Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)
Features | National & Home Defence

Taking To The Skies

The RSAF stands ready to defend Singapore’s air space from threats and to protect the nation’s interests. Apart from its 24/7 Air Defence role, the RSAF prides itself on the value it brings in peacetime such as the numerous Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations it had undertaken.

Anation’s air space is vital to her sovereignty and security. The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) maintains cutting-edge technology to ensure that it will always be ready to tackle any unforeseen threats.

The RSAF never sleeps. As an operationally-ready air force that stands ready round the clock, the RSAF is always prepared to respond swiftly and act decisively. Its multi-layered air defence shield comprises state-of-the-art military aircraft, ground-based air defence systems and surveillance radars that support a full spectrum of missions.

But the RSAF recognises that its advanced systems and technology have to be complemented by the people who operate and maintain them. As a result, the RSAF devotes considerable resources to attracting, training and retaining capable individuals who are committed to keep Singapore safe.

We speak to COL Gaurav Keerthi and CPT Sim Bao Chen to find out how the RSAF has helped them become the best that they can be.

Guardians of the sky

COL Keerthi has been with the RSAF for 17 years. Currently serving as Head of Air Plans, COL Keerthi shares, “The Air Plans Department (APD) helps define the future of the Air Force, in terms of the way we fight and the systems we fight with. We are also responsible for resource management. We ensure that the RSAF pursues its capability development plans in a prudent manner when it comes to manpower requirements and cost.”

COL Gaurav Keerthi
SAF Overseas Scholar

Designation: Head Air Plans, RSAF

Studied: Bachelor of Arts, Stanford University, US

Master of Public Administration,
Harvard University, US

"Helicopter pilots must have the courage to push operational boundaries and achieve mission success safely. The RSAF’s strong pilot training framework will guide a young pilot along this challenging journey."

This is no easy task as the APD has to look far ahead to anticipate challenges and devise solutions so that Singapore can continue to maintain its deterrent edge. COL Keerthi adds, “This is especially challenging in our volatile world. I am thankful the department is staffed by motivated and dedicated people who constantly strive to equip the RSAF with the most efficient and effective tools to achieve our mission.”

As for CPT Sim, he is currently the Platoon Commander of a Ground-based Air Defence (GBAD) Unit that operates the RBS-70 Short-Range Air Defence Missile System. He shares, “I lead a platoon of officers, specialists and airmen to help safeguard Singapore’s sovereign air space. Together with my platoon command team, I train these airmen after they graduate from the Basic Military Training (BMT) and see them through to become Air Defence Weapon Operators capable of performing 24/7 operational duties.”

“The unit’s operational requirements can become very stressful, and members of my platoon are no strangers to fatigue. However, it’s extremely satisfying to be appreciated by the public for our work, as experienced during the RBS-70 static display at the RSAF45@ Heartlands exhibition.”

Opportunities to soar

Although COL Keerthi is with the APD now, he is actually a helicopter pilot by vocation. His current stint with the APD is one of his many staff appointments, testament to the varied opportunities available to RSAF servicemen and women.

He tells us, “I really enjoy being a CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilot. I completed my operational conversion just when the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami struck. As a new pilot, the squadron was hesitant to include me. I requested to deploy with the unit to help in any way I could.”

“I spent the first few days helping to coordinate administration on the ground. However, after we discovered the extent of the devastation, the squadron leadership decided to let me fly operational missions under supervision to help share the workload. While it was nerve-wracking to view such destruction from above, I took heart knowing that I was helping to bring vital supplies to survivors and evacuate the injured.”

These experiences have stayed with COL Keerthi ever since, and they continue to inspire him to be grateful for what he has and to give back to the less fortunate. He adds, “Helicopter pilots must have the courage to push operational boundaries and achieve mission success safely. The RSAF’s strong pilot training framework will guide a young pilot along this challenging journey.”

CPT Sim Bao Chen
SAF Merit Scholar

Designation: Platoon Commander

Studied: Master of Engineering,
Electrical and Electronic Engineering,
Imperial College London, UK

CPT Sim is looking forward to the coming years, which he says will be an exciting period for GBAD. He shares, “We’ll be bringing in and operationalising more technologically advanced weapons such as the SPYDER and Aster-30 missile systems. Our role will also evolve together with operations concepts and we can expect to play an even greater role in air campaigns.”

“I am excited to be part of this ongoing force renewal to enhance our 3rd Generation RSAF networked air defence capabilities and hope to continue to be involved in the RSAF’s evolution in the years ahead!”

The path less travelled

As an SAF Overseas Scholar who has also served as an assessor in the scholarship application process, COL Keerthi advises, “This is not an ordinary job and we are not seeking ordinary candidates. We want people who are willing to push themselves, work for a purpose, and pursue their passion.”

“If you are willing to take the path less travelled, to live a life filled with purpose, challenge, and excitement – then the RSAF is for you too. My own scholarship journey has taken me to Stanford and Harvard, and through a multi-faceted career that has given me (and allowed me to give back) more than I could ever ask for!”

For CPT Sim, the SAF Merit Scholar had not initially expected to pursue a military career. However, his experience in the MINDEF Internship Programme, along with BMT and Officer Cadet School, showed him that a deskbound job was not for him. He recalls, “The wide variety of work kept me engaged and alert, and I even got to work at the forefront of various technologies only available in the military!”

He concludes, “I would advise prospective scholars to talk to their seniors to understand more about the scholarship and the career it entails. The duties of a military leader are not easy, and one must be prepared to work hard in uncertain and fluid environments. But if you have the passion to serve and demonstrate that you have what it takes, the RSAF would be delighted to have you on board!”