Sunday, June 20, 2010

A weekend in June

Yesterday's sneak preview of the first Combined Rehearsal (CR1) for the National Day Parade 2010 was special to me because our action station at the Green zone seats was close to where I stood on duty during NDP 1990.

Twenty years have since passed and the Mobile Column that filed past City Hall during CR1 packs the most firepower and capabilities compared to all other Mobile Columns I've seen.

NDP 2010's Mobile Column is more than a collection of hard-hitting war machines and Home Team vehicles. The inclusion for the first time of peace support operations vehicles and teams Singapore has sent for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions abroad acknowledges the part Singaporeans have served in helping the international community.

Since 1990, I've made it a point to spend several weekends in June watching NDP rehearsals as they underline the progress made by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as it modernises and sharpens its deterrent edge.

Many of the full-time National Servicemen at NDP 2010's CR1 were three-year-old boys when the picture above was taken at NDP 1995. The Mobile Column in 1995 was impactful because of the sheer weight of armour shown and new platforms that Singaporeans could photograph for the first time.

Fifteen years on at NDP 2010's CR1: the trees have grown and so have the three-year-olds. The platforms in this image show platforms Singaporeans could only dream about in 1995. These include main battle tanks and locally-developed Terrex infantry fighting vehicles (seen ahead of the Spike ATGM light strike vehicle conducting a Commander's brief).

Here's a recap of Mobile Column milestones over the years.

NDP 1990
The Milan 2 anti-tank guided weapon mounted on Mercedes Benz MB240GD jeeps were shown for the first time.

My duty station was under a light tower close to the Supreme Court. As a full-time National Serviceman with MINDEF's Public Affairs Department, I helped press photographers stay within the footprint of the light tower and made sure they did not wander about. It was an isolated position in full view of spectators and we could not cross the road nor go to the washroom for around three hours. There were no seats, so we all stood and I had to be careful about standing on one leg as that was a pet peeve of my director - whom the PAFF staff respected greatly.

The parade in 1990 marked Singapore's 25th year of independence.

That year's Mobile Column saw the parade debut for the Singapore Army's SM1 light tanks. Incidentally the 22nd anniversary of its unveiling passed a couple of days ago on 15 June 2010.

Armoured infantry aboard M-113 Armoured Personnel Carriers carried out debussing and embarkation drills in front of City Hall. Many of those NSFs have since completed their NS obligations.

NDP 1995
New systems acquired in the SAF 2000 modernisation programme were shown for the first time.

These included a large contingent of Bv206 all-terrain carriers, Combat Engineer Tractors, FH-2000 155mm field howitzer, Leguan bridge layer and the first M-113s upgraded to Ultra standard.

The main armament of Ultras shown during NDP 1995 comprised a 40mm automatic grenade launcher and 12.7mm heavy machine gun mounted on the locally-made Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK) 40/50 cupola.

The Singapore Police Force Special Tactics and Rescue (STAR) unit showed it operated Land Rovers Defender 110s fitted with assault ladders.

NDP 2000
Singapore's 40th birthday saw the inclusion of more homegrown weapons in the Mobile Column.

The line up for the millennium year include the SAR-21 5.56mm assault rifle and Bionix armoured fighting vehicles in two variants. These were the BX40/50 (STK 40/50 cupola) and BX25 armed with a 25mm Bushmaster cannon.

A new variant of the Ultra armed with 25mm Bushmaster cannon and 7.62mm GPMG in an overhead weapon system also trundled past the Padang for the first time.

The SM1 launched bridge, developed by Singapore's defence industry, showcased how Singaporean defence engineers and the Singapore Combat Engineers had modified AMX-13 light tanks as assault bridge carriers.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force's Igla surface to air missiles mounted on M-113s and twin Igla launchers mounted on MB290GD wheeled vehicles were also shown for the first time.

Interestingly, the Mobile Column for NDP 2000 used the east-bound Nicoll Highway lanes during the drive towards the Padang. In previous years and during NDP 2005, Mobile Column vehicles have traditionally used the west-bound lanes for their move towards the Padang.

NDP 2005
With the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) transformation into a Third Generation fighting force underway, the Mobile Column at NDP 2005 toasted some 3rd Gen platforms and capabilities.

The wraps came off the Singapore Combat Engineers Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosives (CBRE) Defence Group after several years as a low profile unit. The CBRE elements have since been visible at public events such as the Singapore Air Show, Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore F1 Grand Prix night race and major international events such as the International Olympic Committee meetings and APEC talks held in Singapore.

An early variant of the Singapore Army's command post vehicle appeared during NDP 2005, pointing to the importance of information superiority during operations.

That year's Mobile Column featured the locally-made STK Primus 155mm self-propelled howtizer and a number of Bronco all-terrain tracked carriers.

 Other notable hardware include the RSAF's mechanized Igla armed with a quad-mounted launcher and a variant that carried a dust bin radar.

NDP 2010
This deserves a separate post which will appear shortly.

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