August 10, 2023
SINGAPORE – Two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16 fighter jets were scrambled on Wednesday afternoon after a Malaysia-registered helicopter flew over the Singapore Strait east of Changi Airport.
The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a joint statement that the warplanes were scrambled at 12.40pm.
“After ensuring that our security was not compromised, the F-16s were subsequently stood down,” the statement said.
“Preliminary checks indicate that the helicopter is of a civilian type and registered to a foreign company.”
Operations at Changi Airport were affected between 12.50pm and 1.28pm as a result, with nine arrival flights and 11 outbound aircraft delayed.
Mindef and CAAS were responding to a query from The Straits Times, after social media platform X user @alert5 posted at 1.10pm about Singapore scrambling F-16 planes in response to a Malaysia-registered helicopter entering the airspace near Changi Airport.
The @alert5 post included a screen grab from flight tracking site FlightRadar24, which showed part of the helicopter’s flight path, as well as its registration – 9MCGA.
X user @RXRoy also posted on the incident, with a FlightRadar24 screen grab of the helicopter’s path and registration, and said the RSAF jets were scrambled from Tengah Air Base.
ST’s checks on FlightRadar24 showed that the Airbus H125 helicopter took off from the Johor Bahru Senai International Airport at around 12.10pm Singapore time and flew east above Peninsular Malaysia towards Johor Bahru and Ulu Tiram.
At 12.28pm, the aircraft turned south in the vicinity of the Lebam River in Malaysia, towards Pengerang, and continued on this bearing until it was over waters to the east of Changi Airport at around 12.40pm.
The helicopter, which had been flying at an altitude of between 700 feet and 1,200 feet, dropped to as low as 400 feet while circling the area for about 20 minutes, before it headed north-east and landed near the Bayu Damai Police Station, according to flight tracking site FlightAware.
According to flight tracking sites, the helicopter took another 37-minute flight at 3.08pm, before it flew back to Senai over Peninsula Malaysia at 4.19pm, landing at the airport at 5.13pm.