G.J.A. van Boven, Sentry Aviation News, reports on an unusual deployment to France
On Monday 13 September a delegation from the Singapore Air Force left for BA 102 Dijon in France to participate in the bi-lateral exercise 'Western Arc', scheduled for 20 September to 1 October 2004. During the 10,000 kilometre trip, a number of stops were made including Bangalore (India), Al Dhafra (United Arab Emirates) and Souda Bay (Greece). The participating aircraft were six F-16C/Ds (610, 611, 612, 614, 640, 691) from 140 'Osprey' and 143 'Gryphon' Squadrons located at Tengah airbase; in support were two KC-135s from 112 squadron at Changi airbase and a C-130 from 122 Squadron from Paya Lebar airbase. The two KC-135s were located at Avord during the exercise.
Dijon was reached on 16 September, where everything was being prepared for the exercise to commence the following Monday. Dijon is the home base for Escadron de Chasse (Wing) EC 2, consisting of two Escadrilles (squadrons) - EC 01.002 'Cigognes' and EC 02.002 'Côte d'Or'. Both Escadrilles are flying the Mirage 2000-5F, an upgraded version of the original Mirage 2000C.
There have been contacts between the French Air Force and Singapore Air Force for many years, based on a bi-lateral agreement (SOFA) signed in 1998. The first exchange occurred in that year, four French Mirages from Orange visiting Singapore under Exercise 'Eastern Arc'. The 'Western Arc' exercise would be the return visit with the Singapore AF visiting France - it was originally planned to happen in 2003 but with the outbreak of the SARS disease in Asia it was postponed for a year.
In previous French exercises, like ODAX and OPERA, the Singapore Air Force had already participated with A-4S aircraft. These A-4Ss belonged to the Singapore training squadron (150 Squadron) currently based at Cazaux in southern France. The pilots for this exercise were flown in directly from Singapore to Cazaux a week before the actual exercise took place, so they could prepare themselves for the French weather and ATC procedures. As 'Western Arc' would require more sophisticated aircraft than A-4s, F-16s were used. The Falcons involved in 'Western Arc' were from the eighteen F-16C/Ds purchased in 1994, deliveries commencing on 14 August 1998 to Tengah AB. All these F-16Ds have the dorsal spine, as shown by 691 in the deployment - the fairing is the same as fitted to the Israeli IF-16D and the sole VISTA aircraft and is rumoured to house the SPS-3000 EW suite.
During the first week familiarisation flights took place with simple one-versus-one and two-v-two Combat Air Patrol missions. For the second week, more complex Combat Air Patrol and Close Air Support missions were planned with uneven numbers (two-v-one or three-v-four).
After 'Western Arc 04' ended, the Singapore aircraft flew back via Souda Bay, Al Dhafra to Air Force Station Gwalior in India. There they participated in the Indian-Singaporese exercise SINDEX '04 from 7 to 28 October 2004.
The author would like to thank Lt Digue of BA 102, Dijon, SIRPA/AIR of the Armee de l'Air and Lee Sin Yee of the Singapore Defence Force.