Arizona: The Heron 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) made their maiden bow at the ongoing Exercise Forging Sabre, a biennial Singapore Armed Forces exercise held in the United States.
The drones are playing an integral role in the two-week exercise that started on Dec 1, and sees about 600 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel taking part. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen is scheduled to visit the exercise on Thursday (Dec 10).
"We are putting all three components together - the sensor, shoots and command post - to exercise as one big system to conduct integrated strikes for the SAF. We also have new players honing skills and competency to make sure they are able to deliver this capability to the SAF," said Colonel Tommy Tan, Exercise Forging Sabre 2015 Director and Commander of Air Combat Command.
The US and Singapore on Monday signed the enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, which also covers cooperation in fighting transnational terrorism and piracy.
INTEGRATING THE DRONES
The Heron 1 UAVs are an upgrade on Searcher drones, their predecessors which were used in the 2009 exercise. The Heron 1 UAVs possess advance sensors to search and locate mobile targets, after which they will use their lasers to provide weapon guidance to help fighter planes and attack helicopters destroy the targets.
Said Major Collin Tan, Flight Commander of 119 Squadron: "Heron 1 UAVs are able to operate three times longer and have a longer endurance of 24 hours. They are able to operate at twice the altitude at 20,000 feet and we are able to see targets in colour.
"What it means is we are able to detect more targets previously not picked up by Searcher. In terms of scale, we have carried out more cooperative lasing in this exercise than the entire Searcher drones combined in the previous Forging Sabre 2009," he added.
This is also the first time foreign drones are flying in the Barry Morris Goldwater Range airspace, which is more than 20 times the area of Singapore.
The vast training area means more munitions can be employed to make the exercise as realistic as possible. In fact, 98 precision munitions will be employed, which is the highest number used in any single SAF exercise.
"The realism is not only in the execution, but it allows the Heron to really exploit its capability in optics, particularly in the infra-red day-and-night scenarios, providing the command post a very realistic training because you have to make sense of the information coming in," said SLTC Liew Boon Ping, Exercise Forging Sabre Air Director and Head of Integrated System Development Group.
"So when we send our forces out, they will be able to employ all the different weapons that we have."