New facility takes airborne troopers to new heights

New facility takes airborne troopers to new heights
Troopers practising disentangling their parachute cords during training on the Rotational Trainer System, one of three new parachute training simulators at the Airborne-Trooper Training Facility, which was launched yesterday at Pasir Ris Camp.

A new one-stop, all-weather facility to train airborne troopers was launched yesterday by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) at Pasir Ris Camp.

The Airborne-Trooper Training Facility (ATF), the first of its kind worldwide, is where soldiers can learn to parachute as well as to rappel from varying heights.

Officially opened by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, the ATF caters to soldiers undergoing the four-week Basic Airborne Course and is currently training its first batch of 80 trainees.

Previously, troopers had to travel to several locations across the island for their airborne training.

The new facility contains three parachute simulators, including the Airborne Trainer System (ATS). This can simulate aircraft exit, landing and wind speeds, and landing conditions - the first time all these elements have been combined into a single system.

With the ATS, troopers jump from an 11.2m-high platform while rigged to machines attached to a rail on the ceiling.

Each jump takes about two minutes. Different wind speeds, descent speeds and landing conditions can be programmed.

An arrow on the ground tells soldiers which direction the "wind" is coming from.

Trainers and troopers say the new system is more realistic.

"The landing (systems) are very close to the real landing itself," said Master Warrant Officer Oh Beng Lee, officer commanding of the Static Line Wing.

He added that the new trainer systems also eliminate the need for assistants when performing many of the training drills - saving time and manpower.

Operational trooper Muhammad Faris Asnin, 21, estimates that practice jumps used to take 10 minutes per trainee, but this has been slashed to only two minutes now.

"Trainees will have more time to try out the new trainer systems and this will boost their confidence for the real jump," said Second-Lieutenant Faris.

Plans for the 2.4ha training facility began as far back as 2008, said chief commando officer Simon Lim, 48. He added that the SAF had studied the airborne training facilities of other countries before coming up with designs for the Republic's own, together with the Defence Science and Technology Agency.

"We want to strengthen the proficiency (of soldiers) to allow them to be more confident when they execute the actual live descent," said Colonel Lim.

But he said that although the ATF improved the quality and efficiency of training, there were currently no plans to shorten the four-week training course.

But this would be reviewed at a later date, he added.

Yesterday, Dr Ng toured the new facility and tried out one of the new systems where troopers can practise rotating their parachutes. The ATF was a "worthwhile investment and a significant improvement", he told reporters.

"I think it's a good training facility, very realistic. It gives me confidence that if ever (our special forces) are called upon... they will be able to execute their tasks properly," he added.

This article was first published on Dec 2, 2014.
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