Update: A comment from the U.S. Air Force in response to a Defense News inquiry has been added.
MELBOURNE, Australia — One of the companies recently hired by the U.S. Air Force to support an adversarial role during training was also approached by Singapore to perform the same role its Idaho-based fighter training detachment, an industry source told Defense News.
The Asian country is also inaugurating a unit under one of its locally based fighter squadrons to perform an adversarial training function.
The industry source said Singapore requested that the program manager overseeing its Peace Carvin V training detachment in the United States approve the training support from Draken International. Funding was allocated for two training events that were scheduled for the spring and summer of this year.
“To date, the ADAIR II contract has not supported the 428 FS Republic of Singapore Air Force squadron. The ADAIR II contract was originally scheduled to support the 428 FS in April, but that support was cancelled due to COVID,” a U.S. Air Force spokesperson told Defense News, using an acronym for Adversary Air II, the service’s contract inked in 2018.
Had the events taken place, Draken International would have used its Aero Vodochody L-159E Honey Badger jets to support the Singapore detachment at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
The industry source said the Republic of Singapore Air Force wanted its forces to face off against an aircraft with an onboard radar that could present a beyond-visual-range missile threat, and is equipped with a radar warning suite to allow it to react to a radar “threat.” However, a jet able to reach supersonic speeds was not required.
Four L-159E jets would have supported the detachment for two weeks on each occasion, the source added.
Draken’s L-159Es are equipped with the Italian Leonardo Grifo-L all-weather radar. It is understood Singapore has held talks with Draken about hiring the company since at least mid-2019.
The Peace Carvin V detachment is a joint U.S. Air Force-Republic of Singapore Air Force unit that provides training to Singaporean personnel assigned to 428th Fighter Squadron on Boeing F-15SG Eagle multi-role fighters. The squadron falls under the 366th Fighter Wing, the resident flying unit at Mountain Home AFB.
Draken is one of seven companies awarded adversarial training contracts by the U.S. Air Force in late 2019 under a five-year, $6.4 billion contract. The company will support training at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina and Kelly Field in Texas, in addition to ongoing work with the armed service at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
The land scarce island nation of Singapore is primarily made up of one main island of less than 280 square miles in area. The country maintains several other permanent aircraft detachments overseas for training, including a Lockheed Martin F-16C/D Block 52 Fighting Falcon training detachment at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
The news of Draken potentially supporting the F-15SG detachment comes as the Republic of Singapore Air Force plans its own adversarial training activities at home. The Air Force has inaugurated an “aggressor” component that will reside within 140 Squadron. The unit is one of three locally based F-16 units and will use F-16s and F-15SGs in the training.
However, it appears the squadron will continue to fly F-16s from its base at Tengah in western Singapore, with the F-15SGs continuing to operate from nearby Paya Lebar in northeast Singapore, even when conducting adversarial training.
The training will take place on a part-time basis, with the involved squadron and personnel retaining their primary operational duties. It is unclear if the internal adversarial team will serve in a long-term role, or instead is a precursor to the Air Force eventually using contracted adversarial services.
“The RSAF task organises its units to meet operational requirements, and conducts robust day-to-day training and exercises to maintain operational readiness,” Singapore’s Ministry of Defence told Defense News in a statement. “To facilitate meaningful training, some units may be designated as the opponent, termed as ‘aggressors.’ Such two-sided training allows teams to pit their skills against each other, and is a common practice amongst many air forces around the world.”
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.