Sunday, May 3, 2015

Singapore Police Force Gurkha MPV

The Singapore Police Force's (SPF) expanded range of protected mobility vehicles includes the Gurkha Multi-purpose Patrol Vehicle (MPV), made in Canada by Terradyne Armored Vehicles Inc.

The rarely-seen MPV has been aptly named as the "Gurkha" in SPF service. These vehicles serve the crack 2,000-strong, brigade-size Gurkha Contingent, which is based at the Gurkha Cantonment in the Mount Vernon area. Senang Diri believes the vehicle serves with the hostage rescue force within the Gurkha Contingent.

The Gurkha is protected against armour-piercing 7.62mm NATO and 7.62mm rounds fired from AK-type rifles as well as 12.7mm ball. The MPV is also built to withstand the blast and fragments from roadside bombs.

Along with the Gurkha MPV, the SPF is believed to have taken delivery of a new Austrian-made wheeled armoured vehicle for the Police Special Operations Command.

Both vehicles are expected to be part of the SG50 Mobile Column.  

Gurkha MPV fitted with an open cupola.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Singapore's armoured forces target 50:50 balance between "live" and simulated AFV training

Aim to kill: The sharp end of 48 SAR and 41 SAR Falcon and Glory Company advance to take centrestage during the live-fire demo at the SAFTI live-firing area on 24 April 2015.

It's like World of Tanks on steroids - computer-generated tank warfare realistically recreated for the Singapore Army's armoured forces to sharpen their fighting skills repeatedly, cost-effectively and under close professional supervision.

Headquarters Armour is expanding its range of driving, gunnery and combat simulators to create the capacity needed for the Armour Training Institute (ATI) to achieve a 50:50 balance between training on simulators and live training on AFVs outfield in Singapore and overseas.

Hosting ACCORD members and a visit by employers to HQ Armour on Friday 24 April'15, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Armour Formation updated visitors on the type and features of military simulators at ATI that will spearhead a revamped training programme.

Simulation technology builds on experience running the Armour Simulator Centre's Armour Tactical Trainer (ATT), which used Compu-Scene IV visual simulation technology from GE Aerospace to provide networked simulation training for SM1 tank crew. The Compu-Scene IV visual system and instructional system was state-of-the-art back in 1987. These systems were anchored on the Encore 32/9705 software development computer and provided simulated training in tank tactics up to platoon level.

Things have since moved on at ATI under Project S******.

New AFV simulators
Taking pride of place at ATI are a number of new indoor simulators that offer motion in six degrees of freedom ( Six DOF). Simply put, a trainee can experience movement such as pitch, roll, heave, yaw, sway and surge while sitting in an air-conditioned cabin that replicates driving controls, driving performance and fields of vision of AFVs such as the Bionix 2 infantry fighting vehicle and Bronco all-terrain tracked carrier.

The idea is for armoured vehicle drivers to know their vehicle better in a safe, controlled training environment. Simulator training done indoors allows HQ Armour instructors to inject varying driving conditions, lighting (day/night driving), weather states (rain, haze, sunshine and more) and terrain (local or customised) at the press of a button. Such scenarios can be repeated as many times as needed.

The new 6DOF simulators ensure trainees achieve the required level of proficiency without wearing out or damaging real vehicles, and have zero impact on the tracks/roads (that may need repair/maintenance) or vegetation (that may need replanting after an AFV bashes through).

Simulators are also used to prepare, evaluate and benchmark active and NS units in the Singapore Armoured Regiment (SAR) orbat to keep these SARs at a high level of mission readiness.

Mission rehearsals
The ability to customise terrain options allows operational mission rehearsals so that drivers and vehicle commanders can better appreciate their assigned area of operation (AO) before actually stepping foot in the AO.

Furthermore, simulations done indoors as well as simulated firing engagements done using the Tactical Engagement System allow SARs to strengthen their operational skills in a realistic threat environment against an intelligent and evasive Opposing Force. Such simulations allow Leopard tank and BX crew to practice operating as a coordinated and cohesive fighting force to maximise their destructive potential.

The Singapore Army and HQ Armour are to be commended for the investments in simulation technology. Such training assets reduce wear and tear on AFVs, especially as driving conditions in Singapore's humid climate and the stop/go motion experienced by A vehicles in confined terrain in Singapore places undue stress on the vehicles.

The enthusiasm, confidence and professionalism among HQ Armour personnel when showcasing what the simulators can do was palpable. One could sense that the ATI instructors were eager that the takeaways from the visit were positive ones.

Many thanks for reacquainting interested visitors to developments within SAF Armour. Manoeuvres by personnel from 41 SAR Falcon COY and Glory COY, 48 SAR, HQ Guards, Motorised Infantry Training Institute during the firepower display were well executed and much appreciated by the visitors.

Am particularly thankful to the ATI and 48 SAR instructors who took time to acquaint me with the Leopard 2SG driving simulator. Sliding into the driver's station and strapping on the Leo2 before the driving experience left a positive impression of the Armour Family's professionalism and esprit that I will long cherish.

It's been awhile since I had the opportunity to see HQ Armour firsthand. The visit provided a useful opportunity for comparing what had been seen and experienced in the past with the present day situation.

Drove this Bronco during the media engagement as part of HQ Armour's 35th anniversary. My instructor was an NSF who ORDed years ago.

SM1 driving experience.

Getting acquainted with different tank and artillery ammunition back in 1998 at the Bourges arsenal, France, and getting a close look at an ex-Egyptian Army M4 Sherman tank modified with an AMX-13 turret. Have always found the oscillating turret design interesting.

Media embed with 42 SAR during Exercise Wallaby, which provided a firsthand experience with an ABG during a CALFEX. The then CO of the battalion is the current Chief Armour :)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A look at Singapore Army sniper rifles

In the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the lower end of the precision strike spectrum encompasses scoped infantry small arms acquired by the domain experts in 9th Singapore Division/Headquarters Infantry.

Seen here are a range of sniper rifles fielded by the Singapore Army. These are (from left) the Knight's Armament M110 7.62mm semi-automatic rifle (United States), Sako TRG22 7.62mm bolt action rifle (Finland) and the Accuracy International AX50 12.7mm bolt action anti-material rifle (United Kingdom).

The weapons were displayed yesterday at the "A Day in the Army" event at Headquarters Armour, which is the host for the Singapore Army's annual Family Day.

The Singapore Army's sniper rifles allow the infantry to reach out and touch someone with a precisely-aimed projectile out to distances of 800m or more. Powerful optics allow even bespectacled soldiers to place their rounds where they should land, so long as they have a steady pair of hands and follow the fundamentals of good marksmanship (controlled breathing, eye relief, trigger pull, awareness of the wider tactical situation, effective camouflage, assistance from a spotter, egress plan etc).

Singapore Army snipers typically provide overwatch to manoeuvre forces as they move towards their objective. The range ring of weapons available to snipers means that sharpshooters can take down hostile targets such as key appointment holders, crew-served weapons like MGs and anti-tank weapons, vehicle commanders, special forces - the list goes on - outside the effective range of return fire from infantry small arms.

In Singapore Army infantry battalions, Company Marksmen armed with sniper rifles are tasked to provide covering fire in focused, single-shot engagements guided by the sniper's mantra of one shot, one kill. Such precisely calibrated, single-shot outgoing fire complements the concentrated firepower that support weapons such as the fully automatic belt-fed 7.62mm general purpose machine guns and 120mm mortars can deliver from the battalion's fire bases.

The larger sniper rifles in the Singapore Army's arsenal, such as the ones that fire 12.7mm rounds, allow marksmen to hunt and kill enemy snipers who may be trying to do the same.

Such weapons are also useful when investigating suspicious objects, thought to be IEDs, along the line of advance during combat situations when non-destructive testing isn't a key priority for SAF commanders.

When all else fails, call in an air strike.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force will know how to deal with the situation.

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Army Medical Services unveils new Combat Ambulance

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has a new cross country Combat Ambulance based on the American-built Ford 550 chassis. The vehicle was put on public display for the first time yesterday at the Singapore Army's "A Day in the Army" event hosted by Headquarters Armour at Sungei Gedong Camp.

The Combat Ambulance brings improved rough terrain mobility for the Army Medical Services as its robust chassis, powerful drive train and suspension are built to carry stretcher cases out of harm's way safely, comfortably and speedily.

At the heart of the Combat Ambulance is its Advanced Life Support suite which is carried inside the air-conditioned rear cabin. This includes the following medical equipment:
* Patient monitoring device
* Automatic external defibrillator
* Hand-operated resuscitator
* Portable suction unit
* Transport ventilator
* Spinal board, head immobiliser and cervical collar
* Oxygen concentrator

The vanilla Ford 550 chassis was specially tailored for SAF service. Refinements include safety features such as a stretcher loading winch at the rear, dual rear cameras to help the driver check blind arcs while reversing, overturn escape doors as well as anti-slip flooring in the rear cabin.

Fully furnished as a Combat Ambulance, the vehicle measures 2,700 mm tall, 6,363mm long and is 2,385mm wide. It can travel 550km on a full tank, can climb a 60% gradient slope and is rated for a max slide tile slope of 30%. Unladen weight is at 3,607 kg. Gross vehicle weight is almost nine tonnes.

The finished product's peacetime configuration can be upgraded during a period of tension with add-on armour to protect SAF personnel from small arms fire and fragments from IEDs or artillery fire. Senang Diri understands trials for Level 2 STANAG 4569 ballistic armour panels were conducted in Australia and in Germany. 

The ballistic trials were complemented by more than 10,000 km of cross country and durability trials done in three continents. This includes a slalom test at Old Lim Chu Kang Road, a 1,000 km cross country endurance trial at Sungei Gedong (poor driver), a 1,000 km endurance trial at the Mungo National Park in Australia (lucky driver, almost like on safari) and a 8,047 km "durability test" at the Chelsea Proving Grounds in the United States.

As the Ford 550 did not fall apart after being driven almost to destruction, the chassis was deemed a suitable candidate to be modified for the SAF's specific operational requirements.

Senang Diri understands outfitting of the bare chassis took place in Singapore from 1Q 2014. The new vehicle allows Army Medical Services to seek, save and serve outfield casualties using a more robust vehicle than the ambulances now in its stable.

We extend a warm welcome the Ford 550 Combat Ambulance to the family of MID numberplates.

Note: Interior photographs of SAF vehicles were not allowed at the event. :-/

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First look at new SAF Ford 550 ambulance. Click here

Friday, April 24, 2015

End of the road for Singapore Army 3-tonners and 7-tonners

Singapore Army 3-tonner trucks that formed part of the National Service experience for our citizen soldiers will soon reach the end of the road.

Taking the place of the once ubiquitous army transports is a fleet of brand new 500 German-made MAN Light Transporters, the first of which made its public debut today at Headquarters Armour at Sungei Gedong Camp during the "A Day in the Army" event.

Project ETHAN
Purchased under Project Ethan, the MAN Light Transporters are poised to replace not one but two types of wheeled transports in the Singapore Army. These are the 3-tonners and the 7-tonners. Senang Diri believes Project Ethan is the largest truck contract signed by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) since 5-tonners were acquired, also from the MAN stable.

The new workhorses for the Singapore Army's Combat Service Support Command (CSSCOM) are military derivatives of the civilian MAN TGM 18.280 twin-axle, 4x4 cargo truck. In Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) service, the MAN Light Transporter is not exactly "light" as it has an unladen weight of 9,160 kgs and tips the scale at 16,000 kgs fully laden. The MAN Light Transporter measures 3,557mm tall, 8,476mm long and is 2,935mm wide.

A key difference from the MAN 5-tonners purchased earlier is the noticeably longer wheelbase. This allows the MAN Light Transporters - known as Ethans by army personnel - to carry a 20 foot container with ISO twist-locks on its cargo bed. This gives CSSCOM more flexibility in configuring Ethans for specialised roles by the simple expedient of bolting a mission-oriented 20 foot container and warload onto the truck.

"Improved safety features of the Light Transporters include a Rear Reverse Camera, Reverse Proximity Sensor and spring-assisted tailboard," said CSSCOM literature.

When outfield, Ethans can be driven in water up to 750mm deep.

CSSCOM added that a powerful engine and a reliable brake system allow the vehicle to "easily take on the 60% slope" and provided a photo to prove the Ethan's ability at climbing steep gradients.

Senang Diri welcomes Ethan to our logbook of MID number plates. Wasalaam. :-)

You may also like:
Guide to SAF MID vehicle number plates. Click here

Monday, April 20, 2015

Army Careers: A Day With the Singapore Army

Sungei Gedong Camp, 23 to 25 April 2015.

P.S. Fix the typo in the online ad ASAP.

Cavalry is soldiers on horseback.
Calvary is the hill on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Fix the typo ASAP.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

US or UN as the world's policeman? Don't count on it.

Flashback 40 years: A United States Marine on high alert as civilians queue to board a CH-53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter at Landing Zone (LZ) Hotel in Kampuchea's capital, Phnom Penh, on 12 April 1975. The LZ was established in soccer field less than a kilometre from the American Embassy and was chosen because the field was screened from the line of sight of Khmer Rouge artillery spotters by nearby buildings.

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Phnom Penh. It is a pivotal moment in one of our ASEAN neighbour's history that many Singaporeans do not know nor care much about. 

It is a great pity because answers to burning questions that some Singaporeans have over the need for, and value of, our national defence and whether the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) can be substituted by foreign military intervention can be found in Cambodia's bloody past.

Some two to three million people were killed in the blood bath that followed the Fall of Phnom Penh 40 years ago. It is an astonishing death toll beyond comprehension. The pogrom followed the collapse of the then-Kampuchean social system as the communist Khmer Rouge reset the country to Year Zero. Instability in Indo-China unsettled Southeast Asia in the mid-1970s as American strategists mulled over the future of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore if the Domino Theory held true.

Veteran war correspondent Denis Gray was among those airlifted from Phnom Penh by United States Marines during Operation Eagle Pull on 12 April 1975. Five days after the Americans flew off, Phnom Penh fell to communist forces. 

In an interview with Senang Diri, Mr Gray recounts what it was like in Phnom Penh as the dying city, besieged and under artillery fire from the Khmer Rouge forces, awaited its uncertain fate.

"Never truly trust a superpower to be your sole protector and never get into a position when you do need one for protection. Easily said, difficult to do but well worth remembering," said Mr Gray. 

To mark the 40th year since US forces pulled out from Phnom Penh, Mr Gray relooked that fateful day in a story titled "US handed Cambodia over to 'butcher' 40 years ago". Please click here for his story.

Phnom Penh's tragic past reveals a hard truth in global politics that has been replayed in battlegrounds the world over. It is worth reflecting upon Mr Gray's wartime experience because his account adds value to our understanding of just what underpins the Lion City's security, survival and continued success. 

1. What was the mood like among residents in Phnom Penh in early April 1975? 
The situation was desperate for the average resident -- food running out, rockets and howitzer rounds coming in and killing people, horrible hospital conditions and the Khmer Rouge around them on all sides. Some hoped that in the end the Americans might somehow save them. And despite all this, I never witnessed any panic. There was a heroic stoicism among so many Cambodians I met.  And also a kind of denial of the reality around them.

2. What was the worst-case situation the city's residents expected for Phnom Penh?
I suspect there may have been a few who vaguely  foresaw some of  what was going to happen. But they were definitely in the minority. Nobody I met predicted what actually happened. And that goes for not just the Cambodians although some diplomats and journalists feared there would be a bloodbath of some kind because of the reports that were coming in of how the Khmer Rouge treated their enemies or perceived enemies. Many educated Cambodians were convinced that although there would be some problems in the end the Khmer Rouge and those in Phnom Penh could work things about because as they kept saying ''we are all Khmer.'

3. Why did FANK (Forces armées nationales khmères, Khmer National Armed Forces) melt away even with the support of US weapons and firepower?
FANK didn't melt away. Some of the units fought very bravely until there was virtually no hope. This was amazing given the corrupt nature of many of their officers.  The war was not lost for lack of bravery and tenacity on the part of the average solider, but by the incredible greed, corruption and ineptness of the military leadership (with few outstanding exceptions). You can't win a war when some of your commanders are selling weapons to the enemy.As far as US fire power by early 1975 there was none and the supplies coming in were shrivelling away. 

4. What went through your mind on your final flight from Phnom Penh in April 1975? What personal belongings did you take with you?
Leaving Phnom Penh was one of the saddest moments of my life. Like many of those evacuated I felt a mix of shame, guilt of leaving behind Cambodian friends and colleagues, anger at Washington (although not men like Dean and his diplomats in the city) and great sadness. I left with the clothes on my back, shower shoes and a small suitcase mainly filled with my papers. 

5. What lessons, if any, does Fall of Phnom Penh have for teaching people about national resilience or self-sufficiency in defence?
The lessons are many and complex. I'd say one would be to never truly trust a superpower to be your sole protector and never get into a position when you do need one for protection. Easily said, difficult to do but well worth remembering. Given the sad state of the international order, self-sufficiency is to be highly commended. 

6. What would you say to someone who sees global powers/the UN as the world's policemen?
Ideally, I would love to see a totally neutral, strong, effective UN force as the world's peace keeper. Nationalism should be something thrown into history's dustbin. But that is likely a pipe dream. So we are stuck with superpowers running the global show. Sometimes the US and others have done the right thing in this arena, but the cardinal rule still seems to be: in the end you look out for No. 1 (i.e. your own national interest) first.

"I returned to Phnom Penh in 1980 very shortly after the fall of the Khmer Rouge to the Vietnamese. It was still a ghost town and unlike the 'Killing Fields' museums you see today, there was still blood in the torture chambers and clothes on the executed. People were on the edge of starvation and many were traumatized from their trials under the Khmer Rouge. 

"Since Cambodia, I have covered a dozen conflicts, including Gulf War I, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, etc. so I have seen places like Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein, Kosovo vacated by the Serbs, etc. but nothing quite like the experience of Phnom Penh."

War correspondent Denis Gray on assignment with United States forces in Afghanistan.

Thank you Mr Denis Gray for sharing your insights into the Fall of Phnom Penh and your experience covering wars around the globe. Look forward to meeting you in the Lion City when you can make time to see us. :-)

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The SAF versus cynics and critics in the halcyon days of peace. Please click here.
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