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Aviation Trailblazer:
Singapore’s Brigadier General Sarbjit Singh

HENEDICK CHNG

 

 

 





Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Brigadier General Sarbjit Singh, now retired, holds several distinctions from almost 32 years of military service.

Sarbjit’s military achievements are documented in Singapore At 50 – 50 Sikhs And Their Contributions, a publication by the Young Sikh Association (Singapore).

The publication points out that Sarbjit wasn’t just Singapore’s first Sikh to receive a star in his rank as a general.

He was also the world’s first Sikh operational pilot who flew F-5 and F-16 fighter jets.

STARTED YOUNG

Sarbjit grew up with a keen interest in aeroplanes and his ambition to become a pilot started young. During his primary school days, he was so engrossed with chasing planes in the sky that he fell into a drain and broke his nose. Fortunately, however, he recovered well enough to still pursue his dream of becoming a pilot.

While studying at Catholic Junior College, Sarbjit applied to obtain a private pilot’s licence from the then Singapore Junior Flying Club, in an attempt to get a leg up in entering the air force. However, his applications were rejected for failing the medical examinations due to his heart rate.

Apparently, his heart rate soared at the excitement of being too close to his flying dream during the medical tests, which caused him to fail them.

Unfazed by these early setbacks, Sarbjit soldiered on and applied directly to the RSAF. With the help of breathing tips from his father to control his heart rate, Sarbjit was accepted into the RSAF and joined them on January 17, 1983, fresh out of junior college.

BECOMES A FIGHTER PILOT

Sarbjit’s achievements soared in the RSAF, despite the well known formidable difficulty associated with becoming a fighter pilot.

First, he topped his class in the 48th Fixed Wing Course, which had only a 13 per cent success rate for fighter pilots. But he did not stop there. He went on to top the 15th Tiger Conversion Unit Course, and was the only successful graduate from it.

As a fighter pilot, Sarbjit was a trailblazer in flying the F-5 and F-16 jet fighters. He made history by being the first Sikh in the world to become an operational pilot for these aircraft.

Rising through the ranks, his RSAF career saw him serving as a Pilot Attack Instructor, Officer Commanding, Branch Head of the Operations Planning Group in Air Operations Department, Deputy Head Air Operations (Operations Planning), Deputy Commander of the Tengah Airbase, and the first Commander of the UAV (Umanned Aerial Vehicle) Command in 2007.

Sarbjit would eventually be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in the RSAF. He was Singapore’s first Sikh general in the Air Force.

One of his last appointments in the RSAF was Commander of the Air Power Generation Command. The unit ensures that Singapore’s air bases are operationally ready under all conditions. He served in the appointment till 2014 and retired later that year in October.


[Courtesy: Mothership. Edited for sikhchic.com]
June 16, 2017
 

Conversation about this article

1: Gurbux Singh (Chatsworth, California, USA), June 20, 2017, 12:07 PM.

Brig. Gen. Sarbjit Singh is such a low key, unassuming person that one wonders if it is true that he is a General. It is only after meeting and knowing him during our visits to Singapore that I got to appreciate his demeanor and his adherence and love of being a Sardar. Makes you wonder how easily others compromise their religious values and have no qualms about it. My salute to Sarbjit Singh and may he be in chardi kalaa, always. During our last visit which was not a pleasure trip, Sarbjit's brother was wearing a T-Shirt with 'My Brother is a General' printed on the front. How apropos.

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