Saturday, October 10, 2015

Failure of Israeli military deterrence against lone wolf attacks holds pertinent lessons for Singapore

With one side promising death if deterrence is challenged and the other desiring death by challenging deterrence, you have a tragic confluence of factors that will only see both sides bleed.

This past week, as Israel paused to reflect on the anguish of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, death called on yet more Israeli and Palestinian families as spiraling violence claimed more victims.

As the First Generation Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) modelled its deterrence posture from the Israeli playbook, the situation in the Middle East holds pertinent lessons for us even if the 3rd Gen SAF's playbook has since evolved.

So despite the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Iron Dome anti-missile batteries, Merkava MBTs and a potent air combat force spearheaded by the F-15/F-16 combo, elements bent on causing harm to Israel have not been deterred. These IDF tools of war have stayed silent as violence flared in Israel.

The threat has emerged in the form of lone wolf attacks. These were staged by individuals who made the personal decision of self-sacrifice. Their weapons of choice can be found in your household - kitchen knives for stabbing and keys to automobiles used for ramming pedestrians.

One could argue that the IDF defence posture is not tailored against home spun threats. Indeed, you could say tackling such attacks comes under the firing lane of homeland security agencies and not the military. While such hair-splitting makes great catnip for defence watchers, one should not run away from the fact that a strategy of deterrence that claims to protect one's national interests must evolve as threats evolve and not cherry pick the time, place and circumstances to justify the theoretical. Otherwise as the body count rises, your deterrent value will ring hollow and lose credibility.

With the IDF deterrence posture unchanged and the desire by Palestinians for martyrdom undiminished, closure is unlikely to come anytime soon.

Indeed, some Israeli commentators have even broached the idea of a third Palestinian uprising (Intifada) as violence begets violence.

While peace remains elusive, the lessons from such unsettling times are many and thought-provoking.

The fact that teenage Palestinians have featured prominently in street action indicates that antipathy towards the Israeli has cascaded several generations ever since grandad opposed the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. As teenage Palestinians face off with teenage IDF national servicemen deployed for homeland security duty, the seeds of hostility have been seeded among future leaders from both sides. Without a landmark change in attitudes, this guarantees that the cycle of violence will be perpetuated yet again in the next generation.

The emergence of lone wolves and the IDF's failure to counter this threat red flags the futility of military deterrence in the traditional sense when pitched against actors who ignore the script. While state actors may pull back after recognising warning indicators and calculating loss exchange ratios in a full-on clash between armed forces, this calculus is alien to lone wolves.

Indeed, recognising that their attacks are mostly one-shot affairs, a military unit may be viewed as a target and not a threat by elements bent on extracting maximum damage from their freelance action. The tipping point comes when individuals can be influenced to step forward to undertake what are ultimately one-way trips against the aggressor. For certain 800-series SIRs in the Singapore Army orbat, it is worth pondering the end-game under such scenarios.

The contemporary Israeli solution rests with retaliation against which the perpetrator cannot counter (since such elements would have passed on after the one-way mission). We see this played out during raids which flatten the homes of family members linked to individuals who have attacked Israeli interests.

In many instances, the brutality of such action outweighs any appreciable military or para military advantage because it takes place after the fact. So an attack on Israelis is staged, the attacker is identified and the bulldozers go in. All it does is exacerbate the spiral of violence and seed even more resentment among the community at the receiving end of the sledgehammer.

In an area of operations dominated by high-rise dwellings, the impracticality of razing homes is obvious. And so the shock effect is lost. The alternative, which involves evicting families and housing them elsewhere, echoes the establishment of new villages during the Malayan Emergency when vulnerable elements of the community would be fenced in behind barbed wire and under armed guard.

Such operations require copious manpower to administer because the interned community needs to be fed, watered and cared for. In this digital media age, any semblance of a concentration camp setting would set the internet alight and trigger the loss of the moral high ground.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis this week that there is no "magic solution" to the week-long violence by lone wolf attacks.

"We are in the midst of a wave of terror," said Mr Netanyahu."There is no magic solution and the actions (Israel is taking) will not yield instant results, but with methodical determination we will prove that terror does not pay and we will defeat it."

And so, that tragic confluence of factors continues.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Action needed, not just words

In recent days, much ado has been made about the need for, and importance of, alternative voices to speak out for you.

The minority in the House have indeed spent their tenure productively. They have taken to the floor during every opportune topic that serves their interests while electing to remain silent on awkward issues where their arguments or logic prove weak.

Let us be clear that while alternative voices can speak out, their scattered presence in the House makes them utterly irrelevant when the time comes to vote on matters that truly matter to you and I.

They do make their voice heard. Often vociferously, sometimes logically, always futilely because that handful of dissent doesn't matter.

Alternative voices do not necessarily translate to alternative action. Know the difference.

The point to be made is that Singaporeans need to filter out the lofty, empty promises from candidates claiming to be change agents for all things unpopular, untimely or unrealistic that the G wants to shove down our throats.

By all means choose the better candidate or team. Slick slogans aside, do so with your eyes wide open on what those alternative voices can realistically do for you beyond hollow rhetoric.

Debate over $1 billion price tag for E-2C Hawkeyes
Back in 1984, the then MP for Anson, J.B. Jeyaretnam, made clear his reservations about Singapore's plans to buy four Grumman E-2C Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft for $1 billion. It was then our most expensive defence purchase.

The flying radar stations were deemed necessary as eyes in the sky to give the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) early warning of airborne intruders and the time needed to get Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) warplanes up in the air.

The SAF requirement for AEW pre-dated the combat record of such assets in hot-wars fought by overseas air forces that validated the value of such assets in air combat.

Still, at $1 billion a pop, it was a political hot potato.

A spirited debate ensued in the Singapore Parliament over the need for, timing and wisdom of this purchase.

To be sure, the late JBJ gave a good account of himself. He maximised his airtime in Parliament, even though his arguments against and knowledge of air operations were not particularly illuminating.

Hot air
All that hot air counted for nothing because the RSAF still got its E-2Cs.

So while the Hansard attests to the intensity and ferocity of the debate, it did absolutely nothing to change the RSAF's growth trajectory. Those Hawkeyes still came home to roost.

Along the way, there was an earnest attempt to ensure a balanced budget and people-friendly programmes. A year after that budget debate, Singapore fell into recession (scrimping on the E-2Cs would have done absolutely nothing to steer us clear of that slump) - highlighting Singapore's exposure to the global market economy.

Helplines were extended to Singaporeans and our economic posture adjusted along the way. Beyond the rhetoric, who was there to spearhead all of that?

Survive and thrive
After the Asian financial crisis, after the bust, after the 9/11 attacks rattled the world, during and after the deadly SARS crisis, who led, who assured and who helped this tiny city-state navigate dangerous episodes?

When our national budget is adjusted every year, such tweaks are made independent of, and not because of, the clarion call for change from alternative voices in and outside the House.

Yes, there have been fruitless trips up blind alleys with botched policies. Admittedly, there have been foot in mouth moments. The hue and cry such issues raise among thinking Singaporeans - and there are many outside the orbit of political circles - often serves as the trigger for the G to stop, take stock and modify its stance where necessary.

It is this ability to adjust and adapt to changing conditions that has helped our accidental nation, ejected from the Federation 50 years ago, to survive far longer than expected.

Separate the wheat from the chaff.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cut the defence budget? Freedom is not free.

All eyes will be on Singapore on Polling Day next Friday. 

As Singaporeans assess the future leaders for their country, the world will assess the country’s future with these leaders.

Who we elect into Parliament will shape world opinion on the Little Red Dot’s ability to thrive and survive and the risks we face as a city-state – the smallest of the ASEAN 10. And world opinion matters greatly.

We vote with our hearts and with our minds.

World opinion votes with its feet.

Any signs of uncertainty for businesses in Singapore, any whiffs of insecurity or indications that the new leadership is weak or incompetent will prompt investors to relook their stakes in our sunny isle. 

And with alternatives aplenty not just in our immediate neighbourhood but beyond, this will spell trouble for Singapore. This is a hard truth you cannot run away from.

Larger neighbours blessed with abundant natural resources, bigger populations and a distinguished ancient history have borne the brunt of the economic realities once world opinion takes a dim view of the country’s security, survival and success.

Look north. A net exporter of oil and gas, huge hinterland and sizeable population compared to Singapore, bursting with natural resources and with sea and air ports that are no less strategically located than the Little Red Dot. Ponder the pitiful decline in their currency, the steady erosion in foreign direct investment – money that is unlikely to return to the Federation anytime soon – and ask yourself what gives your precious Singapore dollars the value it deserves? 

It is confidence, both locally and abroad, that the Lion City led by able leaders will continue to be a safe, stable and secure place for homemakers and businesses alike. Such confidence doesn’t spring forth out of thin air. 

Friends and frenemies know this place will be resolutely defended by its citizen soldiers. 

This is why investors will put their money where their mouth is by setting up companies in Singapore even when opportunities beckon from far larger neighbours. Even as we score, the economic game doesn't swing our way all the time. Remember Seagate? Once one of the largest employers here, it has since moved abroad to a more competitive business address.

The system isn't perfect (which one ever is?) but we are adaptable, pragmatic and never shy away from ditching unworkable plans, programmes and processes when planning parameters are proven wrong. 

The sense of security stems from a track record of more hits than misses and a determination to prove that our collective journey to nationhood wasn't a fluke.

Rob observers of that sense of security and an unsettled world opinion will rethink Singapore’s place in world affairs.


Because nobody owes us a living and freedom is not free.

Choose wisely.

You may also like:
Singapore's neighbours determined to close the development gap. Click here

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cut Singapore's defence budget?

Seven years after the essay below was penned, the fundamentals that underpin Singapore's stability, growth and prosperity remain unchanged.

We can chart our own destiny - progressive, retrogressive or destructive, whichever way you really fancy - because the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) buys us the time and space that allows Singaporeans to decide our own course(s) of action. 

Think things through carefully.

A strong and silent keeper of the peace
Tue, Jul 01, 2008
The Straits Times

EVEN as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) marks SAF Day this evening with a parade, a sizeable number of military personnel will remain on guard - the vigilant lions protecting the Lion City.
David Boey

EVEN as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) marks SAF Day this evening with a parade, a sizeable number of military personnel will remain on guard - the vigilant lions protecting the Lion City.

But many Singaporeans may be unaware of this, believing all's well. Apart from the threat transnational terrorists pose, the lack of a clear and present danger from a hostile nation might seduce them into viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Such naivety would not only be wrong, it 
would also be dangerous.

During a study visit I made to Malaysia last year, a senior Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) officer shared with me an episode in Singapore-Malaysia relations that he said occurred during a period of tension.

According to the officer, the MAF was put on alert in late 1998 as politicians on both sides of the Causeway argued over the status of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) checkpoint at Malaysia's railway station in Tanjong Pagar.

News articles from the period chronicle the public exchanges, but say nothing of the defence postures that the SAF and MAF adopted during this period.

Kuala Lumpur's unwillingness to acknowledge its heightened military preparedness - which military officials on both sides privately acknowledge did occur - was an astute move.

It indicated a tacit acknowledgement on the part of Malaysia's defence officials that they could not allow the CIQ issue to flare into a casus belli. The full force potential of the SAF when mobilised renders it a formidable opponent.

There were other telling signs that bilateral ties were not well during that period. These included Singapore's decision to conduct two open mobilisation exercises in September and October 1998. Records indicate that the SAF rarely calls up its manpower in successive months.

It should be noted that such open mobilisation exercises - overt call-ups of defence manpower broadcast over television, radio and in cinemas - are probably complemented by silent mobilisations. 

Few beyond Singapore's defence establishment would be aware of this.

The CIQ episode resembles an earlier episode in Singapore-Malaysia relations when military power was flexed in a show of force, apparently to intimidate the tiny island nation.

Operationally Ready National Servicemen who served in 1991 would recall the joint Malaysian-Indonesian military exercise, codenamed Malindo Darsasa 3AB, that occurred that year. It involved an airborne assault by paratroopers in southern Johor.

If the name of the airborne assault, codenamed Pukul Habis (Malay for 'Total Wipeout'), as well as the choice of a drop zone just 18km from Singapore, were not sufficiently provocative, the scheduling of the airdrop on Aug 9th - Singapore's 26th National Day - most certainly was.

The SAF's response was measured and confident. It triggered an Open Mobilisation on the eve of National Day, a fact that was reported extensively in the local media.

The move was calculated not to escalate tensions. But it signalled also Singapore's determination not to welcome a Trojan horse on its doorstep.

Such episodes cannot be kept secret from NSmen, of course. But because they were deliberately kept low key, many Singaporeans were probably unaware of the full picture. Consequently, they may have failed to see the relevance of a strong military.

Singapore has warm and friendly ties with its neighbours. It will often go the extra mile to keep things on an even keel with them. But Singaporeans should understand and accept that there are always undercurrents in bilateral relations.

Those who wonder about the relevance of the SAF should ponder how these past episodes might have panned out if Singapore had yielded to military pressure.

A strong and vigilant SAF is Singapore's hedge against trouble. Singapore's formidable military arsenal - and, more crucially, the fighting spirit of its citizen soldiers - are guarantors of peace.
The writer is this newspaper's former defence correspondent.

Dare we let down our guard?

By David Boey
For the Straits Times
Feb 2009
Defence Spending
When Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel are called upon to defend their country, there would be few - if any - Singaporeans who would question the relevance of Singapore's military strength.

But the SAF's readiness and the commitment of its soldiers, sailors and airmen should not be taken for granted. The combat capabilities currently deployed took years of steady investments to raise, train and sustain.
Consider the Commando Special Operations Force (SOF) that stormed Singapore Airlines flight SQ117 at Changi Airport on March 26, 1991 and saved 123 passengers and crew. Four Pakistani hijackers had threatened to kill one hostage every 10 minutes unless their demands were met. They gave the Singapore authorities five minutes to decide what to do. Three minutes into the countdown, the SOF settled the issue by killing all four hijackers.
The operation, codenamed Thunderbolt, marked the first time the SAF resolved a hijacking with deadly force. The operation also marked the first occasion when an SAF unit was deployed for operations even before its existence was publicly acknowledged. The veil of secrecy over the SOF was lifted only on Feb 20, 1997, nearly six years after the SQ117 rescue and some 13 years after the SOF was formed in April 1984.
Among the Singapore Army's fighters, SOF troopers are probably the most expensive soldiers to train, organise, equip and support. Yet the Ministry of Defence argued that they were a necessary investment.
A year after the elite unit was formed in 1984, independent Singapore endured its first economic recession. But the unit's development continued unabated, nevertheless. Had Mindef opted for was financially expedient rather than what was operationally prudent, the SQ117 rescue - executed years later - might have had a very different outcome.
Two operations flown by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) further demonstrate how defence capabilities can be called upon decades after they were first established.
The RSAF set up 122 Squadron to fly C-130 Hercules medium-lift tactical airlifters in 1977. The squadron's years of experience in flight operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief flights around the region, paid off in October 1990 during Operation Nightingale, when two C-130s flew medical supplies to Jordan. Iraq had invaded Kuwait that August and 122 Squadron was tasked to deliver 23 tonnes of medical supplies to the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation in Jordan.
The second operation occurred in July 1997, when 122 Squadron evacuated more than 400 Singaporeans from Phnom Penh when the security situation in the Cambodian capital deteriorated. Two waves of air evacuations were carried out during Operation Crimson Angel using C-130s protected by commandos.
As these examples show, it may take decades for people to appreciate the value of defence investments. However, the lack fo such investment can become apparent in a much shorter tie. This is because hostile elements can be quick to exploit gaps or shortcomings in Singapore's defences.
Take the piracy problem which plagued Singapore's defence planners in the 1980s. Attacks by sea raiders at places like East Coast Park, West Coast Park and Tuas made the headlines in the 1980s, showing that sea robbers had found loopholes in Singapore's seaward defences. Singapore paid the price for an ill-defined maritime strategy.
The situation today is markedly different. Round-the-clock surveillance of Singapore's territorial waters by naval patrols ans sensors like radars, air surveillance by shore-based Fokker 50 maritime patrol aircraft and cooperation with regional navies send a signal of Singapore's determination to safeguard its shores. But attacks recorded in nearby sea lanes prove that pirates continue to prowl regional seas. Strip away the assets of the Republic of Singapore Navy and the sea robbers will surely return to our shores. Dare we take that chance?

A balanced budget
The operations cited above do not mean that Mindef should command an unlimited budget. Neither should one expect our nation's elected representatives to be mute witnesses to the SAF's transformation into a 3rd Generation fighting force.
Questions on financial stewardship will ensure that Singapore gets the maximum bang for every defence dollar that is spent. Defence planners should indeed explain how the 6 per cent of GDP that Mindef spends is spent wisely.
However, it is important to ensure that long-term defence capabiities are protected, no matter what the short-term economic conditions. Capability erosion could easily come about through cyclical variations in defence spending.
One must appreciate that combat capabilities for the SAF's land, sea and air units take years to attain full battle readiness from the time new hardware is introduced. Indecisive defence funding would onot only send a weak deterrent message, it could also hamper Singapore's defence posture through less realistic training or less capable defence equipment
The writer was Straits Times defence correspondent.

You may also like:
The SAF versus cynics and critics in the halcyon days of peace. Click here

The best customers. Click here

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Message from Malaysia's Prime Minister

Moving Forward In A Spirit Of Mutual Benefit

By Najib Razak
Fifty years ago today, Singapore became an independent state. As a 12-year-old, I was aware of the significance of Malaysia gaining a new neighbour and of our two countries settling our boundaries – both to continue independently on the adventure of independence, with all the opportunities and perils that developing nations faced in the 1960s.

Of course, we had a special interest in Singapore; history and geography bound us together. We have a Malay proverb for it: Sedangkan lidah lagi tergigit, or We are like tongue and teeth.

In other words, we were destined to be conjoined and need to cooperate, not compete.

Over the decades, we observed Singapore’s progress. And we too mourned the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March February (Edited: Source error). His vision underpinned Singapore’s advances, and he was admired by friends and critics alike. South-east Asia lost a statesman when he died. His presence is missed during landmark celebrations, but his legacy is secure – it is the Singapore of today.

Malaysia and Singapore have had differences, but we have always achieved the most when we have worked pragmatically together – and we have much to be proud of.

In 1967, we were among the five founders of Asean, an organisation that has kept peace in the most ethnically and religiously diverse region on earth. We came together in the Five Power Defence Arrangement in 1971; we cooperated closely at the UN in the 1980s to ensure a settled future in Indochina; and today we are linked in so many ways.

Take trade cooperation, for instance. We are each other’s second largest trading partner after China. In 2014, Singapore was Malaysia’s second largest trading partner globally and the largest trading partner in Asean. 

Singapore was also the second largest source of foreign investment in Malaysia in 2014, and I am pleased that 
while Iskandar Malaysia and Penang have been the main focus of investment from Singapore, Singaporeans are now also beginning to look further afield, including Sabah and Sarawak.

In terms of tourism, the total number of visits to Malaysia from Singapore in 2014 was 13.9 million – an increase of 5.7 per cent from 2013. But we want even more of you to visit us, and this year, Tourism Malaysia is hoping we can attract 14.5 million guests from Singapore.

The changed approach between our two countries was emphasised soon after I became Prime Minister. The win-win solution of the Points of Agreement in 2010 – after a 20 year deadlock – was an example of how we chose to move forward in a spirit of mutual benefit, and put a longstanding stumbling block behind us.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I agreed that our countries should not be encumbered by any issues associated with the past. The days when some considered agreement to be a form of weakness are gone. Our future is as partners. Indeed, recently there have even been suggestions that our two countries should formulate an Olympic bid together.

On a personal note, the new relationship between Malaysia and Singapore was underlined soon after I became Prime Minister. On a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens in May 2009, I was honoured to be told that a hybrid of the Dendrobium Ronald Imanuel and Dendrobium Jeffrey Tan orchids had been named the Dendrobium Najib Rosmah. The hybrid orchid is a symbol of the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. It needs to be nurtured carefully- for then it will flourish.

I am pleased with the results of our closer relations, and look forward to achieving more. The construction of the High Speed Rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will certainly transform the way Malaysians and Singaporeans interact with each other, facilitating travel between both capital cities, enhancing business linkages and improving people-to-people ties.

At this time of opportunity between our nations, I urge Singaporeans not to judge Malaysia by what you may read on social media, or by politically motivated statements from certain quarters running down our country.

I will ensure that Malaysia remains stable and safe – for guests and Malaysians alike.

The reality is that we share your aspirations for good governance; for a strong, inclusive and sustainable economy based on sound fundamentals; and for stability, harmony and diversity.

That is why we make good partners, and why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I will continue to work closely to bring real benefits to all Malaysians and Singaporeans.

Fifty years ago, ties between our two nations were strained. Today, relations have never been better and the results speak for themselves. Happy 50th birthday, Singapore – Malaysia looks forward to toasting many future anniversaries with you.

From Click here

Monday, August 10, 2015

Risks from Malaysia's internal security woes on Singapore hard to ignore

If you believe the defence of Malaysia and Singapore is indivisible, then any threat to the Federation's security and stability - whether from external aggression or internal strife - could have a follow-on effect on Singapore too.

Among the worst-case scenarios that have surfaced recently among defence watchers is the question of how severely Singapore would be affected if social unrest up north prompts Malaysian authorities to declare a curfew.

Note that it is a foregone conclusion that Singapore will be affected should a Malaysian curfew restrict the movement of people and commerce between Malaysia and Singapore. Open to debate though is the severity of such a measure on Singapore's economy, our security posture and investor confidence.

At the most basic level, companies and businesses that rely on Malaysian workers better have a Plan B if a curfew affects the ability of their staff to turn up for work. Alas, many will not have ready answers because business continuity planning is not a strong suite among Singaporean companies, particularly the SMEs.

Anyone who has seen the predawn traffic situation at the Causeway and Second Link on a weekday would appreciate the part Malaysians serve in keeping Singapore's economy humming. Blue collar or white collar, daily-rated or salaried staff, executive or non-executive, they come across the Johor Strait in their thousands and can be found in all corners of the Lion City.

Many leave their homes in the wee hours of the morning. A 4am departure being typical in order to beat the rush at the customs, immigration and quarantine checkpoints on both sides of the border. The Malaysians then have to endure the morning rush hour traffic on Singapore island. By the time their bum hits the chair at their workplace, each would have been on the road for at least two to three hours.

For Malaysians who have to clock in every work day, their amazing race from home to workplace carries a financial penalty if their journey is disrupted. Rain, traffic jams due to accidents or road works, or the arse luck of picking a slow lane at the CIQ could cost them dearly.

After work, the tide turns the other way. The journey home could see Malaysians step past their front door around 10pm or later. And they ration their evening hours sparingly knowing the cycle will repeat itself the next work day.

And yet many Malaysians persevere. Their stoic nature is typically Malaysian and you wouldn't know from external appearances of the extraordinarily long commute they have to endure just to earn a living.

The commute is worth is. Thanks to the exchange rate that makes a job in Singapore pay several times more what a Malaysian could earn doing the same thing up north as well as lower home prices in Johor, many choose to stay on homeground knowing full well this entails many hours on the road and an abbreviated sleep cycle.

Malaysians who commute to Singapore to work are a key element of Singapore's economy.

Companies and businesses with a sizeable number of Malaysians on their payroll ought to assess how many of their foreign workers are resident in Singapore and how many make the daily commute. The demographic is crucial. It could spell the difference between business operations that hum along with minimal impact if a curfew is imposed in Malaysia or the loss of a sizeable chunk of labour that could unhinge daily operations.

For entities that provide essential services such as transport, the robustness of the assessment is crucial as it would flag out vulnerabilities that must be addressed to ensure the provision of such services is not compromised.

Recent events in the Federation have prompted defence watchers to theorise how the situation could unfold should things spiral out of control. For analysts hardwired by training to think the worst, the scenarios they have come up with are sobering to consider.

One hopes the theorising remains just an academic exercise because the impact of social unrest in the Federation will have deleterious effects on many aspects of life in the Lion City.

If the worst happens, are you ready?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

National Day Parade NDP 2015 F-16 flypast

Jubilee flight: No prizes for guessing how many years Singapore has been independent. Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16s practice their Salute to the Nation during the National Education 3 show on 25 July 2015.

Among the aerial tributes at the upcoming National Day Parade 2015, the Five-O formation by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is probably the most sought-after by photo buffs.

The crowd-pleaser by the RSAF's F-16 community is a difficult manoeuvre to perform because the flight of 20 aircraft have to fly at precise intervals to form each numeral. What's more, both numbers must follow one another properly in order for the typography to look neat from the ground - and the Five-O must arrive at show centre at the precise moment and clear the airspace over the Padang along the proper heading without delay before the six F-16s from the Black Knights aerobatic display team perform their fan break manoeuvre.

Difficult enough to execute in clear weather, the presence of low clouds, the glare from the setting sun and unpredictable winds demand a high level of concentration and flying skills from the F-16 pilots.

The twenty-ship formation forms up over the approaches to the Singapore Strait and holds formation while inbound for Singapore's city centre. During the flight towards the Padang, an additional F-16 tails the fighter formation (perhaps giving cues to tighten the formation's dressing) before peeling off and flying eastward.

What appears to be a neat "50" when seen from the ground is less apparent from the air. Look at the pilot's eye view below.

Kudos to the RSAF engineers and ground crew for maintaining a high level of serviceability. Their effort and dedication is a key enabler for such formations.

And now a word from the RSAF Helicopter community: To fly is heavenly. To hover, divine.