Sunday, July 27, 2014

Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) wraps up Exercise Red Flag after fighting alongside frontline USAF war machines

Night fighters: RSAF F-15SG Strike Eagles, looking sinister after nightfall in their dark grey warpaint, are readied for operations during the USAF-led Exercise Red Flag Nellis, marking the F-15SG's debut at the war games. The high tempo of air operations, scripted under realistic hot-war scenarios that involved large formations of friendly and hostile warplanes, tested the mettle of RSAF pilots and Flight Line Crew alike as they fought to generate and sustain airpower. (Photo: RSAF)

In the air, high performance "enemy" war planes waited for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to enter the aerial arena during the Red Flag war games led by the United States Air Force.

And we obliged time and again, by day and by night, with RSAF F-15SG Strike Eagles making their presence felt for the first time alongside friendly airpower.

On the ground, "hostile" surface-to-air missile batteries scanned the skies, eager to claw down our fliers in contested airspace. And we taught them the meaning of DEAD - Destruction of Enemy Air Defences - with short, sharp concentrations of precisely-delivered aerial might.

Despite the ferocity of play, all who flew or supported the multitude of missions during Exercise Red Flag - Nellis lived to fight another day, wiser and more attuned to the demands and complexities of high intensity aerial combat fought round-the-clock at a punishing mission tempo.

By day and by night: RSAF F-15SG Strike Eagles sustain the pace of round-the-clock air strikes, with the same fighters turned around for combat flown by fresh RSAF air crews. RSAF Flight Line Crew assigned to our war machines were integral to the RSAF's ability to sustain the punishing pace of air combat missions launched from the USAF's Nellis Air Force Base. (Photo: RSAF)

Led by the United States Air Force (USAF), Exercise Red Flag was fought over a battlespace many times the size of Singapore island with 102 war machines from the USAF, French Air Force and the RSAF staging out of the USAF's Nellis Air Force Base in the Nevada desert.

The substantial volume of airspace designated for Red Flag was fully utilised by the participants, who launched successive waves of warplanes in what is known in military jargon as "large force employment exercises". Put simply, this involved sending sizeable formations of warplanes to sweep the skies of hostile aircraft so that friendly airpower could be unleashed against a variety of ground targets.

The Americans and French contributed 83 aircraft while Singapore deployed 16 warplanes and three Chinook heavy-lift helicopters for combat search and rescue. All assets experienced realistic, high intensity air combat when pitted against aggressor units whose sole focus was to make it a bad day for friendly forces.

All frontline USAF warplanes took part, including the F-22 Raptor -  the world's most advanced warplane. The Raptors were joined by F-15 Eagles, F-16 Vipers, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes and E-3 airborne early warning aircraft, the last example serving as a flying radar station that directed the air battle.

The French were represented by a C-130 Hercules.

Special year: With tail art commemorating the 20th anniversary of Peace Carvin this year, this RSAF F-16D Fighting Falcon may look pretty but was sent to the USAF's Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) for serious business. The F-16D was one of eight sent by the  RSAF's Peace Carvin II detachment in Luke AFB for pilots and Flight Line Crew to gain firsthand experience participating in the USAF's premier air power readiness exercise, Exercise Red Flag.

Lifeline: An RSAF CH-47 Chinook skims the flight line at Nellis AFB. These heavy-lift choppers practised how they would execute combat search and rescue (CSAR) missions over contested territory, providing a home delivery service for friendly fliers looking for a ride home. In combat, CSAR missions would be supported by RSAF assets like UAVs and fighter aircraft, with the warplanes flying top cover and cleaning up the ingress and egress route of undesirable elements.

Singapore's contribution drew upon three RSAF CONUS detachments. The RSAF deployed:
* Eight F-15SG Strike Eagles from the Peace Carvin V detachment, flying as part of the USAF 428th Fighter Squadron from Mountain Home AFB in Idaho
* Eight F-16C/D Fighting Falcons from Peace Carvin II, flying under the banner of the USAF 425th FS from Luke AFB in Arizona
* Three CH-47 Chinooks from the Peace Prairie detachment, Grand Prairie, Texas.

The nominal roll of Singaporean warfighters was substantial - some 290 RSAF personnel took part in the exercise.

Singapore has taken part in Red Flag since 1982. Indeed, the RSAF is humbled to know that it is the only Southeast Asian air force invited to take part in the war readiness exercise year after year.

Generate & Sustain: A thirsty RSAF Chinook heavy-lift helicopter is topped up with aviation fuel during Exercise Red Flag. Flight Line Crew from the USAF, French AF and RSAF sustained the pace of air operations. This was no 9-to-5 job as Red Flag air warfare planners scripted the war games with missions which saw large formations of warplanes and helos launched round-the-clock, putting a premium on the fast turnaround of assets under close-to-war conditions.(Photo:  RSAF) 

Despite the RSAF's long association with Red Flag, many RSAF fliers and Flight Line Crew at this year's exercise were probably not even born when the RSAF had its first experience pitted against the famed Aggressor squadrons that Red Flag is known for.

With experienced pilots simulating hostile warplanes in the air and air defence units with their trigger on mock SAM launchers on the ground, friendly fliers had their hands full concentrating on executing their missions at substantial range, over unfamiliar terrain, in large formations flying alongside new friends, sometimes in the dark and all the while with someone out there hunting for you.

The score card, while not publicised, was not the main takeaway from Exercise Red Flag. Having flown and fought in a realistic, complex, high-threat environment, RSAF pilots and FLCs know what it takes to fly and fight at a tempo set by Red Flag air warfare planners -who scripted the exercise with the aim of making USAF and friendly forces ready for action.

Lieutenant Colonel Tham Yeow Min, RSAF Peace Carvin V Detachment Commander, said: "We value the opportunity to train alongside our USAF and FAF counterparts in this large-scale exercise as it allows us to hone our operational competencies. This high-end exercise provides the RSAF with an opportunity to benchmark itself against leading air forces.

"The RSAF has always done well at Exercise Red Flag  - Nellis, and RSAF F-15SGs will continue to uphold the high standards."


Keng said...

Hi David,
Not forgetting the maintenance crew, the Air Force Engineers performing the second line duties behind the scenes. While they are not the flight line crew, they still play an invaluable part in aircraft generation.

Si Keng

zeenie said...

I'm always very proud of our air force and it is nice to know our guys can hold their own with the US. Working up a sweat in peacetime is better than paying the price in blood later.

Also, the French contributed a transport plane? That gave me a chuckle for the morning.

Untalented Writer said...

French contributed a C-130 and C-160 it seems. Maybe they were worried about the participation of an EA-18G?