Air Warrior Challenge tests RSAF helicopter squadrons

Air Warrior Challenge tests RSAF helicopter squadrons
An Apache helicopter (foreground) from the 120 Squadron takes off from the tarmac at Sembawang Airbase with a Super Puma helicopter in the background. The aircrafts were taking part in the scrambling challenge where different helicopter squadrons compete to be the first to ready the aircrafts and take off. The event is part of the annual RSAF Air Warrior Challenge.

Five helicopter squadrons from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) are being put through their paces at the annual Air Warrior Challenge (AWC) at Sembawang Airbase, which started on Monday and ends on Friday.

The event, now into its second year, is also part of the larger annual RSAF Command Challenge, in which other units within the air force compete against each other.

Colonel Teoh Chun Ping, commander of the Helicopter Group and this year's AWC organising chairman, said the event aims to give different squadrons a platform to "benchmark skills and best practices across all units and to help build fighting spirit".

About 100 RSAF personnel and 10 aircraft - including Super Pumas, Chinooks and Apaches - are involved this year.

The squadrons started with tests on pre-flight servicing, in which they were assessed on how fast and thorough they are in the maintenance of the aircraft before deployment.

Air force personnel involved had an adrenaline rush during the scrambling event. They had to suit up, run to the aircraft and start the engines, as squadrons vied to get the first helicopter off the ground.

Participants also compete in winching operations, where they lower themselves on a cable to pick up ground casualties - vital skills, given recent search-and-rescue operations for the AirAsia flight that crashed in December.

But these exercises are not just for show. Helicopter units are scrambled about 20 to 30 times a year to the South China Sea for casualty evacuation from vessels, said Lieutenant-Colonel John Lim, commanding officer of 125 Squadron, which operates helicopters.

Competition or not, Super Puma helicopters are always on standby, said Col Teoh, who believes the event will enhance the units' readiness. "The AWC can be competitive, but it is healthy competition."

This article was first published on Feb 4, 2015.
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