425th FS, AMU: Best of both worlds

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- The 56th Fighter Wing trains hundreds of Air Force F-16 pilots and maintainers every year, but did you know Luke Air Force Base is also home to an operational F-16 fighter squadron whose sole purpose is to provide defense for the country of Singapore?

"To harness the best of both worlds to generate, sustain and develop combat air power for Singapore" is the single, focused mission of the 425th Fighter Squadron and 425th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, collectively known as "The Black Widows."

Since Dec. 30, 1992, the 425th FS Black Widows have been flying at Luke, taking advantage of the great weather, airspace and bombing ranges Arizona offers. Consisting primarily of Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel, the 425th FS and AMU have made significant strides in the past 13 years.

Initially leasing Block 15 F-16s and training for day, conventional air-to-ground missions and within-visual-range aerial combat, the 425th now flies the Block 52 F-16 aircraft owned by Singapore and trains in all facets of modern airpower employment.

The Black Widows also fly about 30 percent of their sorties at night, using night vision goggles as well as flying low altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night missions. From laser-guided bomb deliveries to beyond-visual-range air-to-air combat, day or night, the Black Widows are a formidable force for any potential adversary.

One unique aspect of the 425th Fighter Squadron many folks, including some pilots at Luke, are unaware of is that the unit has weapon systems officers, which are typically found only in traditional two-seat fighters such as the F-15E. While the F-16 was designed as a single-seat fighter from an operational perspective, Singapore has opted to have the D models (the 425th has six C-model single-seat F-16s and six D-model two-seaters) modified to allow an F-16 WSO in the back seat to take control of certain sensors, while the pilot flies the jet and maintains control of sensors such as the radar.

The command and control structure for the 425th is also unique. Because the aircraft and personnel operate from a United States-based installation and use the airspace and various facilities, both countries agreed that the U.S. Air Force would have operational control of the Black Widows while the RSAF maintains administrative control over RSAF personnel through the RSAF senior ranking officer assigned to the 425th.

Another part of the 425th FS is "Peace Carvin II," or "PC II." This term represents the detachment of all RSAF personnel (both in the FS and AMU) as well as the flying training program that is fully paid for by Singapore.

There are about 150 RSAF personnel assigned to the 425th FS and AMU and they and their families typically remain here for a two-year tour. They all speak fluent English, are very friendly and are justifiably proud of their rich heritage and prosperous country. There are also about 30 American personnel in the Black Widows, mostly civilian, who work in the AMU or FS. Lastly, four active duty U.S. officers, all F-16 instructor pilots, are assigned to the 425th, including the squadron commander and the director of operations.

At the heart of any great organization are the people, and there is no doubt the Black Widows have some of the most talented and professional people around. From the hangar where they perform their own phase maintenance to the flightline and the skies above Arizona, the men and women of the 425th FS and AMU consistently strive to be the best.

The work ethic, attitude, attention to detail, and dedication to duty that is displayed by all Black Widow personnel is truly amazing.

Our motto, "One team, one fight - best of both worlds," is indicative of the teamwork and spirit that reside in the 425th as we continue to improve the war-fighting capability of the RSAF so they, in turn, can provide the best defense for their great country of Singapore.