From counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden to the recent successful completion of the AirAsia QZ8501 search deployment, helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) have always been in the thick of action, ready to be activated when the need arises.
Five helicopter squadrons were put to the test yesterday when the RSAF conducted its second Air Warrior Challenge (AWC), with up to 10 different aircraft and 100 personnel involved in a series of challenges designed to test their operational capabilities, logistical expertise, and instil fighting spirit.
As the alert was raised, pilots, air crew specialists, and engineers were put through their paces, scrambling to the tarmac at Sembawang Air Base to get their helicopters airborne.
Besides testing their operational readiness, the airmen are tested on helicopter evasive measures and confined area operations. Winching is also a key skill for these airmen, as they have to be lowered via cable from the helicopter to evacuate casualties on the ground or out at sea.
Their skills were tested most recently when two Super Puma Helicopters were embarked onboard the Navy's Landing Ship Tank RSS Persistence for the AirAsia QZ8501 search operations.
Despite the high level of training, the gruelling environment can take its toll. The Helicopter Detachment Commander onboard RSS Persistence Lieutenant-Colonel John Lim, noted that some of the airmen were not used to the turbulent sea states while they were onboard the ship, but they soldiered on to ensure mission success.
Colonel Teoh Chun Ping, chairman of the AWC's organising committee, said: "We want to know that the crew are well versed in what they are training for, and to know what their operational roles are."
Col Teoh, who is also Commander Helicopter Group, is no stranger to the stringent training requirements, having participated in the anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden back in 2011.
Besides operating out at sea, RSAF helicopters also play a key role in the third-generation armed forces, with its Apache helicopters and Chinook helicopter also supporting Army operations.
AWC, which is one of six RSAF command challenges, will conclude on Friday, and the results will be announced next week. The other five command challenges will test assets from the RSAF's fighter group, transport group, unmanned aerial vehicle group, tactical air support group, and air defence artillery group.