PHOENIX: For the first time in an exercise, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has dropped eight 2,000-pound bombs on “enemy” targets, destroying them with precision accuracy.
Two F-15SG fighter jets, each carrying two GBU-31 high explosive bombs, flew the first sortie on Dec 1. A similar mission took place the next day.
The GBU-31 bomb is a Global Positioning System-guided precision munition that can accurately target and destroy large or heavily fortified structures.
Rear view of the GBU-31 bomb. (Photo: Mindef)
Ten F-15SGs participated in the 16-day live firing exercise held in Arizona, which will end on Dec 13. About 150 precise munitions were fired, eight of which were GBU-31s.
The RSAF can use the GBU-31 bombs to destroy larger targets more quickly, as compared to using multiple 500-pound bombs. The 2,000-pounders have the potential to disable enemy surveillance systems, ground based air defence systems and command posts in a single strike.
To make one of the missions as realistic as possible, the two F-15SGs took off at night with an initial set of targets.
Loading of the GBU-31 bomb before a night mission. (Photo: Mindef)
However, a Heron-1 unmanned aerial vehicle found a more critical set of targets and so relayed it to the command post, which evaluated the situation and ordered the fighters to take out the new targets instead.
To complicate matters, these four new targets were actually in a cluster of 12 similar looking targets. But the Heron-1 still managed to accurately identify and locate them for the fighter pilots.
An F-15SG pilot preparing for flight. (Photo: Mindef)
The pilots then programmed the target coordinates into the GBU-31 bombs and dropped them precisely on the targets, which could represent crucial enemy buildings and systems in an airbase.
The teamwork between the F-15s, Heron-1 and command post is just one example of the integration that must be replicated across services, said exercise air director Colonel (COL) Liew Boon Ping.
“In an area where I already have a certain number of air assets that have committed in coordinated strikes, I may not have sufficient bombs to destroy everything on the ground,” he noted.
“At our level of integration, all I need to ask is are the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) ready, and my command.”
Air force personnel giving an F-15SG pilot the go-ahead. (Photo: Mindef)
Exercise land director COL Michael Ma said the live firing exercises give troops confidence.
“You can talk about it and train for it back home, but nothing beats seeing the actual live munition destroy the target, or for the soldiers out there in the field to experience it for themselves and smell the explosives,” he said.
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