S'pore's A330 tanker aircraft to depart to help US airlift evacuees from Afghanistan

SINGAPORE – A tanker aircraft with the capacity to carry more than 37 tonnes will leave Singapore on Thursday (Aug 26) night to help in efforts to airlift evacuees from Afghanistan.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) will depart from Changi Air Base late Thursday, and will be deployed to transport evacuees currently relocated in Qatar to Germany or other countries.

In all, 77 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers comprising pilots, aircrew, engineers and Singapore Army security personnel will be involved in the humanitarian mission, said the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters there is an urgent need to protect evacuees and other civilians, and Singapore is making a direct contribution to this humanitarian cause via this mission.

“We cannot imagine the fear and terror that these displaced people are facing, arising from the situation in Afghanistan,” he said.

“But we take some comfort that the SAF, through this mission, can play a part in providing for a more secure and safe future for some displaced families and individuals.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced on Monday that Singapore offered the MRTT to help the United States with evacuation efforts after Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul fell to the Taleban on Aug 15.

Since then, thousands of people have been trying desperately to get into Kabul’s international airport in the hope of getting on an evacuation flight. These include Afghans who had helped the US and its allies over the past two decades by working as translators for military operations.

As at Thursday, an estimated 1,500 Americans are still in Afghanistan trying to get to the airport to leave before the US withdrawal deadline on Aug 31.

Dr Ng said the SAF crew already has about 200 evacuees waiting for them in Qatar.

“They’re going to depart here from tonight, reach Qatar, pick up these evacuees, and then go onwards to Germany – all in 21 hours. This would have not been possible with our older aircraft,” said Dr Ng.

He added that from Germany, the plane will loop back to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, going back and forth transporting as many evacuees as it can.

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