Editor: As we look forward to the upcoming highly anticipated RSAF Open House on 21-22 May 2016, let our member, Gary, bring us back in time once again to see how SAF and The RSAF open houses and displays were like in the 80s-90s.
Text and Image by Gary Ng, Instagram @clipper.sg
The 80s saw a major leap in the RSAF capabilities with the acquisition of the Lockheed Martin F-16A/B, Grumman E-2C, Bell UH-1H, Aerospatiale AS350B, Eurocopter AS332M and SIAI-Marchetti S.211 platforms. The IAI Scout 700 RPV was also handed from the Army over to the RSAF’s 128 Squadron.
The RSAF Open Houses and displays of the 80s showcased this force modernisation and military enthusiasts and photographers had a field day with 7 such events in that decade.
From 1980 to 1983 (with an interval in 1982), the SAF Day Display was shifted to the West Coast Park. In 1981 the RSAF aerobatic team peformed with the Northrop F-5E Tiger II, dubbed the Flying Tigers. The Black Knights reformed in 1983, and their peformance that year was the final peformance of the Hawker Hunter as a Black Knight platform.
A highlight of the West Coast displays was the final combined attack by the Army, Air Force and Navy on a simulated enemy base. Featuring infantry, tanks, missile gunboats and ground attack aircraft, it awed the spectators with sound and pyrotechnics.
In 1984, the RSAF Open House was held at Paya Lebar Air Base as part of the Nation Building Silver Jubilee celebrations, and it has remained there till the present day.
In 1988, Sembawang Air Base was the site of the SAF Day Show in which the RSAF showcased their underslung operations in support of a combined ground attack.
In the 90s, the RSAF developed doctrines that enabled it to be part of the SAF integration strategy, and it was involved heavily in peacekeeping and humanitarian mission and the choice of platforms such as the Fokker 50s and Boeing CH-47D Chinooks reflected this. With the retirement of the Hunter fleet in 1992, the F-5 fleet underwent an upgrade programme and the F-16C/Ds Block 52s versions were acquired to strengthen up the core force of the RSAF.
In 1990, the Black Knights were reformed with 6 A-4U Skyhawks, and in 1994, they switched to the A-4SU Super Skyhawks. 6 Open Houses were held at Paya Lebar Air Base in the 90s, including the SAF 25th Anniversary and RSAF Silver Jubilee celebrations.
A notable highlight of this decade was at the SAF Military Tattoo in 1990, whereby the RSAF performed a flypast that displayed the various types of aircraft in service then. Such a flypast would not be repeated again till the 2015 National Day celebrations.
For more information on the upcoming RSAF Open House 2016, do check out The Republic of Singapore Air Force Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheRSAF/
About the author – Gary Ng
Gary has been interested in all things military since young, especially aviation. Visiting SAF displays as a young boy got him thrilled with the sights and sounds of jets flying at low levels. Along with his passion in photography, this allows him to enjoy his two favourite hobbies during such visits.
Over the past 45 years, he has attended almost 30 SAF displays and open houses, and attempted to capture them for posterity. His interest in aviation also extends to the historical aspects, where he tries to include visits to museums and aviation-related attractions during his overseas trips. Apart from our own RSAF museum, he has visited 23 overseas sites including Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and USA.
In 2011, he was the development advisor for the book “Singapore’s Aviation Centenary (1911-2011)” by authors Teo Yew Chiat and L M Mani (ISBN 9789810863920). Gary is still very active as a photographer and military enthusiast presently, being a member of MAphotoSG.com and through it’s platform, he hopes to share his experiences, histories and the joy of aviation photography with everyone.
The author getting his first exposure of his eventual aviation hobby
MAphotoSG (Military Aviation Photography Singapore), is proudly represented by a number of dedicated individuals who are passionate about military aviation. Through our photography, we have captured some of the “first” images of RSAF Exclusive 2016 Airshow Preview, RSAF’s 142 Sqn tail art on F-15SG, and Exercise Commando Sling 16-2. We also bring you selected news from Singapore and International which we feel that will be interesting and important to share. Our Co-founder, David and one of our member, Eric were featured by TODAY Paper (a Singapore newspaper published by MediaCorp) for 2016 Airshow featured article in Feb 2016! Click here to learn more about the team!