Despite having served in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (for my national service), I’ve never set foot in the Air Force Museum previously. It was only earlier this month, while thinking of places to bring the kids to, during this long year-end school holidays, that we decided to check out this museum. It’s a really cool place to go!
Located at 400 Airport Road, which is where Paya Lebar Airport used to be situated, for those who lived their childhood before Changi Airport was opened, the Air Force Museum isn’t too difficult to access by public transport.
Entry to the Air Force Museum is free. I didn’t have very high expectations about what the museum had to offer. Sure, there would be a couple of aircrafts to look at, but perhaps most of it would be just static information, like photos and text, not unlike, say, the Changi Chapel Museum. I was so wrong.
First, of course, there are all the aircraft displays. In the carpark, there were already a bunch of them. When you go to air shows, you’ve to jostle with crowds and wait in long queues to get near to any aircrafts.
There is no crowd here. You get up close to any aircraft you want, touch them all you want, look at them as much as you want. Alright, you can’t actually get inside any of them, but I’d say this is pretty good enough.
The largest aircraft on display is the E2C Hawkeye. This is an all-weather airborne early warning and control (AWAC) aircraft. This is an aircraft that flies high up in the sky, so that the radar it carries can see far away, track friendly and enemy aircrafts, and direct air campaigns.
The E2C Hawkeyes are no longer used by the RSAF. Their role is now replaced by the Gulfstream G550, which was originally designed to be a business jet aircraft, but are retrofitted to be used for airborne early warning. With new radar technology, the aircraft doesn’t need the huge radar disc atop the fuselage klike on the E2C Hawkeye.
Apart from the outdoor displays, there are also more “indoors”, which basically just means that they are sheltered.
All the aircraft types on display are no longer in use by the RSAF. So don’t expect to see the latest F-15SG or F16 aircrafts. For those, I suppose you’d have to go to an air show. There’s still plenty to see though. The RSAF used the A-4 Skyhawks and Super Skyhawks (locally modified) extensively at one time, and there are several of these aircrafts on display.
There are also older aircrafts used in the earlier days of the RSAF. Helicopters too, and trainer aircrafts.
Is the museum all about looking at aircraft displays? Not at all. There’s plenty more to see in the indoor air-conditioned galleries. This is where I’m even more impressed.
Sure, there were some of the usual stuff like photos and text.
But there were other interactive exhibits. Some are just different ways to help you digest information, such as this one that shows aircraft silhouettes flying across three touchscreen displays, where you can drag the silhouettes down to a box to read more information about that aircraft.
There are more that are totally awesome.
For example, there’s this simulation game, they call it Guardians of the Sky, for three players, each one taking the role of an Air Warfare Officer, a pilot, or a Ground Based Air Defence officer. Enemy aircrafts are inserted to approach the homeland, and the goal is for the players to neutralise the threats. It’s a relatively simple game, but it is quite engaging. This game even comes with a really widescreen projection screen that, well, makes it feel like some sort of operations control room!
There’s also another game made on the Xbox platform which asks players to accomplish a couple of tasks, like for example, guiding a taxiing aircraft on the ground.
My kids were really fascinated by the games.
There are still more stuff, like a couple of cockpit instrument panels where you can actually touch, turn the knobs and flip the switches. There’s also a pilot’s jump seat.
One more exhibit worthy to mention is the sort of 3-D movie about what the RSAF does, day in and day out, busying themselves guarding our skies unbeknownst to most people on the ground. It’s wort of like a part of the opening scenes in Jack Neo’s Ah Boys To Men.
It’s a short clip about what happens when an unknown aircraft approaches Singapore’s airspace, how the RSAF scrambles fighters to intercept and drive away the intruder. It got the kids thinking about the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to protect our skies.
This is one museum that’s quite worth a trip for the family, including for younger children. It was surprisingly educational and entertaining. As mentioned earlier, entry is free, but do take note that they do not open on Mondays and Public Holidays. Opening hours are 8:30am to 5pm on Tuesdays to Sundays, except Public Holidays.