Exercise Wallaby: Air force, ground units experience special drills

RSAF's F-15 fighter jets being prepared for a night mission at Exercise Wallaby, this is the first time the planes are participating in the exercise.
RSAF's F-15 fighter jets being prepared for a night mission at Exercise Wallaby, this is the first time the planes are participating in the exercise. PHOTO: ZAOBAO

Pilots get the chance to boost coordination between air and land operations at wargames

The Singapore Armed Forces has unleashed its F-15 fighter jets in Exercise Wallaby for the first time - giving pilots the chance to improve coordination between the Republic's air and land operations.

The annual Australian training drill, held at Queensland's Shoalwater Bay, has also offered new, "more realistic" training opportunities, said Third Warrant Officer (3WO) Wong Chu Bi, 30, an air crew specialist at 122 Squadron.

The wargames, which began about two weeks ago, involve about 4,600 SAF personnel and take place over a space four times the size of Singapore.

 

F-15 pilot Nah Jinping, 29, told The Straits Times yesterday the exercise has already helped boost communication between the army and the F-15 planes, with both sides now using the same terms to identify some objects.

"Initially, we used different terms to describe the same object or outcome," she said.

"There was a lot of clarification that went on in the air, which led to a slightly longer time to achieve a certain mission objective - like bombing a tank, for example."

Major Nah added that she also spent time learning about army procedures to complete missions more quickly.

The pilot from the 149 Squadron said the F-15 can carry "a lot more" firepower than the F-16 fighter jet, meaning it can take out targets at a faster rate.

The F-15s were declared fully operational in September 2013, but did not take part in Wallaby before. Their presence also offers other personnel new training opportunities.

Second-Lieutenant Vincent Wong, 20, an RBS70 missile system firing unit commander, said the jet allows ground-based air defence units to learn what to do when facing an F-15 at night.

Field conditions at Exercise Wallaby mean it is completely dark at night, unlike in Singapore where there might still be distant light from the city.

"The aircraft can use the low light conditions to its advantage and adopt different tactics," he said. "We, as the ground-based air defenders, can use this as a learning opportunity."

3WO Wong said that in one exercise scenario, he was among the crew of a C-130 transport aircraft that was being chased by an F-15 aircraft, which was simulating an enemy. After it managed to escape, the C-130 dropped supplies for ground troops.

Such a scenario would have been difficult to create in Singapore due to the limited airspace and limited flying time available.

"It's more realistic," he said. "There may be a chance that we'd be chased by fighter aircraft, so after you've survived, you still need to drop the supplies for your ground troops."

Exercise Wallaby will end on Nov 7.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Air force, ground units experience special drills'. Print Edition | Subscribe