The Military Planes That Fly Above Our Heads @ RI


After spending 6 years in RI, there is no doubt that you will fondly remember many memories. Iconic structures may also be ingrained in your mind such as the clock tower, Albert Hong Hall and of course, the classrooms. However, one memory that you might find less commonly talked about would be the sound of the military airplanes zooming over our heads. That’s right. Pay attention and sometimes you will hear the hum and drone of planes flying over RI. However, as you look up at the clear, blue sky, you might see different airplanes of all shapes and sizes with their white contrails. Sometimes, you might see fighter jets zooming above us while we peer up at them like little army ants, or sometimes you might see a huge jet soar just above the clock tower, and even take a heart-stopping tight turn behind a block of HDB flats.

Why do I see planes over RI?

RI is located in Bishan, which is in the center of Singapore, and relatively close to Paya Lebar Air Base and Seletar Airport. Paya Lebar Air Base serves as a military airstrip for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and a maintenance center for planes. On the other hand, Seletar Airport mainly caters to General Aviation aircraft and Private Jets.

A Google Earth image of where these two airports are.

What kind of planes are they?

There is a wide variety of aircrafts that fly above our heads and they can either be military planes or training planes. In some rare cases, we can even see commercial planes land at one of these airports.

Here are the 5 most common aircraft types you’ll see.

  1. Lockheed Martin C130 “Hercules”
An image of the Lockheed Martin C130 Hercules about to land.

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The Lockheed Martin C130 “Hercules” is a versatile, military transport aircraft that can carry a wide range of equipment such as cargo, military vehicles (yes, you heard that right!), and medical equipment, etc. It is powered by 4 propellers to carry large amounts of payload. In fact, that is one of the ways you can identify this aircraft as it is the only aircraft in this article that is powered by 4 propellers. Another way to identify this aircraft is by taking a look at the two wing structures on the back. They are known as horizontal stabilizers, which help the plane pitch up or down. Though smaller than the main wings, they are still quite large, measuring up to 16 meters in length in total! 

 An image of the underside of the C130

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  1. Boeing F-15SG
An image of the underside of the the F-15SG

The F-15 is one of the primary, multi-role fighter aircraft used by the RSAF. It is designed to be highly maneuverable and travels at about 2 times the speed of sound (also known as mach 2) . In order to achieve such high speeds, the wings have been designed to have what is known as “clipped delta wings”, which is in fact one of the ways you can identify this aircraft. Finally, this aircraft is powered by 2 fuel-guzzling engines for it to travel at high speeds. They are also responsible for the deafening sounds you hear in the sky.

An F-15SG in the “RSAF 50” colors. Notice the “clipped” wing of the aircraft. 
An image of the difference between a regular delta wing and a clipped delta wing.
  1. Airbus A330 MRTT
An image of the Airbus A330 MRTT

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This plane does appear over our heads quite often. A military conversion of the regular passenger jet, the A330 MRTT has been designed to carry out aerial refueling as well as transport military equipment, medical equipment and people. That is why the word, “MRTT” stands for Multi Role Tanker Transport. What is rather impressive is that this plane can automatically refuel 3 fighter jets at once. One way to identify this aircraft is by observing the 2 engines that are hung under the wings.

  1. Fokker Aviation F50

The Fokker Aviation F50 (Fokker F50 for short) is a military plane that is powered by two propellers on either side. The RSAF uses this plane as a Utility Transport Aircraft and a Maritime Patrol Aircraft. As of now, 213 Fokker F50/60s have been built from 1985 to 1997.

An image of a F50 of RSAF

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Although it may be confused with the C-130 since both aircrafts are powered by propellers, there is a way the Fokker F50 can be distinguished. It can be identified based on the position of the rear landing gears of the aircraft. The C-130’s rear landing gears are attached to the fuselage of the plane but the F50’s landing gears are attached below the propellers 

  1. Gulfstream Aerospace G550CAEW

The G550CAEW is a military modification of the Gulfstream G550, which is a private jet. The aircraft was modified by Israel Aerospace Industries. “CAEW” stands for “Conformal Airborne Early Warning”. As a result, a lot of modifications have been made to the original airframe to be fitted with radar systems that can detect up to… drumroll… 1000 targets simultaneously within the range of about 450 km! The RSAF ordered 4 of these aircraft.

An image of the G550CAEW. 

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An image of the basic G550

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Comparing both images, a plethora of modifications have been made to the basic G550. One obvious modification is the extension of the fuselage to fit larger, more advanced radar components. This modification can be seen at the sides of the plane near the wing and the nose. One way to identify it is by looking at the location of the 2 engines. The 2 engines are positioned at the back of the plane near the tail. However, other planes in this article have their engines positioned under the wing. The smaller wings (also known as stabilizers) are also positioned on top of the tail. This is commonly referred to as a T-Tail design


So the next time you hear that droning sound again, why don’t you look up and identify that plane guarding Singapore’s sky?

Other sources you might want to refer to:



(Engines mounted at the back of plane like G550)

(debris, also known as Foreign Object Debris (FOD) in aviation )


  • Jatin Joshi

    Hey there! I like aviation and chess. My articles mainly focus on the various aspects of aviation. However, once in a while my articles will be about other topics such as the environment. Hope you enjoy my articles!