Looking back: A decade since Singapore Skyhawks stood down from frontline service
March 31, 2015 • 1 Comment
The A-4 Skyhawk had an illustrious career with the RSAF over its 31 years of frontline service. Four TA-4SU Super Skyhawks perform a flypast over Tengah Air Base to mark the type's retirement from service in Singapore on 31 March 2005. © Roy Choo
One after another, a dozen Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) TA-4SU Super Skyhawks thundered off Tengah Air Base Runway 36 into the city state's hot and humid skies on the morning of 31 March 2005. Having done so countless times before, they made a sharp bank towards the west to avoid penetrating Malaysian airspace. However, this was no ordinary sortie for the 24 crew members onboard, including the then Chief of Defence Force and Chief of Air Force. They would be flying the last A-4 Skyhawk sorties from Singapore. As a tribute to the trusty fighter and the airmen who flew and maintained these machines in its 31 years of operations, the Skyhawks formed up into three diamond-shaped formations aptly named the Gryphon, Hornet and Phoenix flights — the callsigns/mascots of the three squadrons that operated the fighter — for a flypast over Singapore.
Once the mainstay of the fighter fleet with more than 70 in service, the Skyhawks performed a variety of roles such as ground and maritime attack as well as air defence. For the precision strike role, the two-seat TA-4SUs can be equipped with the Litening targeting pod on the centreline station. The TA-4SUs were also utilised in a less publicised electronic warfare role, presumably with EL/L-8212 electronic counter-measures pods that are also flown by the F-5s and F-16s. The Skyhawks also achieved a number of firsts for the RSAF over its 300,000 hours of operational flying, including conducting the air force's first long distance non-stop flight from Singapore to the Philippines in the late 1970s and carrying out its first air-to-air refuelling mission in 1986.
An ex-Skyhawk pilot who flew on the historic last flight over Singapore told Jet Thrust Aviation Images, "Flying the Skyhawk, from the basic A-4S to the re-engined and upgraded A-4SU Super Skyhawk, had been the experience of my lifetime. It was on this marvelous platform that I honed all my military aviation skills for a good and fruitful 14 years. The emotions on that day 10 years ago was a mix of nostalgia and sadness. I can imagine no better finale to my career in RSAF by participating in the ceremonial flight."
The A-4SU Super Skyhawk upgrade gave the very old Skyhawks in RSAF service a tremendous boost in performance. Notable features of the A-4SU cockpit include a Ferranti head-up display and a monochrome multi-function display. © Roy Choo
As the last TA-4SU touched down on Tengah's Runway 36 with Major-General Lim Kim Choon, the then Chief of Air Force and a former Skyhawk pilot himself in the back-seat, the camouflaged, delta-winged fighter is no more over Singaporean skies. A dozen or so remained in service with 150 Squadron at Cazaux Air Base in France for the Advanced Jet Training role till late-2012, when it was replaced by the M-346 Master and disposed off there.
A-4SU serial 982 (BuNo 149530) is being restored as a teaching aid for Singapore Polytechnic aeronautical engineering students on 7 October 2005. Three educational institutions in Singapore received an A-4SU each for such purposes. © Roy Choo
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