Monday, July 14, 2014

Info management for the Kits for Kids fundraiser

Wrapped up a 14-day campaign to promote awareness of and support for the Kits for Kids fundraiser held on Saturday (12 July 2014). See the Channel News Asia report on the event here.

Time spent in the lead-up to the event meant less time available for blog postings on our usual subject over the past two weeks.

The Kits for Kids project involved a hearts and minds effort of a different sort, which still called upon the application of key information management principles and the use of mainstream and social media to get the message across to the target audience (i.e. model kit collectors).

It was fun defining the success factors and key enablers, crafting assorted Facebook posts to seed awareness of the event and planning the information release strategy together with various stakeholders. Astute readers among you can probably tell the similarity in writing style for some Facebook posts. Check out the Kits for Kids Facebook page here

All smiles all-round when the buying frenzy cleared 1,150 kits out of 1,300 for sale within the first two hours - even without a single advertisement to promote the event and with the point of main effort pushed forward via social media - resulting in the happy problem of communicating that Day 2 of the two-day event was cancelled.

The 14-day window was deliberate. Those of you who have followed this blog's views on info management via social media would probably know why this time frame was selected.

It was nice to have met a number of you at the event. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is no Peace Corps

Singapore's intention to buy a large warship that can carry helicopters has been packaged under the catch-all, say-nothing moniker, Joint Multi-Mission Ship (JMMS).

Apart  from adding to the alphabet soup of Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) acronyms, the term JMMS conjures a vessel that is a Swiss Army knife of sorts: A vessel of indeterminate length able to shoulder missions aplenty, carry more and venture further than anything the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has afloat today.

While close to nothing has been said about the military role of the JMMS as a surface combatant, mainstream media in Singapore have happily cut and pasted the MINDEF/SAF narrative of the JMMS as a disaster relief ship in their reports.

Look at these headlines:
Channel NewsAsia:  S'pore may buy large ship  for use in disaster zones: Dr Ng
Today: SAF mulls buying larger ship to better aid  in diaster relief
The Straits Times: Singapore may buy large warship for use in disaster zones

No one has asked about the role a large ship that can carry helicopters can serve in enhancing the SAF's capability during operations (read: in peace, troubled peace and war).

Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen told reporters in his interview with the Singapore media ahead of SAF Day, which is today:"A larger JMMS would be able to carry more helicopters or  have more helicopters operating. When we responded to Typhoon Haiyen... basically the typhoon was so devastating that comms and communication were knocked out. There was no centralised ability for command and control of the airspace. In that context, a ship like the JMMS would have been very useful."

And indeed it would.

The unease one feels with such a storyline comes from the impression that such sugar coating builds in the minds of Singaporeans as well as friends and frenemies abroad.

It could lead to the image of the SAF in general, and the Singapore Navy in particular, as a Peace Corps for the region. So if and when our multi-billion dollar defence budget eventually results in a JMMS pierside at an RSN naval base, Singapore may find itself inundated with calls to assist in the aftermath of nature's fury.

Can we ignore these plaintive pleas?

If we get the large ship that can carry helicopters, we may find it awkward to RSVP in the negative. If we go, how long should the more capable large ship that can carry helicopters stay in theatre? Would the author of the HADR storyline also have an exit story crafted for future policymakers so that Singapore can bow out of an extended deployment in a disaster zone with dignity and goodwill bridged with the foreign nation?

Whatever the narrative the mainstream media laps up, observers should know the SAF's key purpose of deterring aggression through strength and readiness lies at the core of our capability enhancement development projects.

Ditch the Peace Corps mental image and one sees a JMMS capable of supporting amphibious operations on the exposed flank of the area of operations. Singapore Army and Republic of Singapore Air Force assets embarked on the JMMS would allow the SAF to project combat and combat support forces on and from the sea. More impactful is the type and sustainability of air support coming from RSAF rotary-wing and quite possibly fixed-wing aviation operating from the JMMS. These could conceivably range from upgraded Apache attack helicopters (the crashed bird is being souped up to a new standard), troopships to combat naval aviation.

In addition, drones tailored for military missions other than surveillance could be unleashed by the JMMS, adding a new dimensions to the fight that present-day RSN Task Groups built around its LSTs cannot muster.

As the 141-metre long Endurance-class tank landing ships are already frontrunners in this role of projecting SAF muscle across the beach, the capability of the planned JMMS is likely to be on par or superior to that  found aboard the Endurance LSTs. Few amphibs used by foreign navies can rival the beach landing capabilities of each Endurance LST, which is designed to embark a sizeable number of fast waterjet-propelled landing craft. This suggests an uplift in the ability of the JMMS to not just move men and materiel on the water and in the air, but also use its flight deck to deliver RSAF combat power where it counts - let's leave it at that. Singapore Army, Navy and Air Force executing multiple missions jointly from the same hull - hence JMMS.

By the time the JMMS hits the water, our ageing fast landing craft introduced under Project M are expected to have been superceded by a new class of landing craft, some of which have a drive-thru design to carry heavy vehicles around 70 tonnes. These landing craft could appear sooner than you think.

Keep your eyes open.

Happy SAF Day.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Best Units 2014

The dry heat was enervating yet tolerable as it was hot back home too. The lack of  humidity they welcomed. It was the dust, omnipresent and pervasive, that the soldiers found a nuisance.

A bigger challenge were ground rules for their training stint at a location that could not be shared with family and friends, on war machines that could not be mentioned, all executed under a training arrangement that would probably never ever see the light of day.

Still, all took it in their stride. The soldiers proved to be eager and attentive students as they were taught how to handle their massive war chariots. Project H had turned from concept to reality.

Their experience is, alas, not unique. There are other episodes within the land, air and sea services of their country's armed forces that have allowed the careful infusion of combat capabilities calculated to result in a swift and decisive over-match should push come to shove.

Herein lies the irony: That commanders of some of  the most lethal capabilities in their armed forces end up as bench warmers as their country celebrates the achievements of the best military units.

The applause and cheers that erupt from spectator stands are well-deserved for the officers, men and women from battalions/squadrons that earned their accolades. The banners that some units inevitably bring along add more than a dash of colour and bravado to the event with their stirring unit slogans and rousing war chants. They are a tangible and heart-warming display of unit esprit and of the sense of comradeship fostered within and throughout their formation.

Amid the pomp and pageantry sit officers whose respective commands will never be lauded publicly. This comes not from want of achievement nor from lack of professional competence or dearth of opportunities for them to shine against their peers.

The standard of war craft in these units has, in many cases, evolved from good to great. The synchromesh of war-fighting capabilities, tested and refined during realistic war-fighting exercises, has proven time and again that their concept of operations is practical, the concentrated firepower at their disposal potentially devastating.

They may never share the limelight at the parade but they know they do not need it. Nor do they hanker for awards that are feted by the media.

They are special, in a class of their own, primus inter pares.

Those who know deeply appreciate the contributions of these men and women to their country's defence and security. They are, well and truly, their country's best units.

Kits for Kids fund raising drive

Now for something different. Please share this appeal in aid of Singapore's Students Care Service (SCS). TY.

By Tan Chuan-Jin, click here for TCJ's Facebook page

Like many, I found the hobby of piecing together a box of plastic parts to assemble a scale model of a plane, tank or soldier a fascinating one.
Do you remember your first model kit? My first was a 'Matchbox' 1/72 scale Royal Air Force Hawk with Red Arrows marking. I remember the two-colour plastic and the clear stand upon which you placed the finished aircraft so that it looks as if it is flying.

This hobby calls for patience and along the way, reading up about the model being built also provided many lessons about military history.

Over the years, my stash of unbuilt kits slowly increased. Collecting it was as much a hobby as building them! There was that thrill of opening the box, pouring through the instructions, examining the details and then putting it aside while imagining the various painting schemes, diorama settings etc. Often not quite getting back to actually building it!

My unbuilt model kits are crying out for new owners who can give them more attention and time. The Kits for Kids charity event will put on sale unbuilt kits from my personal collection along with kits donated by others. It has been heart-warming to see the modelling community step forward by offering their time and kits for this charity drive. We have already received dozens of model kits donated by well-wishers. More are welcome. We look forward to expanding the stash thanks to your contribution, which can be dropped off (logistics details to come).

While many of these kits have sentimental value of the kind that fellow collectors can possibly relate to, I am donating these kits for a good cause as the Students Care Service deserves our support. All monies raised will go to students who need some assistance, and to help them develop to their fullest potential.

Even before the start of the charity sale, corporate donors have already pledged more than $10,000 in support of Kits for Kids. It is a promising start!

Although money can be raised in many ways, this effort is about galvanising our community of modellers to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Along the way, we renew friendships and have a great time - adding an intangible element to the charity drive that goes beyond putting money in a tin.

Come join me on 12-13 July at Kampong Ubi CC in support of Kits for Kids. Catch up with old modeling friends, meet some of our world class modelers who will display their works, and find something that will give you and your children hours of joy.

See you! Do share this!

Check out as we load more info over time.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

CARAT-Wira Eagle: Malaysian and US forces execute amphibious landing demo in Johor

Skirmish line: Malaysian paratroopers and United States Marine secure the beachhead at Tanjung Resang in Malaysia's Johor state as LCACs disgorge troops and vehicles shipped ashore from the dock landing ship, USS Ashland (LSD-48). The amphibious landing capability demo was staged as part of the CARAT-Wira Eagle war games hosted by Malaysia.
All images courtesy of Dzirhan Mahadzir, who witnessed the action firsthand at CARAT-Wira Eagle.

Attacking from the sea, warfighters from Malaysia and the United States stormed a beach at Tanjung Resang, just north of Mersing, yesterday in a joint show of force.

The capability demonstration, staged as part of the CARAT-Wira Eagle war games (Wira is Malay for Hero), represent the second major MY-US military exercise held in the Federation this past week after United States Air Force F-22A  Raptors and Royal Malaysian Air Force war machines launched the air power manoeuvres, Eksesais Cope Taufan 2014, on Monday.

CARAT-Wira Eagle saw LCAC hovercraft, loaded with B-vehicles like ATM Vamtacs and USMC Hummers, despatched off Tg Resang from the dock landing ship, USS Ashland (LSD-48). The landing force was supported by AAV-7 tracked armoured carriers deployed from the Ashland.

Malaysia's contribution to the amphibious landing force comprised elements from 9 RAMD (Para) (Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja -  Royal Malay Regiment), which is part of the Malaysian Army's crack 10 Brigad Para (10th Parachute Brigade). The battalion's parent brigade is the Malaysian Army's Pasukan Aturgerak Cepat or Rapid Deployment Force.

Paratroops from 9 RAMD are adept at securing enemy objectives from the air. The battalion is also the designated amphibious landing specialist in the Malaysian Army.

At  CARAT-Wira Eagle yesterday, Malaysian troops provided air defence cover (above) for the landing beach by deploying MANPADS fire units upon landing with the intention of protecting subsequent waves of LCACs from attacks by low-flying enemy warplanes or attack helicopters.

The joint force defeated entrenched enemy infantry, who attempted to defend the beachhead, before securing the area for friendly forces.

Malaysia and the United States enjoy warm and friendly defence relations. The military might demonstrated at CARAT-Wira Eagle and Eks Cope Taufan 2014 - the latter saw the US deploy its latest warplanes to the region for the first time - is indicative of concrete and continuing efforts by both countries to uplift their bilateral defence relations during joint exercises, defence courses, visits and exchanges of military personnel.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

First public show for Singapore Army ammo resupply vehicle at Republic Polytechnic

Source: Singapore Army Facebook

A Singapore Army vehicle that has yet to be seen at an Army Open House went on show at Republic Polytechnic (RP) this past week.

What is thought to be the public debut for the CLAS-V (upper right in the first image) lifts the veil on an important yet hitherto unseen aspect of the supply chain that serves Singapore Artillery Primus 155mm Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzers.

The CLAS-V is based on the Singapore Technologies Kinetics Bronco all-terrain tracked carrier. The rear cabin has been specially designed to carry 155mm projectiles and associated charge bags in an armoured container. The open face of the container reveals racks for 40 155mm projectiles.

The vehicle is thought to draw its name from the first two letters of the Singapore Army project name for the Primus, with "AS-V" thought to stand for Ammunition Supply Vehicle. Interestingly, the Primus maker calls the self-propelled gun by another name - Project A.

CLAS-V is designed to support Singapore Artillery Primus batteries by providing fast resupply of ammunition across all terrain, even across water obstacles. The ammunition resupply vehicle's ability to perform its mission under fire optimises the hide, shoot and scoot concept of operations adopted for the Primus.

CLAS-V is one of 26+ distinct Bronco models in service with the Singapore Armed Forces.

Swedish yard Kockums to build Littoral Mission Vessel composite superstructure

Swedish shipbuilder Kockums, renamed TKMS AB, looks set to build the composite topsides for eight Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Littoral Mission Vessels (LMV), according to news reports from Sweden.

Kockums reported that it has been involved in the LMV project since 2013, with work share involving the design and fabrication of the superstructure of the warship and all structures above the steel hull. Singapore yard Singapore Technologies Marine (STM) is the project lead.

According to a yard statement dated 23 May 2014, the Kockums komposit superstructures are to be fabricated in Sweden and then shipped to Singapore.

Upon arrival here, the superstructures will be mated with steel hulls, which will be made in Singapore. When completed, each LMV should measure 80 metres from bow to stern, 12 metres wide and displace around 1,150 tons.

The use of composite for the LMV superstructure and enclosed sensor mast points to weight saved for each warship. It also suggests that the LMVs will have a reduced radar signature compared to warships made of conventional materials such as aluminium or steel.

Kockums Chief Executive Officer Ola Alfredsson said the yard was proud to renew its association with the Republic of Singapore Navy and STM, noting contributions from Kockums' skilled workforce, expertise in naval architecture and innovative production methods for naval systems.

The yard said composite structures for the RSweN's Visby-class corvettes were designed and fabricated by Kockums. It also performed similar work for the Indian Navy's Kamorta-class corvettes.

Trusted brand
Among Singapore's naval community, Kockums is a familiar and trusted brand name.

The ties that link Kockum with the Lion City are long, deep-seated and cherished by Singapore. Important capability leaps in the RSN's capability in areas such as submarine technology and mine countermeasures, involved close and extensive collaboration with Sweden's defence community.

Such ties led to the multi-year attachments of RSN personnel in Karlskrona and a number of Singaporean children which is not small resulted from their parents' happy time in Sweden.

The yard was responsible for reactivating and refurbishing two classes of former Royal Swedish Navy diesel-electric submarines (SSK) for the RSN. Among the engineering challenges: the Archer-class underwent extensive renovations that involved cutting and stretching the hull with an additional module for Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) machinery. This class of SSK is the first in Southeast Asia with AIP.

Kockums also gave Singapore its first purpose-designed MCMVs for operations in local waters. Four Bedok-class MCMVs regularly sweep the sea lanes leading to Singapore harbour to keep them free from underwater devices that could impede freedom of navigation. Such sweeps take place regularly even in peacetime.

In addition, Kockums supplied unmanned robotic sweeps used along with the Bedok class for hunting sea mines.

Reports about the less-than-friendly merger with German naval yard, ThyssenKrupp, have been noted in Singapore. The future of the skilled workforce who work for Kockums has come under the spotlight not just in Europe but also in Singapore. This is because any contraction of Kockums industrial capability will affect the choices from its customers for future naval purchases.

The dynamics of the relationship between Kockums and ThyssenKrupp will be closely watched by friends of Kockums in Singapore.

You may also like:
Details of Singapore's Littoral Mission Vessels as of February 2014. Click here.