Australia, Singapore, and the United States have begun a groundbreaking trilateral air combat exercise in northern Australia.
Exercise ‘Tri-Sling’ is an offshoot of Exercise ‘Commando Sling’ between the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the US Air Force (USAF).
The exercise, from 25 August to 12 September, is being held outside Singapore for the first time. The drill began immediately after the participating air forces concluded their involvement in the multinational Exercise ‘Pitch Black’ and uses airspace above the Delamere Air Weapons Range and Bradshaw Field in Australia’s Northern Territory.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is represented by the Boeing F/A-18A Hornets of 75 Squadron, while Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 30 Fighting Falcons crewed by the 121st Fighter Squadron, District of Columbia Air National Guard (DC ANG), are representing the United States.
The Australians and Americans will operate from RAAF Base Tindal while RSAF F-16C/Ds and Boeing F-15SGs are flying out of RAAF Base Darwin. The F-15SGs of 149 Squadron deployed to Tindal in early July for squadron training before rolling over into ‘Pitch Black’ and ‘Tri-Sling’.
For the US contingent, Australia is the last stop of a Theater Security Package deployment of 12 aircraft from the DC and New Jersey ANG to Kunsan, South Korea. According to Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Scott Arbogast, the DC ANG took over the F-16s from its sister unit in late July and made the 5,600 km journey from South Korea non-stop, refuelling from tankers 8-9 times en route in a demonstration of the “places not bases” concept espoused by the USAF’s leadership regarding the Pacific pivot.
The ‘Commando Sling’ series started in 1991 and see F-15, F-16, F/A-18, and AV-8B Harrier IIs from the United States deploying to Singapore up to six times a year for dissimilar air combat training. Australia made its debut in the exercise in 1998 and it is renamed ‘Tri-Sling’ when the RAAF participates, which last occurred in 2002.