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.


You may also like:
The new and the old #tank. Click here
Eight things to note about the SAF's new AFV. Click here
Tidbits on the SAF. Click here
NLOS missile carrier. Click here

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.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Beware tech infatuation in the Third Generation Singapore Armed Forces 3G SAF

Call centre: MAN 5-tonner seen during Exercise Wallaby 2005 with a non-standard inscription on the driver's cabin door.

Tech-related news out from Singapore had a bruising week at the end of July 2017.

On 27 July, it was reported that 300 drones failed to fly during a National Day Parade rehearsal the previous Saturday (22 Jul'17) due to a technical problem with the GPS guidance.

Also on 27 July, social media reported that an app linked to the SGSecure movement - which aims to raise the level of security awareness and national resilience among people in Singapore - had earned a dismal One Star rating (Five Stars reflect the best user experience). This was after citizen soldiers complained of being coerced into downloading an app which they found had little relevance or value.

That same day, Amazon Prime was launched in Singapore. Within 24 hours of its launch, a flurry of complaints marred the online shop as customers vent their frustrations that Amazon Prime failed to fulfil its promised two-hour delivery window.

A bruising week for technology in Singapore, no doubt. But tech weak?

Hands up those of you who will forego tech for the typewriter and migrate back to snail mail. Any takers?

Despite these setbacks, technology continues to dominate our lives in Singapore.

The examples cited above are relevant to defence efforts in the Lion City because:
a) It makes one wonder how military ops that rely on swarm UAVs will be affected if these fail to perform;
b) Unhappy citizen soldiers could affect commitment to defence;
c) If Amazon Prime fails to deliver, would Call For Fire also fail?

The downside for Amazon Prime is limited to bad press and unhappy customers.

The downside for the military if a tech-enabled sensor-to-shooter system fails will be more dire. Doubly so in a short-war scenario where boffins may not have the luxury of time to install a system update.

When the Battlefield Management System (BMS) was first unveiled to the media around the turn of the century as part of the Third Generation (3G) Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), one oft-quoted anedote used to describe BMS was the parallel with the pizza delivery service of a famous chain. (This pre-dated food delivery apps, so please bear with the story telling).

At the time, customers of a popular pizza delivery service used just one number for deliveries anywhere in Singapore. Television and radio ads for the pizza company had a catchy jingle built around the number. See picture above for a hint.

According to the SAF, BMS functioned in broadly the same way. A request for fire support, routed by warfighters through the BMS, would prioritise and allocate assets expeditiously.

This concept of operations (CONOPS) may work perfectly for war games involving a small number of tactical units plugged into the grid.

However, the reality is the SAF has never operated with everything "switched on" at the same time to serve the full force potential of the SAF.

Whether the C4ISTAR system can cope when under time pressure and under fire is a question that no one can answer, as it has never been tried before in the real world with every single SAF radar and electronic sensor switched on.

The history of warfare has many examples of outgunned, low-tech combatants who managed to not only prevail on the battlefield, but win the day.

The United States Army in Vietnam dominated their regular and irregular North Vietnamese adversaries in defence technology. The MacNamara Line relied on a variety of electronic gadgets to thwart the movement of Vietnamese forces in the jungle.

In the air, F-4 Phantom warplanes initially went into battle in Indochina without a gun. Air warfare planners had deemed guns irrelevant, in view of the reach and lethality of the combo of short-range (Sidewinder) and medium-range radar-guided AAMs (Sparrow) that could (theoretically) knock bandits out of the sky outside gun range.

During the 1991 Gulf War 1, the aerial might of coalition forces using the then-new J-STARS surveillance planes and F-15E Strike Eagles failed to find and destroy a single Iraqi Scud TEL. This despite overwhelming superiority in sensors/shooters that blanketed Iraq.

More recently, the tech-heavy Israel Defense Forces (IDF) went to war several times against Hezbollah units in Lebanon. Both sides claimed victory. While this may be true when argued from the IDF's perspective, the hard truth is that Hezbollah is still in business. And tank warfare using the likes of Merkavas and other IDF heavy tank assets will never be the same again in Lebanon, when faced with an adversary liberally armed with ATGMs fired from well-emplaced and prepared kill zones with overlapping fields of fire.

As you read this in September 2017, preparations are underway Down Under for Exercise Wallaby (XWB). As with previous editions, this year's XWB will once again put to test the tech-heavy SAF's ability to fight and manoeuvre, with military operations coordinated by computer.

It's a fine CONOPS, which we should carry on perfecting.

But at no point should one embrace tech so blindly to the point of tech infatuation.


You may also like:
A primer on the 3G SAF. Click here.
SAF demonstrates Dynamic Targeting at Exercise Forging Sabre. Click here.
Urban legends abound about the SAF's true combat capabilities. Click here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Exercise Pacific Griffin HarpoonEx with USS Coronado


The Littoral Combat Ship, USS Coronado (LCS-4) seen sailing in company with a Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) stealth frigate off the coast of Guam during Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017 (XPG). The naval manoeuvres between the United States Navy and RSN were held from 19 August to 2 September 2017.

The war games involved more than 850 personnel from Singapore and the United States. The RSN contributed two Formidable-class stealth frigates, RSS Stalwart and RSS Supreme, and an Endurance-class tank landing ship, RSS Endurance, that served as command ship. 

Apart from the Coronado, the US Navy also contributed an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Benfold, and underway replenishment vessel, USNS Pecos. Air elements involved in XPG were a US Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and Hawker Hunter fighter jets from a civilian defence contractor, and a Republic of Singapore Air Force Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk naval helicopter embarked on RSS Supreme.


video


Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017 Special Reports:
RSN warships depart for Exercise Pacific Griffin. Click here
Exercise Pacific Griffin enters live-fire phase. Click here
USS Coronado tests NOMAD EW drone during Pacific Griffin. Click here
USMC 5th ANGLICO train with Singapore navy during Exercise Pacific Griffin. Click here