Pulau Pawai, a name synonymous in the RSAF community for its sole purpose in life, a life firing area. The last time media was there was over 30 years ago, I am blessed to be given the opportunity to vista the island as part of the Hot Shot Challenge programme. The day started at the West Coast Ferry Terminal where we boarded the ferry for a 40 minute ride down south to the Southern Islands, consisting of Pulau Sudong, Pawai and Senang, the three island reserved for SAF usage.
The only other way to reach Pulau Pawai is via helicopter, behind the main facility is the helipad. The day has already started by the time we reached, the F-15SG from 149 SQN were making passes over the island. Pawai is only 182,000 sq metres in area, and the bulk of it houses two bomb courts, 200 feet in diameter and 3 strafing lanes. Seen below, the puff of smoke was caused by a ‘hit’ from a 25 pound Mk 76 practice bombs.
Each squadron is allowed a wave of two aircraft, and are required to perform a dive bomb at 45, 30 and 10 degrees, as well as strafing of the targets with their M61 20mm gun.
Check out the video I took, with my humble Canon 7D. Note how you hear the rattle of the guns prior to the zip of the spinning Gatling gun.
From the firing area, one can clearly see the hill where the Range Safety Officer is perched, and the countless stairs that lead up to it. On the ground, men from the various field defence squadron and logistic squadrons take turns to change out the tarp after each wave. They have 12 minutes to run down and up the hill to complete their task before the next wave comes in, a thankless job unseen by many. Across the firing area, 20mm rounds and practise bombs littered the bomb court and gunnery lanes.
The four fighter squadrons each deployed five aircraft to Tengah’s HotShot Village, many of which sports distinctive tail flashes. 140 SQN features three special marking F-16s, with a Black Knight F-16C in full stores and black soot from the 20mm gun fire. 145SQN continues with their loud and flamboyant markings, this time with a laser spitting hornet. 149 SQN F-15SG this year showcased a more ‘angelic’ eagle, clawing a bomb.Flying activity is intense in Tengah, with aircraft departing in quick successions. A special mention to the men and women of 206 and 203 SQN to ensure smooth launch and recovery of the competing platforms.