Operational Aeromedical Support
operationaL aeroMeDiCaL supportWhen the RSAF Aeromedical Centre was created in 1982, the RSAF Medical Service (AFMS) achieved a new level of capability to support the aeromedical needs of the RSAF. Since then, AFMS has undergone several changes and reorganisations, each further enhancing its ability to support the RSAF in its different stages of development and operational needs.
In 2006, the RSAF embarked on its transformation to becoming a Full Integrated Force capable of delivering decisive air power and shaping the air, land and maritime picture for the SAF war campaign. Within the next few years, the SAF Medical Corps initiated its reorganisation efforts to better deliver force protection, operational medical support and primary healthcare for the SAF. It was therefore a challenging and dynamic landscape in which AFMS operated, amid a backdrop of global political and economic uncertainties.
AFMS has done well over the last ive years to support the transformation efforts of both the RSAF and the SAF Medical Corps. The construction of new-generation airbase medical centres, along with its equipping with the 3rd Generation Battalion Casualty Stations and ambulances, has provided a force multiplier to air power generation by enhancing the survival of our warighters. In Aeromedical Evacuation (AME), AFMS delivered the new suite of AME equipment to our C-130 transport aircraft, and successfully operationalised this capability to repatriate injured SAF personnel from overseas.
Aircrew selection, training and performance maximisation are our other key mission focuses. From 2009, we replaced our ageing aviation physiology training (APT) suite with new equipment such as the human training centrifuge, spatial disorientation trainer, night vision laboratory and ejection seat trainer. Their
advanced technologies have also enabled the implementation of latest training methodologies, ensuring our aircrew operate effectively and safely.
AFMS has also continuously reviewed our aeromedical standards and implemented new programmes to provide our aircrew with the latest clinical aviation medicine and psychological services to enhance their well-being and preparedness. Finally, the RSAF fatigue support programme was crystallised and successfully ielded in various RSAF operations and exercises to maximise the combat effectiveness of our airmen and airwomen. Key achievements of the programme included the F-15SG redeployment from the US to Singapore, as well as operational lights into Afghanistan and long-distance ferries to countries such as France and Australia. The latter has helped optimise crew management and combatant performance in new RSAF ighting platforms such as the HERON unmanned aerial vehicle and SPYDER air defence systems.
Our achievements would not have been possible without our people, who have remained cohesive, resilient and committed to the mission. Efforts to develop our people and engage their hearts have been ongoing. Besides close implementation of our Aviation Medical Oficer and Aviation Psychologist Training Programmes, AFMS will continue to strengthen the military medical expert training scheme for our RSAF medics.
Looking forward, AFMS will build on the successes of the 1st Spiral transformation and continue to support the 3rd Generation RSAF and the SAF Medical Corps. To this end, we will strengthen our capabilities, develop our world-class people and continue to build on AFMS’s renowned family spirit.
COL (DR) ROBIN LOWChief Air Force Medical Oficer
operationaLisation of tHe 3rD Generation airbase MeDiCaL support
As the RSAF and her ighting force structures evolved under the 3rd Generation Transformation, there was an attendant requirement for wartime medical support to transform accordingly. As part of this drive, HQ Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) undertook the review and update of the wartime medical support concept of operations in tandem with the standing up of the respective Operational Commands of the RSAF from 2006 onwards. These included Air Combat Command, Participation Command, Air Power Generation Command, Air Defence Operations Command and UAV Command.
The new airbase medical support was conceptualised and subsequently approved formally in 2009. Since then, the new force structures and medical processes have been continually exercised, validated and drilled during various opportunities, such as Air Force and Base Level exercises.
Beyond the reinement of the wartime airbase medical operations, AFMS has also been reviewing the training, logistical and IT architecture to dovetail into and support the new CONOPS. Such initiatives include the ongoing restructuring and rationalisation of base medical NSmen training, as well as formulating a robust recall framework to fully maximise their In-Camp Training during their Operationally Ready NS years. Downstream, it is also planned for deserving NSmen to be up-proiled to take on higher commands within the medical systems in wartime to tap on their expertise and experiences. This is especially relevant to critical medical operations such as intensive care for Heliborne Medical Evacuations.
ME2 Patrick Low, Senior Medic, recounted: “The base exercises were an eye-opener for me. In the past, the medical support responses in operations that we were trained in were quite
static and reactive in nature. What I have seen in the recent exercise demonstrated a change in our approach to be more dynamic and proactive – more lives can be saved deinitely.”
CPT (NS) (Dr) Victor Chong added: “Having participated in two base exercises, I have seen how the new concept of airbase medical support is able to attend to casualties in a more responsive manner. There is greater communication between the command post and the ground medical forces, thus allowing dynamic distribution of the medical forces according to changing casualty situations in the base. I am glad to be involved in the operationalisation process.”
The footprints of the airbase medical elements were also mapped onto the overall redevelopment plans of the various bases’ Operational Masterplans. The envisaged structures housing medical forces in the future will afford increased survivability to both the medics as well as casualties. As a corollary, advancements in casualty transport platforms were also made. Airbases would be equipped with the 3rd Generation combat ambulances that have enhanced capabilities, both in terms of travel and on-board medical capabilities. With these ongoing developments, casualty survivability and protection will be enhanced, which will consequently lead to a faster turnaround of air power generation.MAJ (Dr) Koh Choong Hou, Head General Staff, AFMS, concluded: “I am heartened to witness the entire developmental process of the new airbase medical support – from gestation to operationalisation – this was a paradigm shift from the old ways of thinking. This is also testament that the RSAF continues to be lexible and has the ability to adapt to changing landscapes and threats. Medical’s role, while supportive, remains critical to the overall mission success, and I will say that we have done well in the last four to ive years in reviewing the entire medical CONOPS.”
aeroMeDiCaL evaCuation – transCenDinG borDers in MiLitary MeDiCaL support
The SAF deploys her personnel globally for military training and operational deployment and is committed to providing the best available care to our soldiers. Aeromedical Evacuation (AME) would be vital to facilitate the transfer of these personnel to a higher echelon of medical care, or even repatriate them to Singapore should the need arise.
Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) has conducted more than 30 AME missions since 1985. Taking into account a myriad of aeromedical and clinical considerations, such missions are planned by an integrated AME team, comprising aviation medical oficers and aircrew. To date, more than 80 patients have been successfully brought back by the AFMS’s AME missions since its inception.
ME4 Allan Goh, Ops Warrant Oficer, General Staff Br, AFMS, said: “In my 30 years of service I have been involved in many Aeromedical Evacuation Missions, bringing casualties back to Singapore from countries such as Australia, Taiwan, Brunei, Thailand and the United States. Beyond the gratitude extended to us by the repatriated servicemen, I found that the highest satisfaction came just by being part of the AME team.”
AME personnel are rigorously trained through a series of both local and overseas courses as well as regular exchanges and ground and air manoeuvring exercises with the various transport squadrons.
ME1 Ng Bee Ling, from 1 Medical Squadron, was one of the medics who recently attended the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Aeromedical Evacuation Course in RAAF Richmond. She said: “I was involved in the planning and supervision of one of the mock AME missions during the course. It was rather stressful, but through that experience, I have learnt how to prioritise when the situation deteriorates, and also the strategies to ensure that patient care is not compromised during the transfer.”
Over the years, the medical equipment used in AME have evolved in tandem with technological advances. In 2010, AFMS began operating its new suite of AME life support equipment. This has given AFMS the ability to provide advanced medical capabilities to sustain the full spectrum of high-acuity casualties to the lightly injured, and also enhance patient care. However, AFMS is not resting on her laurels, and efforts on reining the AME capabilities remain an ongoing process.
Operational Aeromedical Support
Operational Aeromedical Support
Having been the leader of the NS HEME Flight and seeing the squadron grow to what it is now, I am looking forward to another new and exciting phase in terms of capability and people development.
PROVIDING HELIBORNE MEDICAL CAPABILITIES TO THE SAF – 1 MEDICAL SQUADRON 1 Medical Squadron (1MS) has grown from its humble beginnings as a medical
post providing cover for the Junior Flying Club (now Singapore Youth Flying
Club) to a squadron with Heliborne Medical Evacuation (HEME) capabilities,
attaining Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on 25 May 2005 and Full Operational
Capability (FOC) on 22 January 2010 with a successful demonstration of night
and day HEME operations.
1MS PerspectiveMAJ (NS) (Dr) Tang Chien Her, who has been intimately involved with 1MS since
Commanding (OC) SBAB Medical Centre during his full-time National Service.
There were plenty of things to do, including various aspects of administration,
manpower, training, operations, logistics and infrastructure procurement.
Medical Search and RescueSearch and rescue (SAR) missions are actual missions and not exercises.
Scrambling to respond to no-duff activations and performing rescue missions can
be challenging and require a well-trained set of crew. SAR training, Helicopter
Underwater Evacuation Test (HUET), Aeromedical Intensive Care Course, Jungle
Survival Training...the list goes on. These
were some of the courses that I had to go
through during my NS in-camp training
periods in order to be operational as an
HEME MO. The training was rigorous and
intensive as it covered the critical care of
Intensive Care Unit on board a helicopter!
Coming of AgeThe inauguration of 1MS was a moment of
immense pride and honour for everyone.
Being recognised as a unit was a clear sign
of growth and progress. We have our
own squadron building, insignia and motto. More intimately, 1MS is a unit we
belonged to from the day we passed out from training until the day we completed
our Operationally Ready NS cycle, and perhaps even beyond.
Serving with PrideHaving been the leader of the NS HEME Flight and seeing the squadron grow to
what it is now, I am looking forward to another new and exciting phase in terms
of capability and people development.”
AVIATION PHYSIOLOGY TRAINING AT THE RSAF AEROMEDICAL CENTRE
“Once you have tasted flight you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return” Anonymous
History of the RSAF Aeromedical Centre
now become the weakest link in the highly dynamic and challenging aviation environment. This is the key reason why Aviation Physiology Training (APT) still exists today and remains relevant and ever so important to the RSAF.
The history of APT in the RSAF is inextricably linked to the birth of the RSAF Aeromedical Centre (ARMC), which was to be the focal point for aeromedical consultation, training and research for the RSAF. Starting out with the Somatogyral Turntable, Vertifuge and 1953 Mark III Decompression Chamber, the RSAF later procured the Night Vision Trainer, Oxygen System Trainer and Ejection Seat Trainer in 1986. The 20-man Decompression Altitude Chamber also
in the RSAF. In 1997, ARMC acquired the human centrifuge trainer - known as the G-Flight Environment Trainer (G-FET). Along with a robust training programme, ARMC provided a
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3rd Generation APT EquipmentRecognising the need for continuous improvement and operational excellence, approval was sought to upgrade and replace existing APT equipment in ARMC, which had been in use for the last two decades. Termed the 3rd Generation APT equipment, the new suite of APT equipment will leverage new technology and training methodologies to meet the increasing training demands and expanding envelope of RSAF operations.
The Air Force Night Vision Integrated Laboratory (ANVIL) and new Ejection Seat Trainer
The ANVIL, featuring two world-class physical terrain boards, is capable of demonstrating
The Spatial Disorientation Trainer (SDT) was the next piece of equipment to operationalise (in February 2010) and represented a quantum leap in spatial disorientation training in the RSAF. With its advanced visual and motion capabilities, illusions previously limited to mere descriptions during didactic lectures, can now be demonstrated realistically. The refurbishment and operationalisation of the new Centrifuge Trainer, termed Human Training Centrifuge (HTC), was operationalised in November 2010. Boosting the new capability
undergo Centrifuge training in a dynamic high-G environment, bringing high-G training to a whole new level of experience and acceptability.
Moving forward, the next few years will see the completion of the Altitude Chamber refurbishment, which is currently in the pipeline. Minor enhancements to the ANVIL will also be initiated to incorporate the use of Virtual Terrain Boards. This will effectively demonstrate
quest for continuous improvement in the delivery of APT remains at the core of ARMC’s existence. It is this incessant drive which will enable the delivery of higher-quality and more effective APT to RSAF pilots and aircrew in the years to come, enhancing overall operational safety and mission effectiveness for the RSAF.
Operational Aeromedical Support
AVIATION PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT FOR THE 3RD GENERATION RSAF
IntroductionThe Aviation Psychology Branch (APB) of the Aeromedical Centre (ARMC) houses four aviation psychologists and four research specialists. APB is responsible for optimising the RSAF’s pilot selection system and maximising RSAF pilots’ potential through carefully crafted training and development programmes. APB also strives to manage and improve the psyche of individual pilots and provide psychological support for pilots and aircrew.
ARMC in ensuring the psychological well-being of the aircrew.
SelectionAPB was founded in the 1980s for the purpose of administering psychological assessments in the pilot selection process. Since then, the process has advanced from a battery of pencil-and-paper tests in the 1980s, to the current fully computerised system (COMPASS@RSAF) that selects a broad range of RSAF vocationalists. In addition, the aviation psychologists also sit on the Pilot Selection Board and WSO (FTR) Selection Board to evaluate the personalities and motivations of the candidates, and assess their suitability for RSAF.
Flying Training SupportAPB works closely with RSAF Flying Training Institute’s local and overseas squadrons.
team-building workshops to boost course cohesion, and routine interviews to ensure that the trainees are coping with overseas training. The aviation psychologists and research specialists also visit the various training squadrons to provide on-site organisational support regularly. As every aviation psychologist is assigned to a course of pilot trainees during their ab initio training, they share close relationships with them. The relationship remains strong even after the pilot turns operational.
Aviation SafetyAnother aspect of APB’s professional services to RSAF is in enhancing the operational realms of aviation safety. The aviation psychologists function as human factor SMEs, providing subject matter expertise together with the Air Force Inspectorate (AFI) to increase the level of knowledge and understanding of human factors and safety management systems. In the event of an aircraft accident, the aviation psychologist may also be called upon to assist in investigations or crisis management.
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competencies and training required for aviation psychologists at different stages of their
in Tamworth, Australia. In addition, APB regularly attends relevant conferences to keep
psychologists also conduct presentations of the in-house research or developmental
ConclusionAPB has grown to be an integral part of ARMC, with the aviation psychologists working
continues to push the operational envelope and improves its hardware through technology procurement and upgrades, there will be greater demands on the mental and cognitive abilities of our pilots and aircrew. APB envisions evolving alongside RSAF and continues to innovate and deliver in the arena of selection, training, safety and operational support. APB hopes to constantly strive to be a leader in the world of aviation psychology and help RSAF soar to greater heights.
APB hopes to constantly strive to be a leader in the world of aviation psychology and help RSAF soar to greater heights.
Operational Aeromedical Support
BUILDING A PROFESSIONAL AND DEDICATED CADRE OF RSAF AVIATION MEDICAL OFFICERS - THE AVIATION MEDICINE TRAINING PROGRAMME Since the mid-1980s, the RSAF has been building up a pool of regular Aviation
and capable air force. In order for AFMS to continue generating AvMOs with deep
operational insights to develop holistic aeromedical support programmes for
formalised in 2005. It has since formed the basis of professional training of all
AvMOs in the RSAF.
The Aviation Medicine Training Programme is a structured programme based on
process. The core competencies fall into three domains, which are Clinical Aviation
Medicine, Aviation Physiology, and Human Factors and Operational Aviation
apart from other clinical specialty trainings, as there is an inherent and important
emphasis on operational training and experience, in addition to professional
management to enhancing the health and performance of our patients. It is also
a broad discipline that ranges across clinical topics, occupational medicine and
In order to achieve these requirements, the AvMO must have both academic
to complete the Diploma in Aviation Medicine (Dip AvMed) in the United Kingdom.
can function and provide aviation medicine care at an advanced level. Each AvMO
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(AGC) in Tamworth, Australia, where they undergo an intense six-sortie course to
Besides providing routine aeromedical services such as specialist clinics and aircrew
ranging from aeromedical evacuation to investigations into aircraft incidents. At the
heart of aviation medicine lies the relationship between air crew and the AvMOs;
surgeon duties and immerse themselves in squadron life. Finally, AvMOs are given the
opportunity to present aviation medicine studies and research at major international
and regional aviation medicine conferences. As part of the exit requirements, AvMOs
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was conceived in 1987 to provide recognition of the vital role that AvMOs play
towards achieving the RSAF mission, and forges a common identity for aviation
medicine practitioners. The brevet was designed by LTC (NS) (Dr) Fan Swee Weng.
The Coat-of-Arms represents the Republic of Singapore, while the two outstretched
wings signify the AvMO’s service as active members of the RSAF aircrew community
and their integral role to the Air Force. The laurel stands for honour, pride and glory,
while the Staff of Aescalepius (a single snake twined around a staff) is the universal
symbol of the medical profession.
In conclusion, the AvMed Training Programme has served the RSAF well, and will
continue to cultivate a group of aviation medicine practitioners who are inherently
plugged into the RSAF culture and have an in-depth understanding of the occupational
demands of military aviation. The challenge ahead will be to constantly review the
programme to keep it relevant.
Operational Aeromedical Support
AVIATION MEDICINE IN SINGAPORE - WORKING TOWARDS SPECIALTY RECOGNITIONAviation medicine is a specialised branch of medicine. It helps man adapt to the
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Issues in aviation medicine span the gamut, and range from the provision of life
support measures and physiology training for military pilots, to the management
of crew and passenger health matters on board commercial airliners, and to the
Internationally, Singapore has developed a major footprint on the practice of both
military and civil aviation medicine. Through the RSAF Aeromedical Centre (ARMC)
and the Singapore Aviation Academy, the country is recognised as an important
provider of both military and civil aviation medicine and aviation physiology training
in international aviation medicine regulatory and professional bodies, such as the
International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Aerospace Medical Association and
the International Academy of Aviation and Space Medicine (IAASM), and has
Medicine (ICASM) in 1998 and 2010.
for many years. This was an anomalous situation that required remedy for a
few reasons. Firstly, specialists in the then list of recognised specialties were not
and depth. Secondly, the lack of specialist accreditation for doctors practising
aviation medicine served as a deterrent to young doctors who would otherwise
generations of military and civilian doctors, thereby ensuring continued aviation
medicine expertise for the RSAF and Singapore. Finally, the recognition of aviation
medicine as a specialty serves to engender greater professionalism among local
For a long time, the local aviation medicine fraternity had envisaged the Ministry
of Heath’s Specialist Accreditation Board (SAB) recognising aviation medicine as a
specialty. The desire to make this a reality went into overdrive with the creation of the
Society of Aviation Medicine Singapore (SAMS) in 2009 to spearhead this ambitious
AFMS and their civilian counterparts in CAMB and ST Medical Services’ Singapore
Aeromedical Centre, as well as regular engagements by the SAMS leadership with
the SAB and the Preventive Medicine Residency Advisory Committee to solicit their
buy-in and support, gradual inroads were made over the past three years. These
by the SAB on 4 September 2012.
The aviation medicine community is fully aware that achieving subspecialty
journey, and that there remains the arduous task of seeing through the roll-out
one with purpose and professionalism, we shall succeed in being able to stand
shoulder-to-shoulder with our counterparts in the other mainstream specialties in
the near future.