SAF hits the mark in high-tech live-fire drill

The Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle, which was inaugurated in 2012, is among the 33 aircraft featured in Exercise Forging Sabre.
The Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle, which was inaugurated in 2012, is among the 33 aircraft featured in Exercise Forging Sabre. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The crew overseeing exercise operations at the command post.
The crew overseeing exercise operations at the command post. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
The Heron 1 being towed to its final position before taking flight.
The Heron 1 being towed to its final position before taking flight. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Some of the 70 men and women from the UAV Command carrying out final checks before the Heron 1 takes flight.
Some of the 70 men and women from the UAV Command carrying out final checks before the Heron 1 takes flight. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
An Apache helicopter firing rockets during Exercise Forging Sabre.
An Apache helicopter firing rockets during Exercise Forging Sabre. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
An RSAF F15 performing a full afterburner takeoff during a night mission.
An RSAF F15 performing a full afterburner takeoff during a night mission. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE (ARIZONA) - From 10,000 ft above ground, the vehicle towing a missile looked like an innocuous trailer lumbering along the dusty plains of the Arizonian desert.

Images captured by Singapore's latest eye in the sky - Heron 1 - flickered on the large screens in front of about 80 battle staff in the command post, who identified the vehicle as the "red force" or enemy target.

The F-15 fighter jet and Apache Attack Helicopters that were activated swooped in and, within seconds, white puffs of smoke were seen, as the Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and the Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions (LJdams) smart bombs struck the target.

There was no sound or fury of a Hollywood-style battleground but this was one of the outcomes in the finale of the Singapore Armed Forces' most complex unilateral wargames.

Codenamed Forging Sabre, the live-fire exercise played out over the Barry M. Goldwater Training Area in Arizona, 20 times the size of Singapore.

It is the culmination of months of fine-tuning by about 600 soldiers and airmen who have been armed with the most advanced weapons systems and high-tech warfighting tactics to deliver a precise strike.

They demonstrated how to exchange battle data real-time through an electronic battle network that, in turn, orchestrates the SAF's suite of sensors and shooters to boost its firepower and deliver a deadlier punch.

This is also the first time that the Heron 1 is deployed in this year's exercise, the fifth in the Forging Sabre series since 2005. The UAVs were key in carrying out reconnaissance missions to hunt down enemy targets, pinpointing them with laser beams for the warplanes to destroy them.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who observed the proceedings on Thursday (Dec 11, US Time), said: "The ability to detect real-time targets, track them, and destroy them when they are moving is something very difficult to do militarily."

He added that being able to execute such complex missions successfully speaks of the professionalism of the SAF. "We have come a long way and it gives us a lot of confidence in the abilities of the SAF."

Dr Ng, who visited Luke Air Force Base, also got a close up look at the US Air Force' F-35A fighter jet, fuelling speculation that Singapore is moving closer to deciding to buy the Lockheed Martin fifth-generation fighter plane.

He spent about 45 minutes at the F-35 Academic Training Centre, during which he was briefed on the training and features of the aircraft.

The defence minister will trade his civilian clothes for a flight suit on Friday when he flies in the F-15SG fighter jet during a live-firing exercise.