Thursday, July 29, 2010

NDP 2010 Mobile Column: Best wishes from Bok Seng Logistics

"Bok Seng Logistics is proud to support the National Day Parade 2010.

In the run-up to our nation's 45th birthday celebrations, Bok Seng has played an active role in transporting Mobile Column vehicles for the NDP rehearsals. Our involvement in NDP 2010 stretches back to the earlier rehearsals at Tuas.

Many of these logistics operations take place at night or very early in the morning. We have worked closely with the Singapore Armed Forces to ensure safe and desired deliveries to required destinations.

Week after week, we've been heartened by the steady progress Mobile Column participants have made in their vehicle alignment, timing and showmanship.

We wish them all the best for NDP 2010.

I'm sure Bok Seng Logistics’ staff and their families will look forward to their display at NDP 2010, knowing that we played a humble part in making it happen.

Have a successful NDP 2010 show."

Dave Ng
Executive Director
Bok Seng Logistics

"Once again, Bok Seng Logistics is proud to be a steadfast partner in support of the National Day Parade.
Every four to five years, the parade is held at the Padang. Without fail, there is great excitement and expectation in anticipation of this coming parade. This feeling of high expectation and excitement could only be quenched and fulfilled by an equally impressive show of might and precision by our Mobile Column backed by her skilled and disciplined personnel manning them.

My daughter, Debbie Tan is 11 years old. After viewing NE 1, she remarked that the 'Mobile Column was impressive'.

So guys press on, do your part! It’s your show and help make all Singaporeans proud, because it’s our National Day.

Cheers! And Have A Happy National Day!”

Richard Tan
Assistant General Manager
Bok Seng Logistics Pte Ltd

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NDP 2010 Mobile Column: Best wishes from ST Engineering

To All NDP 2010 Mobile Column participants,
Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd (ST Engineering) is delighted that many examples of our defence equipment and solutions will form part of the NDP 2010 Mobile Column.

We are indeed proud that some of our weapon platforms such as the Bionix 2, Terrex infantry fighting vehicle, Trailblazer mine-clearing vehicle, Bronco, Primus and Pegasus will be participating in the NDP 2010 Mobile Column.

ST Engineering partners with the Singapore Armed Forces to support its specific operational requirements. Our close collaboration often results in the design and development of world class weapon platforms and systems that are market leaders. We are happy to have grown in tandem with Singapore, in ensuring national security.

I wish the Mobile Column participants as well as all other participants success with the show.

I am certain that all my ST Engineering colleagues, particularly those who have contributed to the products and solutions, will look forward to your showcase and performance on 9 August 2010.

Have a Great NDP 2010!

Tan Pheng Hock
President & Chief Executive Officer
Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd

Malaysian firepower demo: China Press stories

Malaysia's China Press published two stories from the 22 July 2010 firepower demonstration at Kem Gemas.

The full page article on 27 July 2010 shows the air and land elements that pounded the target area. Interesting to see how the Su-30MKM was turned into a bomb truck.

Please click on the images to see the pictures in hi res.

Many thanks to my friend in Malaysia for this contribution. Gagah Setia!

Defence information management flop

There's been a massive failure of defence information management in the United States after 91,000 Secret documents were posted on the Internet.

Fallout from this incident has international repercussions.

Leaks create fresh doubt about Afghan war, secrets

By ROBERT BURNS, Associated Press Writer Robert Burns, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – The monumental leak of classified Afghan war documents threatened Monday to create deeper doubts about the war at home, cause new friction with Pakistan over allegations about its spy agency and raise questions around the world about Washington's own ability to protect military secrets.

The White House called the disclosures "alarming."

The torrent of more than 91,000 secret documents, one of the largest unauthorized disclosures in military history, sent the Obama administration scrambling to assess and repair any damage to the war effort, either abroad or in the U.S. The material could reinforce the view put forth by the war's opponents in Congress that one of the nation's longest conflicts is hopelessly stalemated.

The leaks come at a time when President Barack Obama's Afghanistan war strategy is under congressional scrutiny and with polls finding that a majority of Americans no longer think the war there is worth fighting. Still, the leaks are not expected to prevent passage of a US$60 billion war funding bill. Despite strong opposition among liberals who see Afghanistan as an unwinnable quagmire, House Democrats must either approve the bill before leaving at the end of this week for a six-week vacation, or commit political suicide by leaving troops in the lurch in war zones overseas.

The Pentagon also was looking at possible damage on the ground in Afghanistan.

"Someone inadvertently or on purpose gave the Taliban its new 'enemies list,'" declared Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., who said the White House indicated the disclosures compromised a number of Afghan sources.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs emphasized that the documents covered the period before Obama ordered a major increase in U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan, and the administration denied they would cause any policy shift in the fight against Taliban insurgents.

Indeed, despite the furor over the publication of the reports on the WikiLeaks whistleblower website, the information did not reveal any fundamentally new problems in the war effort. Military officers, current and former, described the documents as mostly tactical spot reports, including hunches about possible suspects and bomb plots that couldn't be verified. Some of the reports contain errors; others appear to be based on flimsy evidence.

Still, much of the material is anything but encouraging.

Underscoring the difficulties the U.S. faces, the documents include the first publicly released indication that the Taliban has used portable surface-to-air missiles against U.S. helicopters. One report on a June 2005 incident said a Black Hawk helicopter used evasive measures to avoid getting hit east of Kandahar by what its crew chief identified as a portable missile.

The documents also report potential Iranian support of an Afghan terrorist group.

They said that on Jan. 30, 2005, Iranian intelligence agencies brought the equivalent of US$212,800 in Afghan currency across the Iranian border and transferred it to a 1990s-model white Toyota Corolla station wagon occupied by members of Hizb-i-Islami, a Taliban-allied insurgent group led by former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The money trail was lost.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Defense Department spokesman, said the military would probably need "days, if not weeks" to determine "the potential damage to the lives of our service members and coalition partners."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the release of documents was just the beginning. He told reporters in London that some 15,000 more files on Afghanistan were still being vetted by his organization.

The documents are described as battlefield reports compiled by various military units that provide an unflinching view of combat operations between 2004 and 2009, including U.S. frustration over reports that Pakistan secretly aided insurgents fighting U.S. and Afghan forces.

The material portrays Pakistan as playing a double game when it came to the struggle against Afghan militants, with security officials secretly providing insurgents with aid. Both the U.S. and Pakistan say that view is outdated, but one American analyst said it probably is correct.

"The Pakistan government gave up claiming that it could control its intelligence agencies around the time they invented them. I don't think they even try," said Paula R. Newberg, director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University.

In Islamabad, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the leaked documents "misplaced, skewed and contrary to the factual position on the ground." And it said that U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism cooperation against "our common enemies" will continue.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley argued that there is a "new dynamic" in the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan since the period covered by the leaked documents. He acknowledged, however, that the U.S. remains concerned about weaknesses in the relationship, including the problem of corruption in the Afghan government.

"These documents highlight issues we've long known about," Crowley said.

WikiLeaks, a self-described whistleblower organization, posted the reports to its website Sunday night. It did not say who provided the documents.

Crowley said it was unclear whether the leak was related to a U.S. military intelligence analyst who is being held in Kuwait, on charges of mishandling classified information on military computers in Baghdad.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said the documents released so far "reflect the reality, recognized by everyone, that the insurgency was gaining momentum during these years while our coalition was losing ground."

The Taliban's resurgence led Obama to announce in December 2009 a major increase of forces to Afghanistan as part of a new civil-military strategy, Lieberman pointed out.

Shortly after the documents were posted on the Internet, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said they raised questions about whether the U.S. was pursuing a realistic policy with Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said they showed the urgency of making the "calibrations" necessary "to get the policy right."

Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the leak disturbing.

"The damage to our national security caused by leaks like this won't stop until we see more perpetrators in orange jump suits," Bond said.

The military has detained Bradley Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst in Baghdad, for allegedly transmitting classified information. But the latest documents could have come from anyone with a secret-level clearance, Lapan said.

Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier, Anne Flaherty and Andrew Taylor in Washington, Raphael Satter in London, and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed to this report.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

National Day Parade 2010: 3rd National Education Show

Senang Diri joined the Mobile Column's night duty crew for a firsthand look at how they assemble the 210 vehicles that make up NDP 2010's Mobile Column. The short, 15-minute drive past City Hall gives no hint of hours of practice, briefings and preparations that help things fall into place smoothly.   

Big Cat: A Singapore Army Leopard 2A4 main battle tank arrives at the Mobile Column form-up point after midnight on Saturday 24 July 2010. The tanks were escorted by Military Police from their camp in the western part of Singapore island, about 20km from the FUP.

23:50 hours Hotel, 23 July 2010: Friday night slips closer to Saturday morning and it looks like the whole of Singapore has descended upon the Kallang Leisure Park.

The car park is huge.

It is also full at close to midnight. This is a challenge the Mobile Column and Ceremony Committee had forecast because they knew the concert dates. Officers and men from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) eye the traffic jam with keen interest as they track the accuracy of their traffic projections.

If things go as planned and civilian vehicles disappear according to what is stated on their plans, all's well. Within the next seven hours, they will pack the car park with more than 210 tracked and wheeled vehicles as preparations for the 3rd National Education show at the Padang get into full swing.

Problems will arise if civilian vehicles hang around - because low loaders are en route and will need somewhere to unload their cargo.

I find out belatedly that the Jay Chou Concert 2010 at the nearby Singapore Indoor Stadium is the crowd magnet. The night is young and it will be interesting seeing how the Mobile Column marshallers bring in the low loaders.

Even before midnight, some war machines have already been delivered. A row of Bionix 2 infantry fighting vehicles (BX2MT) sit in a quiet corner of the car park, back lit by street lighting with chemical light sticks hanging from their hulls as a safety measure.

A Republic of Singapore Air Force V-200 armoured personnel carrier circles the car park, frustrated that its usual parking spot is taken by the civilian vehicles. The V-200 crew are prepared to wait and park the four-wheeled APC somewhere else as they watch the bumper to bumper traffic slowly clear the parking lanes.

00:01 hrs Hotel, 24 July 2010: We're into Saturday morning and rush hour has started. A steady stream of low loaders carrying Singapore Army armoured vehicles arrive at the form-up point. As the low loaders stop by the roadside, paperwork is settled as Army personnel - many of them teenage full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), sign off the forms that indicates their war horses were delivered as per contract.

The heavy metal that arrives shows a cross section of the Armour Formation's combat and combat service support capabilities. These include Bionix IFVs of two variants (BX2MT and BX40/50), Bronco all-terrain tracked carriers fitted for assorted battlefield roles, and Bv206 tracked carriers.

Ramps are manhandled into place on low loaders. Newer trucks have hydraulic ramps that fold into place at the press of a button. Older trucks rely on muscle power and the clang of steel ramps, throb of prime mover diesel engines on idle and the clatter of chains as war machines are unshackled brings Sungei Gedong's MT line to Kallang.

00:50 hrs Hotel: Nine low loaders burdened with Terrex infantry fighting vehicles arrive in convoy. In a by-now familiar routine, monkey wrenches snap into action to free chain restraints and chocks are taken off. Army drivers strap on the eight-wheeled IFVs and get ready to gun the engines into life.

Terrex drivers can use TV cameras to see the IFV's six o'clock position but front and rear guides are still mandatory. Two sharp toots of the horn indicate "Engine Start". The powerful Caterpillar diesels purr to life and front and rear guides swing into action, flash lights and hand signals coordinating a mime act that guides Terrex IFVs onto the road.

01:40 hrs Hotel: The first MaxxPro MPTVs arrive. Because of their height, they use a different kind of low loader which allows the MPTVs to pass under 4.5m overhead bridges safely. Compared to the Singapore-made Terrex IFVs, the MaxxPro diesel engines are noisy.

02:00 hrs Hotel: The Singapore Combat Engineers arrive on scene - lots of them. The specialised vehicles that stream into the car park show how Combat Engineer battalions will carry out their mission of survivability, mobility and counter mobility.

It is a noisy affair as vehicle bridges are pulled onto tracked Bionix Launched Bridges (BLBs), mine-clearing trailers are hitched to Armoured Engineer M-113s and the Trailblazer mine-clearing vehicles - in my opinion the noisest of the SAF's tracked vehicles - trundle into place amid the rumble of their diesel engines and the squeal of tracks.

Throughout the night, marshallers track the movement of vehicles from the time they are loaded in SAF camps around the island till they are safely delivered to the FUP.

The online weather report of showers with thunder in many areas in the pre-dawn hours proves mercifully inaccurate. (While preparing for NE2, a heavy downpour flooded part of the FUP and at least four civilian cars were drowned in the flash flood.)

The convoy of low loaders and self-driven machines arrive under a clear, moonlit night. It is, however, a humid night as SAF duty personnel go about their work.

02:45 hrs Hotel: The big cats arrive. The Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks are unloading quickly, much to the surprise of onlookers. Armour personnel explain that wide tracks on these MBT allow tank drivers to coax the tanks off low loaders with relative ease.

03:10 hrs Hotel: More challenging to unload are the Pegasus 155mm air-mobile guns. Draped with tarpaulin to protect them against rain, the guns look like camels as they rest on four skinny wheel axles. Artillery gunners fire up the puttering farm tractor engines and the quartet of Pegasus guns move about in a cacophony of engine noises that sound like mechanised grass cutters in action.

04:00 hrs Hotel: There's a lull in activity as most of the Armour has gone to bed. Sentries posted around the vehicle FUP maintain a vigilant watch. Some off duty personnel choose not to sleep, flipping through inches-thick novels or SMSing insomniac friends as dawn creeps nearer.

We take a break at the deserted Starbucks coffee joint and the escort officer regales us with tales of his attachment to HQ Lancer in Brunei. Time passes quickly as we talk cock and wait for more big cats.

05:45 hrs Hotel: Low loaders that delivered the Leo 2s have made the round trip back to camp and show up with another set of big cats.

Across the darkness at Car Park F, the Combat Engineers continue their racket as military vehicles are arranged in march order in the empty civilian car park. It sounds like a construction site in full swing with engine noises and metal banging away and goodness knows what the Combat Engineers are up to as vehicle marshallers rearrange the vehicles.

06:45 hrs. Dawn breaks. The promised pre-dawn showers never came and wet weather parkas remain stuffed in their carrier bags.

The morning calm finally reigns over the car park. First light reveals several hundred SAF vehicles, parked in  neat rows at their FUP.

The near chaos seen as Jay Chou Concert fans streamed out of the car park has been replaced by what can only be described as military precision.

Soon, the Mobile Column participants will arrive. These are the ones who will actually crew the vehicles. They have been spared the night's exertions as they must be well-rested to give off their best showmanship.

Duties will be handed over as the night crew stands down - for the moment.

Thanks to the concert, the full 24-hour duty has been extended some. Traffic marshals for NE3 will be on duty from 23:00hrs Hotel on Friday till 05:00hrs Hotel on Sunday. Some of them are still there, as this blog posting is written.

In a couple of hours, they will reverse the process and load, tie-down and send the SAF war machines back to their MT lines. They will repeat the process only twice more - at the Parade Preview and on 9 August'10 at the parade to mark Singapore's 45th birthday.

Once they're done, this nightime buzz will not be repeated till NDP 2015.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to the NDP 2010 EXCO for facilitating the opportunity to watch how the Mobile Column forms up, especially to Captain Clarence who stayed from midnight till dawn and the SAF personnel who kept me company in the wee hours of the morning.

Friday, July 23, 2010

MAF live fire demo: Kem Gemas

Scorpion's sting: A Scorpion light tank pounds its target with a 90mm round fired by its Belgian-made Cockerill gun. The small Scorpions - Malaysia's first tanks - are used as ambush parties as their small size makes them ideal for mobile operations in oil palm and rubber plantations. 

Malaysia's Ministry of Defence (Kementerian Pertahanan, KEMENTAH) brought forward its live fire demo and let fly yesterday at Kem Gemas. The Malaysian media has earlier been informed that the firepower demo was scheduled for next Tuesday, 27 July 2010.

There were many Kodak moments as Malaysian Army Armour, Artillery and Infantry battalions from the 3rd Combined Arms Division demolished targets down range. A wide range of land forces capabilties were demonstrated. These ranged from 5.56mm Steyr AUG assault rifles at the lower end of the scale to Pendekar MBTs (Polish-built PT-91Ms) and Keris rockets (Astros II MLRS fire units).

Live fire demos such as the one shown here serve an important role in educating and updating the media on the Malaysian Army's operational readiness.

The media engagement is also valuable because it exposes military officers to the rules of engagement for defence information management.

News reports that inevitably result from such sessions also reinforce the Malaysian public's confidence in their armed services.

Khoo Jin Kiat, who made the trip from Kuala Lumpur, brings us some pictures of the event. I am grateful to JK for his support and contribution.

Armour Forward! With red flags indicating live ammunition onboard, Malaysian Adnan infantry fighting vehicles trundle forward to the firing line.

Weapon carriers: Light vehicles armed with a 40mm automatic grenade launcher and 12.7mm heavy machine gun wait their turn. The front vehicle is a Mercedes Benz MB290GD with cut down cargo deck and the other vehicle is a VAMTAC Hummer.

The Malaysian Army has considerable experience operating vehicles in jungle terrain and plantation areas. One takeaway from operations in these areas is the wire mesh screen fitted to most soft skin vehicles. The MB doesn't have wire mesh protection because its windscreen can be hinged downwards. Note the smoke dischargers covering every quadrant on the MB that it can use to screen its attack/withdrawal.

Weapon carriers give Malaysian Army infantry support weapons such as heavy machine guns better mobility. These weapon carriers are grouped as a counter attack force, a kind of fire brigade that moves rapidly to cover threatened areas such as a helicopter landing point. They are also used to harass enemy troop concentrations and logistics lines.

Deadly cargo: The truck-mounted Keris (Astros II; a Keris is a traditional Malay dagger with a wavy blade) multiple launch rocket system is one of Malaysia's deadliest wheeled war machines. 

Gunners from the Gemas-based 51st Battalion RAD (Rejimen Artileri Diraja) operate on a shoot-and-scoot mode. This view of the Astros in march order shows how difficult it is identifying the Keris MLRS from a distance as its side profile resembles that of a normal cargo truck.

If you blow up the image and look carefully at the targets to the left of the image, you'll see at least two Sibmas vehicles in the impact zone.

Air Guard: A Djigit launcher, seen here on a VAMTAC Hummer, allows air defence missile teams to salvo launch a pair of Igla surface to air missiles. This system is also used by the Singapore Armed Forces, mounted on MB290 GDs.

Gunners, Take Post! Malaysian gunners prepare a G-5 155mm gun howitzer for action. The Malaysian Army has recognised that artillery must fight as a system for maximum effect. The sensor-to-shooter loop that involves target selection, prioritisation, engagement and post barrage damage assessment is increasingly reliant on UAVs and Arthur radars for counterfire missions as well as special forces inserted for spotting missions. 

On target: A support team opens up with a Browning 0.5" heavy machine gun. Although the design dates back to WW2, the 12.7mm rounds fired by the Browning 0.5" are man-stoppers and can also chew through lightly armoured vehicles.

Outgoing! A Eryx short-range anti-tank missile speeds down range. The Malaysian Army has progressively strengthened its anti-tank capabilities with missiles sourced from China, France, Pakistan and Russia. These acquisitions underscore Malaysia's awareness of the armoured threat. Its inventory includes Russian-made Metis M missiles that proved effective in massed missile ambushes against Merkava MBTs in Lebanon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Second batch of F-15SGs to arrive this week

The second batch of Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Boeing F-15SGs have been spotted in Hawaii, flying west for Guam.

Destination: Singapore.

Five F-15SGs arrived in Singapore in April 2010.

Welcome back Mud Hens!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

National Service and You

National Service and You. A National Day special coming to you in August 2010.

Across the Causeway: Malaysian Army to stage firepower demo

War machines from the Malaysian Army will take part in a firepower on Tuesday 27 July 2010 as part of the Malaysian Defence Ministry's defence information management plan.

The show of force will take place at Kem Gemas for the benefit of the Malaysian media.

Officers and men from the Malaysian Army will be on hand to introduce, explain and showcase various weapon platforms and systems in their arsenal.

Look out for highlights of the event on Senang Diri.

Taat Setia!

Monday, July 19, 2010

MPTV/MRAP's public debut at NE2 on 17 July 2010

Catch the MPTV/MRAPs at the 2nd National Education show (NE2) here. The vehicles appear from 5:44 onwards.

For more on the Navistar Defense MaxxPro. Please click here.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

United States Pacific Air Forces make friends with social media

Singaporean defence enthusiasts who have attended excursions to Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) events will be able to relate to the social media outreach described below. Many thanks to Viper52 for surfacing this report.

Pacific Air Forces Airmen pioneer C-17 flight with social media

by Tech. Sgt. Matthew McGovern
Pacific Air Forces public affairs

7/16/2010 - JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Pacific Air Forces Airmen entered a new realm by demonstrating PACAF air drop capabilities to social media aboard two C-17 Globemaster IIIs during the Rim of the Pacific exercise July 16, here.

The 13 social media members witnessed air drops of heavy platforms over a simulated forward operating base in Hawaii and landed at Kona Airport, Hawaii. Departing back to Joint Base Hickam, media members photographed an F-16 Fighting Falcon as it intercepted the C-17s.

"This was a great opportunity to reach an audience that other media may not reach," said Lee Hopkinson, a social media member with

The media members instantly updated their audiences by posting blogs and images describing the mission flown by 535th Airlift Squadron Airmen.

"It's not just about the six o'clock news any more," said Justin Cruz, a social media member for a Hawaii news channel. "It's about the web site and all the blogs."

"Social media can be a resource for traditional media," Mr. Cruz said. "They can go in places that traditional media can't be all of the time and they reach a younger technical savvy audience."

The social media members were with nine traditional media covering the C-17 mission, PACAF member's air contribution to RIMPAC, which includes more than 14 nations, 32 ships, five submarines, more than 170 aircraft and more than 20,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.

News of exercises and other PACAF activities are now commonly published in social networking sites, such as Facebook, Myspace and Twitter. Some Airmen realize the potential to reach audiences in this fashion.

"We're excited to build and develop new relationships with additional people to help tell the Air Force story," said Lt. Col. Maria Carl, PACAF director of public affairs. "It's always good to have as many voices as possible to tell the Air Force story."

"I like to think that PACAF has been out in front and part of that is just by virtue of being so far forward here in the Pacific," Colonel Carl said. "With the distances being what they are it requires us to be a bit more innovative about how we deliver our messages. Part of it is because (Pacific Command), our combatant command, has taken a big initiative in the social media arena so that's been conducive to us doing the same at the air component level."

Airmen across the Air Force are now being encouraged to use social media to communicate about topics in their area of profession.

"All Airmen have a role in promoting public understanding of our service," said Gen. Gary North, PACAF commander, in a memorandum to PACAF Airmen. "U.S. citizens need this perspective to appreciate our service, commitment and sacrifice and to allow them to understand our Air Force, so they can make informed decisions.

General North also cautioned Airmen to abide by operational security guidelines and to protect critical information when posting to social media sites. He said not to divulge classified, official or sensitive material, which could jeopardize the Air Force mission.

National Day Parade 2010: 2nd National Education Show (NE2)

Getting ready: The crew of a Bronco 120mm SRAMS self-propelled mortar flush rainwater from their vehicle after the pre-dawn downpour. The water had collected in storage bins on the SRAMS.

An unexpected wave was added to the 11 waves of vehicles that make up this year's Mobile Column.

This was the wave of water from the flash flood that drowned at least four private vehicles owned by Mobile Column participants early on Saturday morning. Water rose knee high at one part of the Kallang Leisure Park's car park after drains overflowed.

With their Saturday burnt (yet again!) and their cars soaked, the wet start to preparations for the second National Education show (NE2) must have been a lousy way to start the day for these car owners.

But work had to proceed. Dozens of traffic marshals and safety officers were drenched in the downpour as they supervised the unloading of A vehicles from low loaders.

By early Saturday morning, more than 210 vehicles from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and police, and civil defence that represent Singapore's Home Team were safely assembled.

Among them were three Maxxpro MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) which were fresh additions to the Mobile Column.

The recently-ended NE2 show, performed for some 15,000 Primary Five students, showed that the Mobile Column had factored in results of last week's vetting.

Tracked and wheeled vehicles that form the 2-km long column drive past City Hall in waves in this march order:
Wave 1: Armour; vanilla Leopard 2A4s last seen during NE1. By NE2, all Leopard main battle tanks carried the enhanced armour package.
Wave 2: Infantry; Terrex Command vehicles used as spares at CR3 and were absent from NE1
Wave 3: Guards
Wave 4: Combat Engineers; EOD five tonners should switch on their light bars.
Wave 5: Artillery; HIMARS still absent at NE2 : (
Wave 6: Ground-based air defence
Wave 7: C4ISTAR
Wave 8: Combat Service Support
Wave 9: Maritime Security Task Force; Protector Unmanned Surface Vessel added from NE1
Wave 10: Homeland Security
Wave 11: Overseas Missions; a pair of armoured wheeled shovels from the Combat Engineers wave and two LARC-Vs from CSS were moved to Wave 11. Two MaxxPro MRAPs added for NE2. I feel this makes Wave 11 look much better. Though it is the tail end of the column, it is the last item that spectators will see and this wave should look as kilat (impressive) as possible.

It is interesting to note that the MRAP (or what the SAF calls MPTVs) have number plates that start with the magic letters MID. For example, MID 60xxx. In most other SAF vehicles, the number plates end with MID. This numbering convention is noteworthy because it strays from what is usually practised.

I am surprised Civil Resource vehicles are not represented at NDP 2010. Mobile Columns of yesteryear always had civilian low loaders, cranes or buses that showed people the kind of civil resources that support Singapore's defence and homeland security needs.

With the NDP 2010 parade show concept more or less frozen, I suppose it is too late to include the CR element now. But this is something that officers tasked to execute NDP 2015 should consider.
As street lighting for the Singapore Formula One grand prix has been installed, it would be nice if these lights could be switched on for NE3 and the Parade Preview. The Mobile Column would look much better under bright lights and this would result in better pictures too.

Though the morning downpour threatened to dampen spirits, this was clearly not the case looking at the expressions of Mobile Column participants as their vehicles drove past thousands of spectators around Marina Bay.

Camera flashes pulsated like strobes from the crowd line. A forest of hands were raised to wave at the Mobile Column. People had waited patiently for hours to see this moving display.

Just imagine what the real thing will be like on 9 August 2010.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

MRAP unwrapped!

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) took the wraps off its MaxxPro MRAP vehicles today.

Three armoured Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, looking somewhat out of place in tropical Singapore wearing desert warpaint, formed part of the National Day Parade Mobile Column. At the time of writing, the MaxxPros are due to take part in the fifth Combined Rehearsal (CR5).

You can see them as part of the Overseas Missions vehicles, which make up Wave Eleven at the tail end of the 2-km long column formed by 210 vehicles from the SAF and Home Team. At the time of writing, if you hurry down to the Padang you should be able to see them drive past around 19:00 Hotel this evening.

Known in Singapore Army service as MPTVs, these armoured 4x4s are understood to be destined for service in Afghanistan as transports for SAF peace keepers.

Singapore has never hesitated in giving its warfighters the extra edge before an operational deployment. The wealthy city state is fortunate it has the financial reserves for such acquisitions and a proper, well-managed drawer plan that scales up the SAF's fighting edge as circumstances prescribe.

The Army's MaxxPros are armed with a remote weapon station mounted with a 12.7mm CIS 50 heavy machine gun and possibly another sensor/weapon to the right of the HMG.

Senang Diri understands that the SAF's search for an MRAP-type vehicle pitted the MaxxPro against the Marauder MRAP, designed by a group of South African defence engineers.

MaxxPros have been in SAF service for some months.

The unveiling of the MaxxPros should be seen in the context of the Singapore Army's greater emphasis on protecting its personnel from direct fire anti-tank munitions and roadside bombs. This is evident when one looks at the add-on armour package fitted to the Leopard 2A4s and the additional bird cage armour fitted to Warthog vehicles that Singapore has built for the British Army. Not to be discounted is the protective role that improved battlefield awareness can serve in protecting SAF personnel, as well as better combat casualty care provided by SAF medical units.

Senang Diri understands that soft skin vehicles now used by SAF teeth arms and combat service support units will eventually be phased out of service. This underscores the SAF's awareness that its area of operations may not have clearly defined front lines, which explains why its logistics train will be hardened.

Alongside these hardware enhancements are moves to raise a number of Civil-Military Relations (CMR) battalions. In the event deterrence fails, these CMR battalions will serve a critical role in the area of operations as hostile units are systematically destroyed and order is restored under Singaporean command.

Observers should note that SAF vehicles taking part in NDP 2010 form only a small part of the armoured and soft skin vehicles that serve Singaporean soldiers, sailors and airmen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An Open Letter

Eight is supposed to be a lucky number, but people who served or worked with Commander Eight would beg to differ.

As Eight gives way to Nine, we should look forward to seeing the directorate reclaim lost ground and missed opportunities.

Initial signs are promising, if signals picked up from the protocol introduction on Monday morning are anything to go by.

The female staff officers – women being genetically hard-wired the way they are – reacted predictably to a boyish face in the room. *sigh*

Cynics in the room, tempered by three years of uninspiring leadership, looked beyond the obvious and studied Commander Nine’s credentials with keen interest.

The recent overseas operational deployment counts in Nine’s favour. Same goes for positive feedback on his people management skills in his previous commands.

Discrete checks were made all the way from OCS, 2 SIR, 1 SIR, 3 SIB and so on. You get the picture.

After the sour experience with Eight, prudence dictates that the intelligence preparation of the battlefield should be thorough. That said, it is generally agreed that the initial prognosis is good.

Coming close on the heels of the addition of PGBN as DD, Commander Nine’s arrival would mean a wholesale leadership renewal once Nine formally becomes Niner Niner. The concern over PGBN is his close association with Eight from previous projects. So developments are being closely watched. The attitude of Eight’s cronies have come under the spotlight too, for some time now I might add, because what I discern as self-serving behaviour has damaged C2D.

In my opinion, three groups of stakeholders need to be addressed.

First, the people under Nine’s command.

Those in the defence information management (DIM) network would know they have been long suffering. Many have quit, more will do so in the coming weeks including SOs like WY.

Those that remain are sceptical but eager for change. They will serve with distinction - if given the opportunity and the latitude to do their jobs as professionals.

Second, the wider network of stakeholders.

Reputations have been damaged by the poison well strategy beloved by Eight. In my opinion, it’s his trademark.

And when a Service chief gets dragged into petty office politics by Eight, there will be repercussions that the directorate will have to bear.

To be sure, I draw comfort from the fact that the System isn’t stupid. And from knowing that our Generals do not have flimsy reputations that are easily dented.

Indeed, interest in the directorate has spread beyond Level 5, let’s just put it at that.

Despite acidic memos, the System has recognised that SOs tasked with DIM had the wider interest at heart when initiating certain outreach efforts.

I have learnt more about DIM in the past year than I have in my previous career as a 90 cents typist. I am assured that the land, sea, air and Joint Services would have stepped forward to assume command resolutely had Eight dropped the ball. I won’t go into specifics as this concerns operational matters, but those of you who have stirred coffee with me will know what I mean.

It suffices to say that our DIM network is larger, more established and robust than the obvious stuff listed in the government directory.

Looking ahead, the Services will need assurance that the petty antics are personality-specific and not a result of the directorate’s approach to doing business. So fence-mending is in order.

Third, the media.

Again, this touches on operational matters so I won’t go in depth besides skimming the surface.

As the Shangri-La Dialogue approach to consensus-building has been praised by many, Commander Nine should consider doing the same.

The abang-adik (big brother-small brother) relationship where imperial edicts were shoved down typists' throats has not gone down well, especially with senior editors who do not like to be told how they should run their show.

Commander Eight is widely seen as a problematic newsmaker. This is not the kind of moniker one should inherit, but the reality is Nine risks being tainted with the same brush.

If you need more proof of this, please do a straw poll on Friday 23 July'10 and study the responses you collect. This is the wreckage Eight will leave behind.

In short, the code DTKM may not mean much to you.

But for those of us who have been keeping an eye on things, these four letters spell hope.

One hopes Nine will not approach Public Affairs matters with the same high-handed vindictiveness as his predecessor. Because if Nine decides to open fire, we will respond, gun for gun.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Akan Datang: An Open Letter

An open letter ahead of the leadership change. Please look out for it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

National Day Parade 2010: 4th Combined Rehearsal

Counting from 1 MID to the vehicle with the biggest MID number plate in my note book, I'm quite sure that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has several thousand A and B-vehicles in its inventory. Add Home Team vehicles and that number would swell even more.

Of these thousands, only 210 have been picked for the National Day Parade 2010 Mobile Column.

This moving display that takes place once every five years will show Singaporeans the capabilities that their armed forces, police and civil defence force can call upon to defend the Lion City. About 40 per cent of the 90-plus different vehicle types that make up the Mobile Column are new. Their inclusion in NDP 2010 will speak volumes about the SAF and Home Team's readiness and ability to carry out their assigned missions.

The 900 SAF and Home Team personnel who crew these vehicles would not have been chosen if their officers are not confident they can pull off a good show. NDP will unfold in front of an audience of millions of people and that's not the arena for sloppy showmanship.

Apart from the actual parade on 9 August 2010, the Combined Rehearsals NDP participants have been enduring since four Saturdays ago put them in full view of Singaporeans who expect a high standard of showmanship and panache.

Yesterday at CR4, Mobile Column participants got a taste of things to come when they drove past thousands of hysterical primary school children cheering themselves hoarse.

To CR4 spectators and those at last Saturday's CR3, made up mainly of NDP 2010 family members and friends who are more likely to forgive cock ups, the Mobile Column's "rehearsal" in anything but a formal run through of the actual parade sequence. Spectators invited for these previews treat the event as an actual show and expect a tip-top performance.

To be fair, none of the Mobile Column participants are entertainers. That said, their ability to show that they can stick to rigid timesheets or improvise on the spot when a vehicle breaks down is a telling indicator of how well they may perform during an actual operation.

If, for example, a vehicle crew cannot show up on time to take its place in the Mobile Column as the vehicles form up, would you really rely on this crew during operations? What if they also show up late during a hostage rescue mission?

When one considers that the NDP 2010 Executive Committee only had CR1 and CR2 to work with before the spectators stands filled up from CR3 onwards, you will sense the amount of pressure the Exco has to bear as 9 August draws ever closer.

Rehearsals in front of a "live" audience are very different from driving past a mock Padang in Tuas or driving past empty spectator stands during CR1 and CR2.

As spectators cheer on Mobile Column participants and as spectator galleries sparkle with thousands of camera flashes, many Mobile Column participants will get a sense of the intense buzz they will create on Singapore's 45th National Day.

The NDP rehearsals will take claim many Saturdays, but no one can take away the sense of pride and achievement that NDP participants inevitably feel when they respond to the curtain call on 9 August.

1. Plans to include HIMARS were dropped after CR1.
2. The Terrex Command Post which had a blanking plate in place of the main armament was dropped after CR3.
3. The vanilla Leopard 2A4s that took part in earlier rehearsals will not appear at NDP 2010.
4. Two more photos have been added to the CR3 commentary. Please click here. Many thanks to the RSAF personnel who suggested adding these. :-)

The First Mobile Column: 9 August 1969

Lieutenant-Colonel Seah Peng Yong, a retired Singapore Army Armour officer, tells in his own words what it felt like leading 18 AMX-13 light tanks at the first Mobile Column on 9 August 1969.

It would be nice if the senior officer in command of the Leopard 2A4s could also pen his thoughts on what it feels like leading main battle tanks for the first time at NDP 2010.

NDP 2010 Mobile Column participants - many of whom weren't born in 1969 - should be able to relate to the NDP preparations in 1969. Decades may separate both Mobile Columns, but the amount of hard work, dedication and burnt weekends needed to bring off a polished show have not diminished over time.

The first NDP Mobile Column contingent commander, LTC Seah recalled: "It was obvious that, since we had just acquired the tanks and were the first in our region to have such vehicles, we should prudently display the hardware.

"I was anxious and eager to move. Our engines were running and ready to go. It was a great feeling passing the City Hall.

"The expressions on the faces of the spectators were a tremendous sight to behold. There were expressions of awe, pride and admiration as we rolled past. It was the greatest moment of my career.

"Although I had prepared contingents of the People's Defence Force for the very first National Day Parade in 1966, it could not match the feeling [of being part of] the Mobile Column display [in 1969]."

Preparations for the first Mobile Column had to be done from scratch as this was the first Mobile Column. Army officers had no SOP or template to learn from.

The lack of time and space to train were two concerns that Singapore Army officers had to address, as were concerns from bureaucrats that the AMX-13s might damage public infrastructure. As the AMX-13s did not have rubber tracks, a place had to be found where the tanks could rehearse without tearing up a public road.

"[The tank crews] had just finished intensive training. The tanks had to be prepared mechanically for the performance and painted for presentation to the public," LTC Seah said.

"There was also hardly any suitable area for formation driving for fear of road damage, as the tanks had no rubber padding on their tracks. The only place available was the old Kallang Airport runway.

"There was also one thing which I had very much liked to do and that was to traverse and dip our main guns in salute in front of City Hall. However, I decided against it as we had insufficient time to practise."

In the run up to NDP 1969, government bureaucrats felt that special preparations along the roads leading to City Hall had to be done to allow the tanks to manoeuvre with damaging public property.

LTC Seah disagreed. He knew his tankees had the driving skills to manoeuvre the vehicles with care along city roads.

"[Some officials] insisted that road dividers and certain traffic lights along the route to the City Hall be removed. I strongly opposed this as I felt that we were all competent in manoeuvring around the obstacles. Needless to say, the responsibility was therefore shouldered by me."

Source of oral history: The Singapore Army Museum.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Akan Datang: The First Mobile Column

Coming soon on Senang Diri: A former Singapore Armed Forces Armour officer shares his story on the first Mobile Column, how his men felt and the drill he wanted to perform while saluting but didn't get to do so (please see picture below for the hint).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Welcome Home: RSAF Seahawks

First “stealth” fighters. Now “stealth” helos.

Singapore’s S-70B Seahawks have arrived but you won’t catch word of this in the traditional media.

Plane spotters around the city state have already caught one Seahawk in Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) warpaint. As many as three RSAF Seahawks may already be here. Please click here.

Their arrival marked a milestone for Singapore as Seahawks are a new capability for the RSAF. This makes their presence a newsworthy event, to use journalistic parlance.

During operations, each of the RSAF’s six Seahawks will head to sea aboard a Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Formidable-class stealth frigate (a real capability this time, not a poor pun). Armed with Whitehead anti-submarine torpedoes and a sub-hunting dipping sonar, the Seahawks add to the heavy missile armament of the Navy’s stealth frigate squadron. Seahawks allow RSN Principal Warfare Officers to exploit the long reach of the Harpoons by providing these missiles with updates on targets that lurk over the radar horizon.

Between them, the six Formidable-class ships can defend Singapore's maritime trade routes with more than 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles – not counting the embarked Aster SAMs. It is also worth reading up about Penguin anti-ship missiles.  :-)

Alas, not a word has been released by the defence information management system on Seahawks in Singaporean skies. Not a squeak.

This is similar to the arrival of the “stealth” fighters, the F-15SG Strike Eagles. Days passed before the media circus was held. By then, a historic moment had passed and that night’s television news didn’t even carry the F-15SG news item.

One hopes that the publicity plan at my favourite directorate will promote the Seahawks… eventually.

The value of such publicity will address a nagging - albeit largely unspoken - feeling among the RSAF’s rotary-wing community that a career piloting helicopters is somehow less appealing/rewarding than one with fast jets. Chopper pilots are seen as those who did not make the cut for fast jets.

The RSAF Seahawks naval helos and Apache attack helos are game changers. Some pilot trainees will venture into these war machines by choice, not because they were chopped from fast jets.

In all fairness, the RSAF does try to buff up the appeal of the rotary-wing community.

Advertisements in MRT stations and at bus interchanges attest to this effort.

But how many teenage pilot wannabes will notice the RSAF recruitment posters, especially after a long journey aboard an MRT train plastered with ads for the world’s thinnest condoms? Alas, with that image burnt into their retinas, I think many teenage boys will have other things on their minds when they stagger off the trains.

Against such stiff competition, the RSAF should not discount the wow factor and that special moment when prospective pilot trainees spot a new RSAF fighter jet or naval helicopter.

I am sure many of you have read accounts by pilots who shared what made them decide on a career in military aviation.

For some, that special moment may have taken place at an air show or after a riveting air display by the Black Knights or Flying Tigers (F-5E aerobatics team). In many cases, the pilots were young children and the displays they saw left a lasting impression.

Had word gone out in a media statement that Seahawks have arrived, it would have certainly created a buzz among plane spotters and aviation-minded Singaporeans to look out for these birds.

RSAF fans: European plane spotters cram the short finals flight path at a French airbase to welcome RSAF F-16D+ during the recent Exercise Garuda in June 2010. This is a sight you're unlikely to see in Singapore as plane spotting is barely tolerated outside RSAF airbases. 

Among this lot are that handful of pilot candidates the RSAF is looking for.

By failing to do so, the Defence Ministry's Public Affairs (PAFF) directorate has essentially surrendered the initiative in defence information management to netizens and social media.

Plane spotters thus become de facto spokespersons when they relate when and where they saw the Seahawks. They may not always get their observations correct and may not propagate the image that the RSAF/RSN would like Singaporeans to hear. This means PAFF must play catch up when its version of events is released.

By the time PAFF creaks into action, the Seahawk announcement would rank as old news *yawns* and a golden PR opportunity becomes a lost PR event.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NSF detained under Internal Security Act

This afternoon, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) reflected on the arrest of full-time National Serviceman Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid, 20, under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Fault lines between racial and religious groups in Singapore are weaknesses that parties with a hidden agenda will strive to exploit.

After the spate of Confrontation bombings in the 1960s, Singaporeans have yet to experience the heartbreak when terrorist acts committed on their own soil reap a death toll regardless of race, social standing or political leanings.

Many societies that have paid this lesson in blood and tears have awakened to the fact that the terrorist threat is real.

I hope this city state will never have to answer that wake-up call. But when it does, will it be for you?

Title : S'porean detained under ISA, 2 others on Restriction Order

By: Mustafa Shafawi
Date : 06 July 2010 1614 hrs (SST)


SINGAPORE : A 20-year-old Singaporean Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid has been detained for two years under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said he is a full-time national serviceman in the SAF.

He had begun avidly surfing the Internet in search of jihadist propaganda and videos when he was studying in a local polytechnic. He eventually did not complete his studies.

Over time, he became deeply radicalised by the lectures of radical ideologues such as Anwar al-Awlaki and Sheikh Feiz Muhammad.

He became convinced that it was his religious duty to undertake armed jihad alongside fellow militants and strive for martyrdom.

Muhammad Fadil subsequently initiated online communication with Anwar al- Awlaki. He expressed his desire to fight alongside Anwar al-Awlaki.

Muhammad Fadil also expressed his interest in travelling to places like Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan to undertake militant jihad.

He also made online contact with a suspected Al-Qaeda recruiter who encouraged him to fight in Afghanistan.

To undertake militant jihad overseas, he went online in search of information on bomb-making, and produced and posted a video glorifying martyrdom and justifying suicide bombing.

Muhammad Fadil was detained under the ISA on April 4.

In response to media queries, MHA said Muhammad Fadil did not undertake nor did he have any plans to undertake jihad-related activities in Singapore.

His intentions were to pursue such activities overseas in places like Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq.

MHA said two other Singaporeans were placed on Restriction Orders (RO) for two years from June 23.

One of them is 44-year-old Muhammad Anwar Jailani, an unaccredited religious teacher.

He had distributed to his students, contacts and the general public numerous copies of CDs containing audio recordings of Anwar al-Awlaki's lectures, which called on Muslims to undertake militant jihad against non-Muslims and other "enemies" of Islam.

The other is 27-year-old Muhammad Thahir Shaik Dawood.

He runs a small business and is one of Muhammad Anwar's students who became radicalised mainly through his influence.

Muhammad Thahir had travelled to Yemen to enrol in an educational institution run by an associate of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.

He also sought out Anwar al-Awlaki and other radicals with a view to participating in armed jihad overseas if the opportunity presented itself.

While in Yemen, he began to have doubts about undertaking armed jihad, and came round to the view that there were other ways of doing jihad like pursuing knowledge and performing good deeds.

He also withdrew from the Yemeni educational institution.

He was investigated by ISD after his return from Yemen.

MHA also said that a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Ibrahim Mohd Noor, was released on a Suspension Direction (SD) on June 1.

Ibrahim fled Singapore in December 2001 following the arrests of Singapore JI members in ISD's security operation.

He was a trained operative who had conducted terrorist reconnaissance against local establishments in Singapore to prepare for JI's terrorist operations.

Ibrahim was arrested and detained under the ISA in Apr 2007 following a joint operation with a regional security agency.

MHA said he had cooperated in investigations and shown significant progress in his rehabilitation.

He was assessed to no longer pose a security threat that required preventive detention.

In its response to media queries, Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said the detention of NSF Muhammad Fadil Abdul Hamid under the ISA is a case of an individual who took the wrong path.

It said Muhammad Fadil was an NSF trainee undergoing section leader training in Pasir Laba Camp at the point of his arrest.

He attended but did not complete polytechnic prior to his enlistment for NS in September 2009.

MINDEF also said there are appropriate security processes and systems at the national level to monitor and guard against potential security threats.

The SAF is part of this national system.

MINDEF said it will continue to maintain a high degree of vigilance against any potential threats that may surface. - CNA 

News Update

Watch tonight's news.

Monday, July 5, 2010

99001 MID

The big shots once courted this Terrex AV81 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV).

This Terrex was the star at the Army Open House 2009 at Pasir Laba Camp. Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Mr Teo Chee Hean unveiled this IFV as the first of a new breed of Singapore Army war machines. Thousands of AOH 2009 visitors boarded her for a close look at Singapore's first Terrex. You may have done so too.

But at last Saturday's CR3, Terrex 99001 MID did not have the honour of joining the Mobile Column drive past. Instead, she was left by the roadside as a “spare”.

Terrex 99001 MID is a Command Post variant of the Terrex family of IFVs, made in Singapore by Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK).

She wields information as a weapon. She collects battlefield information from sources such as unmanned sensors planted by Singapore Army intelligence scouts or air force drones to detect, hunt and kill her opponents. Even though the CP Terrex is one of the most deadly variants, it may seem ironic that 99001 MID has no overhead weapon station and defends herself using the small arms of her crew.

No weapon station means that 99001 MID does not have to carry thousands of rounds of machine gun or grenade launcher ammunition within her armoured hull. Relieved of this burden, Singapore Army warfighters and STK defence engineers have tailored the Command Post Terrex as an eight-wheeled battlefield computer - a rugged, air-transportable and amphibious war machine that gives Singapore Army infantrymen a clearer sense of their battlespace from afar.

The lack of any obvious offensive firepower is perhaps the reason why 99001 MID was dropped from the Mobile Column’s line up.

Casual observers might reasonably conclude that this Terrex IFV looks benign, unarmed and unable to defend herself.

Herein lies the challenge of underlining what the Third Generation Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) can do and the decisive advantage that information brings to firefights.

People looking at the NDP Mobile Column must be taught that the 3rd Gen SAF’s firepower comprises more than the gun barrels, missile or rocket tubes aboard vehicles with MID numberplates.

In the case of 99001 MID, this Command Post presents information to infantry as electronic maps which show the positions of friendly forces and known hostile units, as SMS text message alerts or video images that indicate what’s beyond the next hill or next street - all in real-time.

This is the Battlefield Management System or BMS, which is a locally-developed network of ruggedised computers and electronic sensors that tech-savvy SAF warfighters use to see first, see more, decide faster and act decisively.

It is a cliché that today’s better-educated, tech-savvy SMS generation of full-time National Servicemen are handling with ease.

Armed with a sharper sense of their battlespace, Singapore Army infantry learn how to engage and destroy opposing forces more speedily and with greater precision (and thus less collateral damage) than previously possible in pre-BMS days.

During SAF war games, the Singapore Army has demonstrated the value of a networked division that can see well above and beyond the enemy’s FEBA.

With a keener sense of the action, vehicles such as 99001 MID have proven that ample firepower is nothing without control.

Terrex 99001 MID may seem like an easy kill with no obvious weapons with which to return enemy fire.

But the IFV does not fight alone.

And Singapore Army CP vehicles, whether tracked or wheeled, won’t fight without a disguise during operations either :-)

A word of thanks to the Spare Vehicle convoy and unsung heroes, the SAF vehicle mechanics who keep the A and B-vehicles in tip-top form. Week after week, you all standby for action knowing full well you may not be called to take part in the drive past. The role you serve is vital in keeping the Mobile Column mission-ready and the spirit you've all demonstrated is commendable.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

National Day Parade 2010: 3rd Combined Rehearsal

Loyalty to country

Flag bearers: Singapore Army full-time National Servicemen, Lance Corporal Hidayat (right), 19, and Private Koh Si Kai (left), 20, both from Combat Service Support Command, dress their scout jeep's radio antenna with a Singapore flag. The two years of National Service is a rite of passage for Singaporean teenagers which gives them the opportunity to mature and meet other Singaporeans from all walks of life.


In command: Captain Ng from the Singapore Combat Engineers conducts an after-action review with his men. Such debriefs allow Mobile Column participants to hear higher command's feedback and their mission intent. This is crucial as National Day Parade (NDP) Combined Rehearsals always - repeat always - result in changes to the format and timing of the show as the vetting process gets underway.

Military cops: Motorbikes from the SAF Military Police Command mass along Nicoll Highway. (Image taken during CR4)

Traffic management is just one of the critical roles that MP Command performs in peacetime and during operations.

MPs stationed at critical road junctions and river crossing points help maintain the pace of advance against hostile forces by ensuring proper march discipline of SAF units. The age-old job of MPs which calls for them to provide directions in unfamiliar territory is reduced as the SAF fields more satellie navigation systems in its teeth arms and support units.


A helping hand: Singapore Army Guardsman Lance Corporal Md Haikal, 20, gives a pedestrian directions as foot traffic is held up by the Mobile Column during CR3.

NSFs like LCP Haikal are responsible for upholding the image of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), especially when they are deployed for duty during high-profile events like NDP. Their attitude, bearing and the manner in which they interact with the public can make or break the SAF's image.

Fighting spirit

Advance & Overcome: The SAF's advantage in cutting-edge military hardware will count for nought if it lacks the commitment of Singapore's citizen soldiers to take up arms when their country is threatened.

Though Singaporeans are champion grumblers, Singaporean society has proven surprisingly resilient when the occasion demands. A case in point is how Singaporeans closed ranks and opened their wallets to support post-tsunami recovery efforts.

And while NSFs and operationally-ready NSmen may grumble about their NS commitments, when push comes to shove, many do step forward willingly. Most Singaporeans are street-wise enough to know that if they do not defend themselves, nobody else will.


At NDP Combined Rehearsals, Mobile Column participants can rely on road marshals for guidance, direction and convoy movement advice.

But in many military situations in peacetime, during times of troubled peace and especially in war, SAF servicemen and servicewomen must rely on their own judgement and moral compass to do what is "right".

The training that NSFs undergo from day one of their Basic Military Training nudges them towards a high standard of personal conduct and prepares them for leadership positions, be it at officer or specialist level.

Care for soldiers

Life First: The SAF has a mission-ready casualty management system for handling battlefield casualties. The SAF Medical Corps' triage system is supported by the Army's armoured ambulances (seen here) that will whisk casualties to safety under hostile fire.

Singapore's warfighters are backstopped by Republic of Singapore Air Force planes and helicopters that can be reconfigured for Casevac duty and Republic of Singapore Navy ships - principally requisitioned merchant vessels - fitted as hospital ships. 

The studs on the Bronco's ambulance are attachment points for additional armour. I have only seen a Bronco fully-fiited with add-on armour once - during the Bronco roll-out ceremony at Singapore Technologies Kinetics. To this day I regret not taking a picture of the vehicle. :-( 

Terrex infantry fighting vehicles assemble for the CR4 Mobile Column rehearsal under the watchful eyes of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) safety officers and WOSEs (Warrant Officers/Speciaists).

The safety vehicle is one of the most "powerful" support vehicles because it can literally stop the column in its tracks if it spots safety infringements.

The SAF, as an organisation with many moving parts, places heavy emphasis on training and operational safety. It recognises strong safety awareness and a safe work culture as precursors to the SAF's ability to get the job done right and with maximum effect.[Many thanks to personnel of safety vehicle xxx56 MID]

Team Excellence
The 210 vehicles that make up the NDP 2010 Mobile Column are backed up by a supporting cast of Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team personnel, many of whom NDP spectators will not get to see because their duty post is far from the Padang.

Road marshals like Lance Corporal Danny Low (centre), 21, Specialist Cadets Frewain John (left), 21, and Noel Manasseh, 19, are integral to the Mobile Column's success. They help the vehicles form up in the correct march order and keep the Mobile Column in sync with the parade time sheet.

The success of the Mobile Column depends heavily on the collective contributions of many individuals. Team Excellence is achieved when the net effect of the group working together in unison exceeds the sum of individual efforts.

Friday, July 2, 2010

NDP 2010: The Velites

The Velites were light infantry who fought alongside Roman legions thousands of years ago.

These combatants came to mind when I saw the Guard-of-Honour (GOH) contingents march towards the Padang for CR2 last Saturday.

Here are Commandos from the 1st Commando Battalion marching in step.

As the Commandos filed by, they were followed closely by another bunch of assorted auxiliaries or skirmishers...

... known during Roman times as the Velites.

I don't know their role but I'm guessing this is the fatigue party tasked to pick up blank cartridges after the feu-de-joie (fire of joy). If that's the case, can't they make their own way to the Padang rather than tailing the smartly-attired GOH contingents?

The Velites are the last GOH "contingent" spectators see and their riff raff appearance detracts from the pomp and ceremony and the air of formality that the leading GOH contingents radiate.