It’s not a Dream
On the surface, it’s looks like a scene from a childhood dream – formidable F16s and F15s taxing down the runway before roaring off into the skies. Their afterburners glowing, plumes of dust and debris lifted from the wake of the awesome thrust of the jets. And us, with eyes and mouth gaped in awe at this rare sight.
Except this is not dream, and this is no ordinary runway. This is an ordinary road, Lim Chu Kang Road to be precise, converted into a short runway for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) Exercise Torrent 2016 – an exercise to ensure operational readiness of the RSAF in using civilian roads to launch fighter jets for Singapore’s defence should the normal runways be incapacitated in times of war.
More than a Dream
The conversion of a public highway to runway was a herculean task. Within 48 hours, the following were done to ensure a stretch of the 2.5km x 24m of Lim Chu Kang Road is operationally ready:
Removal of road fixtures:
• 153 lamp posts removed completely
• 58 road signs
• 14 traffic lights completely removed
• 1.2km of guard rails
• 12 full bus stops removed
• 110 personnel involved, including some contractors
Installment of air-field equipment:
• One Mobile Air-traffic Control Tower: This had to be raised 4m above ground to ensure that the tower has a clear view to direct air traffic.
Two of Mobile Arrestor Gears (MAGs).
• One MAG (Mobile Arrestor Gear) system: The MAG comprises a hookwire and energy-absorbing systems set-up on each side of the road to decrease the landing space for a fighter jet and any RSAF aircraft encountering landing issues.
• 38 Portable Solar Lighting Airfield system: This is to illuminate the runway for the pilots when visibility is poor.
• 14 Distance-to-Go Markers (DTGM), to help pilots identify how much runway is left during take-off.
• 4 Precision Approach Path Indicators : These help to inform pilots on the designated angle and altitudes when landing.
For this exercise, about 110 personnel were activated over a trim time frame of 48 hours were given. Some private contractors were involved so as to ensure that precision avionic equipment are installed properly and some roadside equipment like lamps, can still remain functional after the exercise (unlike during times of emergencies when these roadside equipment may not need to be installed back so soon). More operationally-ready NS men will be deployed to assist then.
Once ready, it’s amazing to see how these awesome fighter jets would roar down this make-shift runway and be airborne in a few seconds! Effectively within a minute or two, almost the entire fleet of fighter jets can be airborne to defend our skies even without the use of their conventional runways!
Keeping the Dream
On our drive back after the media preview of Exercise Torrent, I asked my 8 year-old some questions to get her thinking on the importance of such an exercise. I asked her:
– Why do you think they had to turn a road into a runway?
– How much effort do you think it took?
– Why do you think we need to prepare for this?
For a nation who had independence thrust upon us, we must remember never to take anything for granted, particularly our sovereignty and security. It is therefore our duty to ensure that our children never take our country’s defence lightly.
8 years ago when Exercise Torrent 2008 was conducted, my daughter had just been born. Today, 8 years later, even as we go about our daily lives in peace and comfort, the safety and security climate of the world has never been more volatile.
8 years from today, she would be 16, taking her O-levels (OMG!!). Like all her peers, she would be at the cusp of young adulthood, with so many dreams and aspirations to fulfill.
So while time, people and politics change, one thing we must do to keep our children’s dream alive is to always be ready and be prepared, even if it means considering viable alternatives and going the extra mile to defend our country.
Relive the experience with us here: