Major Koh made history in Singapore’s military aviation as the RSAF’s first female UAV pilot in 2003. “The learning curve was steep during my time as a cadet, but I did not give up.” Determined to graduate as a qualified UAV pilot, she would often spend all her available time studying and practising (mental flying) during the weekends.
She states confidently, “I want to inspire other women in Singapore – that being a female doesn’t classify us as a weaker gender,” she says confidently. “We can play our part in defending our nation. With determination and perseverance, all things can be possible.”
As the UAV Chief Instructor in Air Force Training Command, she trains selected officer cadets to become UAV pilots. “I want to see my trainees successfully graduate and start contributing to our nation in a professional capacity. I feel a strong sense of satisfaction when they are finally qualified to wear the UAV Pilot Wings on their uniform!.”
“I’ve witnessed a few batches of graduates – some of my previous students have also stepped up to become instructors, doing their part to carry on the cycle of nurturing the next generation.”
Major Koh regularly hones her skills and maintains proficiency as an operational UAV pilot by flying the Heron 1 UAV.
“The Heron 1 is integral in the RSAF’s network of sensors and fighting systems. It can be deployed with fighters and attack helicopters, and against terrorist threats as it’s able to cover a wide area of surveillance.”
Major Koh, who has also participated in several overseas exercises, emphasises flying a UAV is nothing like playing a video game.
“We have real missions to perform, such as counter-terrorism and area surveillance. There are always inherent risks when flying UAVs in the sky, so we have to constantly ensure that all safety aspects are met,” she says.
“And unlike video games, we never go solo – team work is essential. When the UAV is on the ground, our Air Force Engineers ensure that it is serviceable for operations. During the flight, we work closely with the controllers who provide us with vital information. Ensuring mission success and safety takes team effort!”