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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

RSAF Open House 2008

I went to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Open House yesterday - mainly to visit my brother who is on duty there, but also get a bunch of nice photos for you guys.

Although I have been to this open house event before, this year is special because it is the Air Force's 40th anniversary.

Singapore may be a small and young country, but we have a nifty Air Force with its own proud traditions.

When I arrived a huge crowd was lining up outside the gates.

It was only about 10 am but the sun was already blasting at us with full force.

Man, it was unbearably hot. Unfortunately the line seemed to be moving very slowly. In fact, I missed most of the aerial display while waiting in line.

The main reason for this is because all visitors had to go through a security check, one by one, before entering the airbase. Well, it's prudent to be more careful.

Fortunately I did catch the flight of the Apache attack helicopter. I didn't take any other aerial photo, so if you want to see photos of fighters in flight you can check out one of my earlier posts.

I put up this photo of the Apache because it reminds me of the time when I was growing up. At that time, the Air Force only had second-hand F-5 Tiger fighters, A-4 Skyhawk attack planes and some old Hawker Hunter fighters left by the British.

As a schoolkid, I always felt that we lacked close support vehicles for our Army. Singapore is a small island and thus a slower, low-flying attack plane would bridge the gap between helicopters and high-flying fighter interceptors.

So when the Air Force announced that they were going to buy new F-16s to replace some of our older fighters during the 1980s, I wasn't convinced that we needed more fighters. I thought that we should buy some inexpensive Pucarás instead.

Many years later, when they decided to buy Apaches, I felt vindicated because it seems that at least the Air Force was aware of this gap.

The Apache is indeed a superb low-flying attack vehicle - but will it own a Pucará in a one-to-one dickfight?

That question... I'll leave it for the schoolkids of today.

No Fresh Brainz article is really complete without a random quip about certain parts of the human anatomy.

So here's a flaccid-looking wind sock for you.

It looks like it has gone south, but the wind is actually coming from the south.

And now for the exhibition itself.

Since this is an Artisun post, I won't bore you with the aeroplane-geek small talk.

Pretty photos at 12 o'clock!

Fighter planes are always crowd-pullers. Here are some members of the public eager to check out the "office" of a fighter pilot.

They've put up many fighters for static display this year.

Black Knights "Number 1".

Only an outstanding pilot with incredible skills and experience can earn the privilege of flying the Number 1 plane in the aerobatic team.

Like they say in the movie Top Gun - the "Best of the Best".

As for that other pilot who gets to fly Number 666 - he is simply badass.

'nuff said.

Just in case you've associated fighter pilots with bronzed bodies and beach volleyball, here's the business end of their flying machines to remind you of the seriousness of their profession.

Apparently pilots still accord their peers special respect if they manage to down their adversaries the old-fashioned way using guns, rather than missiles.

Or so I heard in a Dogfight documentary in the History channel.

Using missiles feels so... cheating.

The Air Force isn't only about fighter pilots and their sleek jets. Here's an E-2C "eye in the sky" that tells them what's going on and what to do next.

Although it carries a huge radar on its back, this photo is a tribute to the "Mark 1 Eyeballs" of its hardworking crew.

Transport planes tend to be sidelined at airshows, but this "Charlie One Thirty" appears especially shiny on this occasion.

It reminds us that impressive-looking hardware is only part of the equation for an effective Air Force. Support and maintenance aren't particularly glamorous but are indispensable to the success of the whole team.

Here's something else that's shiny - a mysterious reflector drum on the back of an Apache chopper. Not every Apache has one.

I don't know what it is but it's really eye-catching. Maybe it's for Disco.

Finally I waited in line to visit the Flight Simulator Centre, where they train pilots using state-of-the-art computer technology.

Photo-taking isn't allowed at the centre, so I can't show you what's there. Suffice to say that pilots are trained in complex team manoeuvres using computer terminals, mini-domes and large domes where computer graphics, similar to a video game, is projected around them.

Unlike a game, however, their performance during virtual training is formally evaluated.

It isn't easy to be a fighter pilot.

As my A-Maths tuition teacher used to say:

"Better practice hard and do well for your Maths. Some of you think that you don't need to study because you want to become a fighter pilot. Let me give you some numbers. If 100 people apply for pilot training, guess how many actually become pilots? Two. OK? Two."

*writes the ratio on the white board*

"If 50 people apply for pilot training, how many will become pilots? Is it one? Sorry ah - it's none. Zero. None of them will become fighter pilots because not every batch will produce successful fighter pilots. OK? Understand why you need to study Maths? Now let's look at the next question in your assessment book..."

He always hit us with the harsh reality.

I still suck at Maths though...