Editor’s note: The MAphotoSG group would like to thank the RSAF’s New Media and Public Relations Branch, especially Malcolm Koh, for the invitation and arrangements to cover the preparation and conducting of Exercise Torrent VII.
Over the period of 10-13 November 2016, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) conducted its Alternate Runway Exercise, codenamed Exercise Torrent, after an eight year break. This is the seventh in the series which first started in April 1986. The exercise is conducted by the RSAF’s Air Power Generation Command (APGC) along Lim Chu Kang (LCK) Road.
Prior to the exercise dates, community outreach programs were conducted by the RSAF in September to the surrounding businesses and residents which will be affected by the preparations and exercise itself.
Conversion Process of Lim Chu Kang Road
LCK Road itself measures 2500m in length and 24m in width. The conversion of LCK Road into a runway takes about 48 hours and involves 110 RSAF personnel. These include security, engineering and logistical support personnel.
Working with various national agencies such as the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (LTA), the public road fixtures along LCK Road were removed. These included 153 lamp posts, 58 road signs, 12 bus stops, 14 traffic lights and 1.2km of guard rails. In addition, airfield equipment and fixtures such as the Mobile Arrestor Gear (MAG), Solar Portable Airfield Lights (SPAL) and Mobile Air Traffic Control (MATC) Tower were set up by squadrons under APGC.
RSAF Systems and Equipment
205 Squadron, Control Squadron, is responsible for the control of air traffic operating in the vicinity of the air base. It also does meteorological monitoring and the provision of relevant flight information to aircraft.
Mobile Air Traffic Control (MATC) Tower
The MATC Tower is deployed by 205 Squadron to control the launch and recovery of aircraft on the runway. It consists of an Air Traffic control cabin, a hydraulic lifting system, generators and trailers. The cabin itself can be raised to a height of 4m, and accomodates up to six people. The heights ensures that the controllers have a good view of the runway. The cabin is also equipped with meteorological, atmospheric pressure and temeprature sensors.
The MATC Tower was deployed to the Banda Aceh Airport, Indonesia, in January 2005 in the wake of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. This was to assist with flight operations as the airport’s ATC tower had been damaged by the earthquake.
505 Squadron, Air Base Civil Engineering Squadron, works closely with the national agencies to convert the public road into a runway. In addition to removing public fixtures, they also deploy and setup the following airfield equipment and fixtures.
Mobile Arrestor Gear (MAG)
Weighing 8 tons, the MAG is a mechanical system that utilises a hookwire to rapidly decelerates an aircraft when it touches down on the runway. This can be used for short or temporary runways or in an emergency situation where the aircraft has declared an emergency landing.
During operations, the aircraft’s tailhook will engage the hookwire which is laid across the runway. As the tailhook catches the hookwire, brake pistons within the MAG will engaged to slow the aircraft to a complete stop. The tailhook can then be retracted and the MAG resetted for the next engagement. The MAG has also been deployed overseas in support of RSAF training on foreign airfields.
Solar Portable Airfield Lights (SPAL)
The SPAL is a wireless controlled self-sustaining solar-powered runway lighting system which can be used to guide pilots in poor visibility conditions. Each SPAL has a maximum 8-hour power charge and 38 SPAL units will be lined up along LCK Road at intervals of 200 feet for the exercise.
Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPIs)
PAPIs is an unmanned system that provides a visual glide path guidance for the pilot as he approaches the runway for its landing. The system is mounted on a 3-degree gradient and utilises red and white lights to guide the pilot, who usually views it from the left side of the cockpit. Powered by solar panels or a generator, PAPIs wil be positioned at the northern and southern ends of the runways for the exercise.
Distance-to-Go Markers (DTGMs)
These large markers will be placed along both sides of the runway at 1000 feet intervals. They inform the pilots of the distance remaining, in thousands of feet, to the end of the runway.
FOD (Foreign Object Debris) Killers
Prior to the usage of the runway, it is critical that it be swept clean of any debris or objects which can be ingested by the air intakes of an aircraft and damage its engines. The FMC Vanguard V7000 FOD Killer is a single-seat vehicle that not only sucks up the debris, but it has a front magnetic hood that picks up metal objects such as nut and bolts.
605 Squadron, Force Protection Squadron, provides the overall security of the area of operation during the exercise. It utilises K9 units and armed Force Protection Trooper patrols to ensure that no intruders attempt to breach the secured areas. The squadron also works closely with the Singapore Police Force and LTA for road closures and traffic diversions to facilitate the exercise.
One of the highlights of Exercise Torrent VII was the simulataneous launch of aircraft from the main runway and taxiways of Tengah Air Base, and LCK Road. This allows the RSAF to rapidly deploy its air assets within a short space of time.
The other key highlight was the debut participation by Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagles at this exercise. There was also a hookwire engagement of a Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcon simulating an emergency landing. The air assets involved in Exercise Torrent VII were 4 each of the F-15SG, F-16C/D and F-16D+ fighters.
With the involvement of around 1000 personnel, including NSmen, full-time national servicemen and regulars, this is an important exercise which provides the RSAF with the opportunity to enhance its operational readiness and hone its ability to deliver air power from our public roads.
Launch operations of Exercise Torrent VII:
MAphotoSG (Military Aviation Photography Singapore) was founded by Raymond and David in 2015, and currently consists of a group of passionate volunteer local aircraft spotters that share the common interest of aviation photography. Core activities include the coverage of aviation events and aircraft spotting, both local and overseas.
Some of the key significant events captured by the group include the Exclusive Preview of the RSAF at Singapore Airshow 2016, the first sighting of 142 Squadron’s F-15SGs and the F/A-18Ds of Exercise Commando Sling 16-2.
In October, the group was engaged by the British High Commission Singapore to cover the Royal Air Force Red Arrows’ activities in Singapore as part of their Asia-Pacific & Middle East Tour 2016. The group was also featured in a pre-Singapore Airshow 2016 article published by the local compact, TODAY.