Saturday, November 18, 2017

Malaysian Armed Forces ATM new two-star female officer Fadzlette Othman Merican

Tahniah! The ATM's newest two-star female general is conferred her rank insignia by Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid and Chief of Army General Zulkiple. Photo: Bernama

[Correction: Mej Jen Datuk (Dr) Hajjah Roshidah binti Ishak was the first female to rise to the rank of Major General. The report below has been revised accordingly. Many thanks to those across the Causeway for pointing this out.]

Malaysia has a new two-star female general.

Datuk Fadzlette Othman Merican Idris Merican, the Press Secretary to Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, was promoted to Major General yesterday.

DPM Zahid joined General Tan Sri Zulkiple Kassim, Chief of Army, in placing the two-star epaulettes onto the uniform of Malaysia's newest general. The ceremony took place at the DPM's office.

The Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (Malaysian Armed Forces) has shown itself to be more progressive than most ASEAN armed forces when it comes to nurturing career pathways for females in the military. It is estimated that female soldiers make up about 30% of ATM personnel.


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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Worth reading about: Scaled Composites Model 401 experimental aircraft



On Jurong Island yesterday, Autonomous Tractor-Trailers (ATTs) were showcased to the media. The driverless prime movers are used to haul cargo around the island on flatbed trailers. 

You can't tell the ATT is a smart truck as the driverless vehicles look just like any other prime mover.

The driver’s cabin on the optionally-manned ATTs grants the operator the flexibility to adapt deployment patterns to changing traffic conditions. This feature also adds to the resilience of the unmanned system. For example, a driver can take over if the unmanned system is hit by a fault or should demanding traffic conditions arise that fall outside the ATT's design parameters or fuzzy logic algorithm, thus ensuring continuity of service.

For places like Singapore that have strict rules governing what moves on the roads and how these vehicles are controlled, the optionally-manned feature may be the only way for unmanned systems to get the clearance required for real-world deployments.

If land transport regulations are strict, imagine the tangle of do’s and don’ts for air navigation.

For Singapore, the optionally-manned feature may have to be a design requirement for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) with an expanded performance envelope and mission capability.

In time to come, we can expect such drones to complement piloted aircraft flown by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Advanced drones can be assigned for those dull, dirty or dangerous missions for which unmanned systems excel at performing as the loss of a drone can be mitigated by fielding a replacement. You can’t say the same for the limited number of manned air platforms, or aircrew.

Earlier this month, Scaled Composites unveiled an intriguing experimental aircraft, the Model 401, that could conceivably morph into a UAS... someday. 

Scaled Composites is an American company not unknown to Singapore’s defence community. 

We first reached out to Burt Rutan’s talented and passionate design team more than a decade ago when Singapore defence engineers needed a partner to design and build an optionally-manned airborne surveillance aircraft known as the LALEE. The platform was projected as a possible replacment for the E-2C Hawkeye.

The name Low-Altitude, Long Enduring Endurance referred to the platform’s operational height which was lower than that of surveillance satellites – the word “low” being relative to the operational height of satellites. Alas, the project did not take off due to export restrictions from the United States. 

But times and attitudes may have changed since then. 

Scaled Composites’ Model 401, unveiled early in October'17, is worth reading about. 

Future system: The Scaled Composites Model 401 is being developed for an unnamed "proprietary customer". While the prototype does not have an optionally-manned feature, a drone version could (in future) complement manned aircraft assigned for demanding missions. Photo: Scaled Composites.

Here is Scaled Composite's news release on the M401 prototype:

Mojave, California – October 11, 2017 Scaled Composites is proud to announce the rollout and first flight of its most recent project, experimental aircraft Model 401. Scaled worked with a proprietary customer to build two vehicles to demonstrate advanced, low-cost manufacturing techniques and to provide aircraft for research flight services to industry partners and the United States government. 

The two vehicles were designed to be identical in outer mold line and performance, with each aircraft powered by a single Pratt & Whitney JTD-15D-5D engine with 3,045 pounds of thrust.

The vehicles are capable of flying Mach 0.6 with a service ceiling of 30,000 feet and have a wingspan of 38 feet and are 38 feet long. They have an empty weight of 4,000 pounds and a maximum take-off weight of 8,000 pounds with an endurance of up to three hours. 

Aaron Cassebeer, Project Engineer said, “This is such an exciting time for us. Scaled is at the forefront of experimental aircraft development and I am fortunate enough to have a front row seat.” He went on to say this about the mission, “Today was a great day for our test team. We had a great flight and we are looking forward to the future test program.”

This successful first flight is the beginning of the flight test phase for vehicle number 1. The Scaled team plans to continue envelope expansion on the first aircraft as they move toward first flight of the second Model 401 vehicle.

Model 401 test flight video courtesy of Scaled Composites

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Two Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF Sikorsky Seahawk naval helos due to return home by end 2017

Please note: Updated for accuracy on 21 Oct'17 after feedback. Edits in italics and strikethrough.

Republic of Singapore Air Force S-70B Seahawk recovers at Sembawang Air Base. Photo: RSAF


Two Sikorsky Seahawk naval helicopters are due to arrive in Singapore by the end of 2017, armed and configured to support a host of maritime security missions, such as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) as well as anti-piracy patrols and maritime counter-terrorism.

The two Seahawks will join six S-70B Seahawk naval helicopters acquired to support six Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Formidable-class stealth frigates for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare roles.

The new additions to the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) Seahawk family will be flown as multi-mission naval helicopters and will therefore dispense with be fitted with an improved ASW suite that occupies the bulk of cabin space aboard the S-70 Bravos.

The ASW suite requires space for aboard S-70 Bravos now in service comprises the L3 Helicopter Long-Range Active Sonar (HELRAS) dipping sonar and the operator's console for the AN/APS-143 surveillance radar, Raytheon AN/AAS-44 EO system and tactical data link.

The new Seahawks will increases the Republic of Singapore Navy's anti-submarine capability, and will be fitted for future capability improvements.

The MMNH Seahawk can ferry troops in the cabin, or carry a mix of troops and cargo in the cabin, or cargo packed as an underslung load.

The armament options will allow the pair of MMNH Seahawks to deal with a range of situations involving hostile combatants or surface craft.

Acquired in 2005 as part of Project Peace Triton, Singapore's Seahawks are flown by the RSAF's 123 Squadron but come under the operational control of the RSN. Two more ASW Seahawks were ordered in 2013.

The six Seahawks amassed their initial flying hours from United States Navy's Naval Air Station North Island (below) in San Diego, as part of the Peace Triton detachment. The six Seahawks returned to Singapore in 2010, following a year-long assignment at San Diego.


Come see the RSN's Formidable-class stealth frigate, RSS Intrepid, at the RSN50@Vivo from 9-12 November 2017. For more, click here 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Malaysian Army strengthens "anti invasion" firepower


When the Infantry moves, the Army moves.

So if the Infantry doesn't move, the Army doesn't move either?

The logic is disarmingly simple (excuse the pun). But how does one stop an intruder's infantry or keep it in check?

Look no further than the Malaysian Army should you need an example of how the tempo of an infantry attack could be blunted.

Malaysia is quietly strengthening the sharp end of her infantry units to deal with an intruder's armour and mechanised infantry. This is especially so when one considers the introduction of miniguns to the Malaysian Army's armoury.

Condor APC with Dillon Aero M134D minigun and gunshield.

Lipanbara MRAP with Dillon Aero M134D minigun.

War machines such as the Condor APC and Lipanbara MRAP have been displayed with six-barrel miniguns that fire 50 7.62mm rounds every second, accurate up to 1,200m. That's more than four times the rate of fire compared to a General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG).

And the effective range of minigun fire is more than adequate for the average engagement distance estimated for firefights between land forces on peninsular Malaysia.

The "anti invasion" capability of the Malaysian Army is correspondingly increased because the weight of fire and accuracy of Malaysian infantry is substantially enhanced, thanks to the miniguns. When augmented by 40mm automatic grenade launchers and RPGs fielded as anti-infantry weapons, such firepower is devastating noteworthy.

Whether in an ambush, meeting engagement, deliberate attack or block force operations, the amount of firepower Malaysian infantry can deliver in a shootout could potentially rattle soldiers coming under fire for the first time.

It is important not to overlook the psychological effect of a first clash that provokes a fierce reaction against an intruder's soldiers. The minigun is thus a misnomer as there is certainly nothing "mini" about the deluge of aimed, sustained, automatic fire minigun operators can bring to bear against their target.

Malaysian defence planners probably reasoned that when its infantry is sent into operations against an intruder who controls the skies, and one with an advantage in armoured platforms and guided munitions, Malaysian infantry must have what it takes to deliver the heaviest possible firepower when targets are in sight and within range.

Engagement windows may also be small. This is possibly due to the need for Malaysian assets to redeploy quickly to a new firing position soon after opening fire, or risk being engaged in place by superior firepower. During that small and time-limited engagement window, Malaysian infantry must deliver the deadliest fire possible before the unit disengages to deploy to a new firing position.

Miniguns have helped Malaysia close the firepower deficit. But this is achieved on the assumption that the Malaysian Army's logistics train is able to continually resupply frontline units with ammunition.

Here's the tradeoff: At 3,000 rounds per minute, a minigun must be liberally - or at the very least, regularly - supplied to ensure its fighting effectiveness. This is because on-board ammo is limited, and rationing the amount of fire unleashed would in effect compromise any benefits of a weapon with a high rate of fire. The supply push is therefore critical for maintaining the operational effectiveness of minigun-armed assets.

It is thus up to Kor Ordnans Diraja units to weather the storm and address the demand of units on the frontline.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

SAIC, ST Kinetics and CMI Defence collaborate on light tank variant of Singapore's Next Generation AFV for US Army's Mobile Protected Firepower program

Photo: Courtesy of ST Kinetics

When the United States Army was looking for an airportable 155mm gun, Singapore's defence industry had just the weapon it was looking for - but couldn't say a word as the gun was still classified.

Had the heli-portable 155mm Singapore Light Weight Howitzer (SLWH) entered a shootout with foreign contenders, it might have had an edge as the gun was self-propelled (up to 12km/h) and robustly constructed from aircraft-grade titanium and aluminium alloy. It was the world's only heli-portable 155mm gun with a self-propelled capability

The Project R gun, subsequently known as the Pegasus, was developed to replace the GIAT 105mm LG1 light guns acquired from France under Project F as part of an arms package that also included the AMX-10 light tanks under Project S.

Alas, the M777 Ultra lightweight Field Howitzer from BAE Systems won the day, eventhough the projects to develop both weapons started around the same time in the late 1990s.

Singapore's defence eco-system appears to have learned from this experience.

This past week, a new variant of the Next Generation Armoured Fighting Vehicle (NGAFV) that started life under Project B was unveiled. The NGAFV chassis is paired with a CMI Defence Cockerill 3000-series turret armed with a 105mm gun.

The yet-unnamed variant of the NGAFV is the product of a tri-partite collaboration between US-based Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC, it will serve as systems integrator), ST Kinetics (which provided the NGAFV chassis) and CMI Defence (which supplied the 105mm turret). It will be pitched for the US Army's Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) programme.

This brings to three the number of NGAFV variants shown publicly:
  1. Light tank with 105mm gun
  2. AIFV with a 30mm cannon and AT missile
  3. Armoured Recovery Vehicle
While the 105mm gun armed last century's AFVs, the one sitting on the NGAFV ushers in a new approach to warfighting where the coordinated use of battlefield information derived from various sensors is wielded as a weapon like never before.

In theory, this will allow the NGAFV to sense-make threats at varying distances from the platform. NGAFVs operating in packs and armed with weapons ranging from non-line of sight guided munitions to close-range armaments fired from remotely-operated weapon systems can then be directed to take out the targets.

The cameras that provide an all-round view of the NGAFV enable a change in CONOPS not possible with AFVs not wired up in this manner. They are more than a driving aid. This particular NGAFV variant could prove a potential game-changer, especially when fielded in the vanguard of Armoured Battle Groups assigned for fighting in built-up areas infested with AT munitions.

One hopes that the CONOPS can be shared with the US Army, as it currently has nothing like this in its stable of vehicles.


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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Exercise Wallaby 2017 XWB training incident: Sad homecoming


One of our own prepares to come home from Exercise Wallaby 2017. 😢


Homebound.

We wish the crew and passengers aboard 752 a safe journey home.

The incident weighs heavily on our hearts and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the late Third Sergeant Gavin Chan Hiang Cheng. 

To the men and women of the SAF Armour Formation: Stout hearts. Rally round those who need support during this difficult time and complete the rest of the XWB Frames safely and professionally. 


H/T to the Central Queensland Plane Spotting community in Rockhampton for the dedicated yet sensitive coverage of this morning's proceedings. Photos by IAD and Daniel Bishop.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Contemporary National Education: Former Singapore Armed Forces SAF Chief of Defence Force CDF, Lieutenant General (Ret'd) Desmond Kuek, reflects on Indonesia-Singapore defence relations



Note: This essay by LG (Ret'd) Desmond Kuek was contributed to the commemorative book published by the Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia in Singapore (KBRI Singapura) to mark 50 years of Indonesia-Singapore diplomatic relations.

COMMEMORATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF
INDONESIA-SINGAPORE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS

by LIEUTENANT-GENERAL (RET) DESMOND KUEK
           
This year, Singapore and Indonesia celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. Our ties today are longstanding, strong and extensive, underpinned by a defence relationship that is founded on mutual trust and respect. 

I witnessed the closeness of our defence relations when as a young Captain in 1989, I accompanied the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Mr Goh Chok Tong, who led a senior Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) delegation which included the Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General Winston Choo, to visit Bandung.  We were received personally, and with great warmth and hospitality, by MENHAN General Benny Moerdani and PANGAB General Try Sutrisno.  It set the tone and standard for our bilateral ties that have been upheld and strengthened through the years. In recounting the depth and extent of our ties, I am reminded of the chorus in our bilateral Exercise SAFKAR INDOPURA song:

“Persahabatan kita, rekan seangkatan walau diseberang lautan”
[A friendship that lasts, that’s how it must be, comrades in arms across the sea]

Indeed, over the years, the SAF and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) have worked purposefully together, in true spirit of cooperation and friendship, to ensure peace and stability in our region. The depth of our bilateral military ties is evident from the wide range of exercises and professional exchanges between our armies, naval and air forces. Exercise EAGLE INDOPURA, a bilateral naval exercise, was first established in 1974 and is the SAF’s longest-running bilateral exercise with any foreign armed forces.  Our naval divers regularly train together during Exercise PANDU. From time to time, we conduct joint socio-civic engagements with coastal communities in the Indonesian archipelago under the banner of SURYA BHASKARA JAYA. From 1980, our military exchanges expanded to include Exercise ELANG INDOPURA, an air combat exercise; and further deepened with the establishment of the Siabu Air Weapons Range in Pekanbaru. As for our Armies, we conduct Exercise SAFKAR INDOPURA annually, alternating between training areas in Indonesia and Singapore, while the SAF’s Commandos and TNI’s KOPASSUS hold annual engagements as part of Exercise CHANDRAPURA.

Exercise SAFKAR INDOPURA, in particular, is an exercise close to my heart.  As Commander of the 3rd Singapore Division from 1998-2000, I worked closely with Lieutenant-General Soegiono, then Panglima KOSTRAD to organise the annual exercises. As Co-Chair for the Indonesia-Singapore Joint Training Committee from 2000-2003, I supervised its development; and as Army Chief from 2003-2007, I had the honour of co-officiating the exercise with my KASAD counterparts General Ryamizard Ryacudu and General Djoko Santoso.  The exercise progressed from its humble beginnings as a mapping exercise to the full troop Brigade-level exercise it is today. I am pleased to note that next year, our Armies will be marking the 30th year of this flagship Army bilateral exercise.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that thousands of our SAF and TNI personnel have interacted through these years. Since 1969, the SAF has sent Officers to attend the TNI’s Army Command and Staff College (SESKOAD). Today, they attend all four Command and Staff Colleges in Indonesia.  Many of the graduates now hold senior positions in the SAF and also in Government.  Likewise, TNI Officers have been attending Singapore’s Command and Staff College and other training courses.  There are regular visits on both sides from junior levels through to senior leadership echelons. These exchanges have allowed us to grow lasting friendships, and give us the comfort and confidence to be able to pick up the telephone and converse with our counterparts with the view to resolving issues that occur from time to time, as might be expected even with the closest of neighbours.

 “Apapun terjadi pelihara, Ikatan teguh sepanjang waktu”
[Through thick and thin we’ll strive to keep, the bond that stands the test of time]

Many personal and professional ties have been forged through these opportunities for our people to spend meaningful time exploring options and solutions for complex operational scenarios, coordinating live-fire drills, and enjoying social and sports activities. It is most heart-warming to see our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women train and operate alongside one another, working hand in hand to accomplish a common mission. The mutual understanding and interoperability fostered between TNI and SAF units were especially crucial when we were called at short notice to operations in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

When the SilkAir MI185 crashed in 1997 in the Musi River near Palembang, the TNI led extensive search-and-rescue efforts, and TNI-AL divers recovered the flight data and voice recorders after more than a week of working tirelessly in extremely difficult conditions. The TNI also provided troops to search the crash site. It was a national tragedy for Singapore, and we will always appreciate how the TNI so readily assisted us in times of need.

When the Boxing Day tsunami struck Aceh in 2004, we mourned with our friends in Indonesia over the loss of lives in the disaster. We spared no effort to assist in the relief operations in Medan, Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, deploying landing ship tanks, helicopters, medical teams and combat engineers. SAF personnel worked alongside the TNI to assist in search and locate operations, as well as with the evacuation of victims, delivery of medical aid and emergency relief, provision of logistical support and in engineering reconstruction works.

“Persahabatan kita terus berlanjutan”
[This friendship will last for all to see]

Our defence cooperation is multi-faceted, and we worked collectively toward a Defence Cooperation Agreement between our two armed forces that I signed in 2007, as Chief of Defence Force, with PANGTNI Air Chief Marshal Djoko Suyanto.  The regional security environment we face today continues to be complex and unpredictable, and the need for cooperation against sea piracy and regional terrorism is ever more compelling. In our desire to work together to overcome common threats, we forged an ASEAN Chiefs of Defence Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) from the existing web of bilateral linkages among regional countries, and subsequently constructed a multilateral format for the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM).  The strong bilateral defence ties between Indonesia and Singapore have served as a key pillar in this vital regional security structure.


Reflecting on our military ties, in our commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Singapore, has brought back many fond memories of my friendships with TNI Officers, and it is my sincere hope that future generations of Officers, men and women of the SAF and TNI will continue to uphold this legacy and build on our excellent, longstanding relations.