RSAF unveils upgraded F-16, tanker aircraft at US exercise

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MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho – With a turn of their heads towards enemy targets, pilots commandeering Singapore’s upgraded F-16 fighter jets can also have their weapons point in the same direction.

No longer will they have to steer their aircraft towards threats in order to take aim, nor will they have to glance at their cockpits for vital information, as their helmets provide the necessary data.

This is made possible by an advanced display mounted on their headgear – one of several enhancements to the ageing F-16 platform, which first entered the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) service in 1998.

Sporting a longer range radar system that allows pilots to detect and engage faraway targets, as well as a suite of modern-day weaponry including the Python-5 missile, which boasts a range of up to 20km, the upgraded F-16s made their debut at the unilateral Exercise Forging Sabre held between Sept 11 and 30 in Idaho.

Speaking to the media at Mountain Home Air Force Base on Thursday, Lieutenant-Colonel Tan Yong Chin, 39, said the upgraded fighter jet has improved integration with F-15SG fighters when conducting missions.

F-16s previously lacked a data link, which F-15SGs had, necessitating manual communication between the jets’ pilots.

But passing on a message too many times carries the risk of miscommunication, added the commander of the RSAF’s longest-running overseas detachment, Peace Carvin II.

Through a new data link capability, F-16 pilots are now able to share target information with other aircraft and ground forces and “effectively look at the same picture”, LTC Tan said. 

“But this time round, we can see a common picture, and a picture paints a thousand words.”

LTC Tan, who has been an F-1...

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