SAF scores several firsts with US live-firing exercise

Apache helicopters taking off at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in Arizona on Monday during the Forging Sabre exercise. The 16-day live-firing exercise, which began on Nov 28, features upgrades to weapon systems and involves a record 800 personn
Apache helicopters taking off at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in Arizona on Monday during the Forging Sabre exercise. The 16-day live-firing exercise, which began on Nov 28, features upgrades to weapon systems and involves a record 800 personnel.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Apache helicopters taking off at Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field in Arizona on Monday during the Forging Sabre exercise. The 16-day live-firing exercise, which began on Nov 28, features upgrades to weapon systems and involves a record 800 personn
Brigadier-General Tommy Tan, co-director for Exercise Forging Sabre 2017, said a bigger target area is being covered in the 1.6 million ha training zone this year.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is stepping up its push towards a more integrated and lethal military with several breakthroughs in the biennial Forging Sabre exercise in Arizona.

The 16-day live-firing exercise near Phoenix began on Nov 28 and features upgrades to weapon systems to help the Singapore Army and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) work more seamlessly in detecting and destroying enemy targets.

For instance, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or Himars, will be able to fire guided M31 Unitary rockets at multiple targets at once, up from one target previously.

A Himars battery deployed for the first time in the Forging Sabre series will also feature a new command post that facilitates on-the-go operations and enhances battlefield monitoring. The new system sports a fully automated deployment of antenna masts that were previously manually operated.

The exercise will also unveil and test new upgrades to the SAF's real-time battlefield network system - referred to as the command and control system - by allowing better assessment of enemy targets with inputs from drones and other sensors.

A reconnaissance team from the artillery unit, known as STrike ObserveR Mission, or Storm, will try out new laser designator technology at night that helps mark out multiple moving enemy targets for fighter jets employing laser-guided bombs.

The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that the exercise, involving a record number of 800 personnel, will see an increased level of integration between sense and strike assets from the RSAF and the Singapore Army to conduct complex and dynamic live-firing missions.

 

Brigadier-General Tommy Tan, co-director for Exercise Forging Sabre 2017, told a media briefing at Luke Air Force Base on Monday that the exercise is covering a bigger target area in the 1.6 million ha Barry M. Goldwater training zone, which is about 20 times the size of Singapore.

Past Forging Sabre exercises focused on only one area of about 300 sq km, but SAF troops this year have to also detect and eliminate targets moving and hiding in another new and bigger area of around 780 sq km.

"This time round, with more participating assets and enhanced integration levels, we have more targets on the ground in two areas. Targets are moving around in them, which gives us the increased complexity to take out targets as soon as we want," he added. "Decision-makers at the command post must be able to make sense of the target movement and use the best resource on the ground or in the air to take them out."

Colonel Michael Ma, Chief Artillery Officer and director for the land component, said a key value in holding the exercise is the live-firing aspect on a large scale.

"You can talk about it. You can train for it back home, but nothing beats seeing the actual live munitions destroy a target or for soldiers out there in the field to experience the live-firing themselves... That certainly builds confidence in our guys out there on the ground," he added.

Chief of Defence Force Perry Lim and Chief of Air Force Mervyn Tan witnessed the exercise and also interacted with personnel.

In a statement, Major-General Tan said achievements from the exercise will be testament to the professionalism and commitment of servicemen and women. "With limited air and land space in Singapore, we need overseas exercises like this for our airmen and soldiers to hone their skills and maintain a high level of operational readiness," he added.

"I am grateful to our United States partners for providing us with this important opportunity. The success of Exercise Forging Sabre gives us a lot of confidence that the SAF is ready to defend Singapore."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2017, with the headline 'SAF scores several firsts with US live-firing exercise'. Print Edition | Subscribe