RSAF celebrates 25th anniversary of Pearce Detachment in Australia, where all pilots are trained

PERTH (Western Australia) – Four turboprop PC-21 training aircraft flew in a diamond formation across Base Pearce in Australia, as the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) marked the silver jubilee of its training there on Monday (Nov 12).

Since 1993, the RSAF’s Pearce Detachment has trained more than 1,600 pilots, weapon systems officers and flying instructors.

The airspace for training in Pearce is 14 times larger than Singapore’s. It is where the nine-month Basic Wings Course for pilots and weapon system officer trainees is conducted, as well as flying instructor courses.

The 25th anniversary celebrations was attended by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How and hosted by the commander of the RSAF’s Air Force Training Command Colonel Kevin Goh.

In March 1993, the RSAF signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to establish the flying training detachment.

Last year (2017), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and then-Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne signed the Pearce treaty as an upgrade to the MOU.

The treaty extends the RSAF’s training access at Pearce for another 25 years until 2043.

At the ceremony attended by RSAF personnel, their families, and senior Australian defence officials, Mr Heng said: “Fifty years of commitment to this detachment by both our countries sends a very clear and powerful message – which is one of enduring friendship and trust that is truly exceptional.”

He noted that the two defence forces have a long history of military cooperation, and thanked the local community in Pearce for the hospitality they have shown to the RSAF over the past 25 years.

He added that Singapore requires much more space than what it has in order to conduct the realistic training needed to sharpen the RSAF’s operational skills.

On Monday, Mr Heng witnessed the combined flypast by four RSAF and RAAF instructors on the Pilatus PC-21 trainer aircraft, a tandem-seat turboprop aircraft trainer to help trainees build up the fundamentals of flying.

The aircraft has clocked more than 70,000 hours in 10 years of flying operations in Pearce since 2008.

To mark the occasion, Mr Heng unveiled a commemorative plaque, a tail flash on a PC-21, and did a symbolic tree-planting.

Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Robert Chua, the first commanding officer of 130 Squadron when it moved to Pearce in 1993 was among those who attended the event, said Mr Heng.

LTC (Ret) Chua held that position for four years before re-joining the detachment as a flying instructor in 2003. He is now a flight simulation instructor with arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin based in Pearce.

Two of his sons were trainees with the detachment while he was in Pearce as an instructor. They are now both pilots with one flying the KC-135 aerial tanker and the other, the Super Puma helicopter.

“Mr Chua’s career over the past 25 years closely traces the history of 130 Squadron and reflects the legacy of this detachment,” Mr Heng said.

The Pearce Detachment consists of two units, the 130 Squadron and Standards Squadron – both based at the RAAF’s Base Pearce in the suburb of Bullsbrook north of Perth.

The 130 Squadron trains aspiring pilots, and the Standards Squadron trains aspiring flying instructors.

Mr Heng said that some things have remained constant in Pearce – “the detachment’s commitment to high professional standards, operational discipline and a strong safety culture”.

“The professionalism, safety culture and core values that you instil in the detachment personnel here have a direct impact on the success of the RSAF’s mission to defend our sovereign skies and our nation,” he added.

The RSAF also conducts flying training at the Air Grading Centre in Tamworth, New South Wales, and has a helicopter detachment at Oakey Training Centre in Queensland, which marked its 20th anniversary last Saturday (Nov 10).

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