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35th FS, AMU foster joint relations during ‘Sling’

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- The 35th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit returned from Singapore June 24 after completing the 16th consecutive Operation Commando Sling joint warfare exercise, helping to foster better relations with that country’s air force.

The 29-day deployment pitted the 35th FS, commonly referred to as the “Pantons,” against Royal Singaporean Air Force F-16s and F-5s in the skies over the South China Sea.

Capt. Brian Healy, 35th FS B-Flight commander and Commando Sling project coordinator, said the Panton fliers learned how to seamlessly integrate Wolf Pack forces to achieve overall success.

“We were extremely impressed with the tactical level and readiness the RSAF displayed,” he said. “We also learned quite a bit about how they operate their aircraft and turn their F-5 force into a sneaky fighter that can’t be ignored.”

While there, the Panton fliers participated in basic fighter maneuvers and two-on-two engagements with the exercise culminating in Wolf Pack F-16s taking on two of the highly maneuverable Singapore F-16s and F-5s at a time.

But with every unfamiliar, deployed location, Wolf Pack members can always be faced with a new set of challenges to overcome. Capt. Healy said operators were left with a tightly-controlled airspace due to Singapore’s very dense air traffic.

“Imagine placing all of the (United States Forces Korea) air presence from the (Republic of Korea) as well as an international airport all within the airspace that Kunsan (radar approach and control) controls. That’s what you have in Singapore,” Capt. Healy pointed out. “There isn’t room for deviation and any sort is quickly noticed. We found ourselves having to operate under strict scrutiny and without the normal flexibility that operating from your home turf offers.”

Wolf Pack members also had to chance to experience local flavors from the predominately Asian nation. Singapore, a land mixed between native Singaporeans as well as Indians, Thai, Filipinos, Indonesians and Malaysians, offers the visitor an up-close look at a melting pot of cultures and civilizations in a 27-square mile area.

Capt. Healy noted Commando Sling deployments for the Wolf Pack are important for several reasons.

“It (Commando Sling) demonstrates to the world our commitment to the stability of the region as well as fostering a bond between the RSAF and the USAF,” he said. “Secondly, it’s one of the very few deployments we get to do from Kunsan and therefore, a rare opportunity to demonstrate Wolf Pack capabilities. Anytime we can train with other nations, especially one as competent as Singapore, it enhances our learning and training.”