparation involves both the Air Crew as well as the Flight Line Crew in ensuring the aircraft is prepared adequately and is safe to launch. The 149 SQN Flight Line Crew has both Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) as well as Regular Air Force Engineers who are also involved in both pre and post-flight inspections, as well as maintenance on the aircraft.

The F-15SG in the Weather Shed.

The F-15SG in the Weather Shed.

Pre-Flight Inspections being done by both the AIr Crew and Flight Line Crew.

Pre-Flight Inspections being done by both the Air Crew and Flight Line Crew.

Getting Ready to launch the F-15SG.

Getting Ready to launch the F-15SG.

More on the 149 SQN’s F-15SGs, which attained Full Operational Capability in September 2013, can be found at both the MINDEF website (see – Fact Sheet: The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)’s F-15SG Multi-role Aircraft) and the RSAF’s Facebook Page (see – F-15SG in action during the latest Exercise Forging Sabre. More on NDP 2014 can also be found at the NDP website.

Out the F-15SG goes.

Out the F-15SG goes.

Taxiing to the runway.

Taxiing to the runway.

A member of the Flight Line Crew.

A member of the Flight Line Crew.

A f-15SG commencing a take-off run (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

A F-15SG commencing a take-off run (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

Lining-up (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

Lining-up (photo courtesy of MINDEF, Airforce Information Center).

 

 

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