On Tuesday (12 January) evening, Ministry of Defence clarifies on the viral post by a person named Leslie Ang about how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has engaged People's Republic of China (PRC) contractors to rig parachute packs for paratroopers.
In Leslie Ang's post on 10 January, he wrote that he had learnt from his fellow serviceman that the former SAF Riggers' job of preparing parachutes are now outsourced to PRC contractors.
Two days after the post has gone viral, the army came out to clarify on its Facebook page. In the post, Chief Commando Officer, Colonel Simon Lim wrote:
“The SAF continues to fully employ its Riggers, particularly for key operations and training. In order to optimise our resources, we have outsourced the parachute-packing function to Singapore Technologies (ST) – a reputable local company.
Many of ST’s parachute-packing staff themselves are former Riggers from the Commando Formation, and all of ST’s parachute-packing staff are trained and competent in their roles. The training that they undergo, conducted by the SAF Master Rigger, is benchmarked against the United States Federal Aviation Administration (US FAA) standards.
The SAF Master Rigger certifies ST’s staff to pack the parachutes, and closely supervises the packing process. All equipment for our specialised operations pass quality assurance checks and adhere to stringent safety procedures. The packing and inspection of the SAF's parachutes, whether by our SAF Riggers or ST's staff, is benchmarked against the international standards set by the US FAA.
ST has been packing parachutes for us since 2010, and there have been zero parachute reliability issues. We are confident that this arrangement allows us to optimise the deployment of our SAF Riggers, whilst meeting the full operational and training needs of the SAF Commando Formation.”
Colonel Lim however, does not address the PRC part of the story.
So are there PRCs involved?
According to Michelle who identified herself as a former Parachute Rigger, she confirms that the job is now performed by PRC individuals. However, she emphasize that although the work is performed by PRCs, all the packs will be checked by the SAF Riggers and all items for the Parachute Training Wing would have to be checked and rechecked by Singaporean servicemen and women.
She said to TOC, "Every step of packing is closely scrutinized. How else can we get 100% safe!?"
Gabriel Heng, a current serviceman wrote after Michelle's comment, "If you do not trust the riggers, then don't jump.". He states that he believes in the system like what Michelle has said, that there are checks and re-checks. And that the packers are trained by SAF's own riggers.
For those who are still wondering what is the end story from the clarifications? It would seem that Singapore Technologies engaged contractors or staff who are PRCs but as what the former rigger has said, all work performed by the ST staff would be checked and rechecked by existing SAF riggers to ensure 100% safety for the paratroopers.
In an earlier report by Straits Times, it was reported how the SAF riggers have packed more than 1.75 million static-line, free-fall, tandem and reserve parachutes, without a single one failing to open during a jump since the unit's establishment.
"We feel special," said MSG Wong, "because lives depend on us. We are the women behind the successful men."