Magazine article National Defense

Singapore Air Force Trains without Ranges

Magazine article National Defense

Singapore Air Force Trains without Ranges

Article excerpt

Singapore's air force increasingly is relying on "range-less" instrumentation technology for pilot training. Lacking large training ranges on the tiny island of Singapore, the air force became one of the first users of range-less instrumentation, and now is touted as the most advanced users of this technology--spurring change in the nature of joint training in the Pacific region. The range-less technology is known as the air combat maneuvering instrumentation (ACMI) system. It "was born out of necessity," because Singapore's Air Force did not have enough real estate to conduct conventional training, said Air Force Col. Bernard Toh, director of public affairs at the Singapore ministry of defense.

"We knew that we needed something like [ACMI] to make our training more realistic and as precise as it can possibly get," he said during a briefing at Paya Labar Air Force Base.

Because Singapore does not have enough land to operate its complete aircraft inventory, it has had to seek overseas locations for almost a third of its assets.

According to reports, F-16 Fighting Falcons, KC-135 Stratotankers, AH-64D Apaches, and CH-47D Chinook helicopters are based in the United States, Marchetti S-211's and Puma helicopters are in Australia and some A-4 Super Skyhawks are in France. The island nation is in the process of deliberating a contract award for the replacement of the A4 Skyhawks. Contenders in the program are the F-15T, the Rafale and the Eurofighter.

Apart from relocating stone of its fleet's operations, Singapore also arranged to train its air crews in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Brunet. The air force sends its crews to Australia as well, and recently it sent its pilots to train in France, according to Toh.

Singapore pilots are regular guests in the United States at Luke and Cannon Air Force Bases, as well as Nellis Air Force Base where the Red Flag joint exercises are conducted.

When they train in Singapore, the ACMI system gives them freedom to move without tying their training down to a slew of ground stations. ACMI provides the pilots with a real-time tactical picture. Further, ACMI does not restrict the number of participants, nor the location where training takes place, according to ministry documents.

Safety algorithms warn against the dangers of mid-air and ground collisions. "Aboard the aircraft, we have only the avionics to give a warning, so this is an additional measure," said air force Lt. Col. Jacob Tan, who works with the ACMI. "This is very important for us, when you have 20 to 30 aircraft flying together."

The training system can simulate air-to-air and air-to-ground maneuvers and operations, said Tan. "We are able to capture [everything] on a recorder, and play it back anytime, he stud.

Consisting of three components, the system is relatively easy to operate and maintain, air force officials said. The first component is the AIM-9 pod, which houses a data-link transceiver, a global positioning system receiver, data processing computers, an inertial reference unit and a removable data storage unit.

The second component is real-time tracking positioning, which consists of radio frequency telemetry equipment and a computer-controlled tracking antenna. The antenna tracks aircraft operating in the area up to 250 kilometers, said Tan.

System operations, including the control of the tracking antenna, are centralized in the operator's console located in the de-briefing room, which is the third ACMI component. …

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