Forging Sabre 2013
Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, Arizona was recently the host of a military exercise codenamed: “Forging Sabre”. The exercise took place from December 2, 2013 through December 17, 2013 and featured several squadrons from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Over 700 men and women from the Republic of Singapore Armed Forces participated in the exercise. The participating aircraft for this exercise included: F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 425th Fighter Squadron (based at Luke AFB, AZ). F-15SG Strike Eagles from the 428th Fighter Squadron (based at Mountain Home AFB, ID), AH-64D Apaches from the E/1-285th Aviation Regiment (based at Silverbell Army Heliport, AZ), and CH-47 Chinooks from the 149th Aviation Regiment (based at Redmond Taylor Army Heliport, TX). The purpose of this exercise, at stated in the Luke AFB press release announcing the exercise, was: “to provide the Singapore armed forces an opportunity to exercise and train their full spectrum of command, control and execution”. With Arizona’s mild weather conditions this time of year and Luke AFB’s close proximity to the Barry M. Goldwater Range (which provides a battleground that is approximately 19 times the size of Singapore), Luke AFB was an ideal host for this exercise.
Exercise Forging Sabre 2013 (XFS 13), was the fourth in a series of “Forging Sabre” exercises that began in 2005. In addition to training for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat readiness, XFS helps foster the positive relationship The Republic of Singapore has with the United States. This relationship has grown through programs/partnerships such as Peace Carvin (multiple), Peace Prarie, Peace Vanguard, Peace Triton, and Peace Guardian and other programs/partnerships. These partnerships began with the purchase of aircraft and/or weaponry, and, later, included joint training between the Republic of Singapore and the United States Armed Forces.
RSAF Aircraft-Related U.S. Programs/Partnerships
|Aircraft Type||Quantity Purchased||Program/Partnership|
|Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52 Fighting Falcon||22||Peace Carvin II/III
|Lockheed Martin F-16C Block 52 Fighting Falcon||20||Peace Carvin II/III
|Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 52+ Fighting Falcon||20||Peace Carvin IV
|Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle||24||Peace Carvin V
|Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker||4||Peace Guardian
|CH-47D/CH-47SD Chinooks||6/12||Peace Prairie
|Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow||20||Peace Vanguard
|Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk||8||Peace Triton
XFS 13 proved to be the most sophisticated display of integrated strike warfare out of all past and present XFS’s. According to the Asian Military Review: “This year’s exercise included a wider range of precision strike munitions employed as compared to past installments, including the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), Laser JDAMs, Radar and Laser Hellfire missiles, and GBU-12 Laser Guided Bombs, to destroy static and moving targets in day and night mission scenarios”. With integrated strikes carried out by aircraft and ground forces, a sophisticated combat command center was set up at Luke AFB to facilitate the command and control of these strikes. This command center required the effort of dozens of RSAF personnel to coordinate and execute the strategies needed for success in real-time combat simulation.
For aviation photographers and enthusiasts, XFS 13 provided an excellent opportunity to observe/photograph some of the most advanced F-15 Strike Eagles with the Boeing F-15SG model. These aircraft were built in 2005 by Boeing and feature some of the latest avionics and combat technology. Some of the improvements/differences over the standard F-15E Strike Eagle include: higher-thrust GE-made engines, improved radar, improved cockpit avionics, improved counter-measures, the use of the latest targeting pods, and fully compatibility with the latest “J-series” range of weapons. In addition to the F-15SG’s, the RSAF was flying the 425th FS’s Lockheed Martin-made F-16 “block 52’s”. Two of the F-16’s had tail art painted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Peace Carvin II. While tail art, and uniquely painted aircraft, may be commonplace in other parts of the world, in the United States, it is a nice treat for aviation enthusiasts. Other highlights during the two weeks included: a visit from the Singapore Minister for Defense, Dr Ng Eng Hen, and a fly-in and demonstration by a Lockheed Martin f-35B (from MCAS Yuma, AZ) for the RSAF personnel.
While the two-week exercise did not provide the level of activity that one would see with exercises such as the USAF’s Red Flag or the USMC’s WTI exercises, the quality of the aircraft was worth spending a few days observing. Programs/Partnerships such as the Peace Carvin programs have created opportunities for exercises such as Forging Sabre which, in turn, provide aviation enthusiasts with opportunities to observe/photograph interesting aircraft.