Saturday, August 6, 2011

Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen's first press call at military exercise: More creativity needed in MINDEF/SAF defence media relations

Same old, same old: 2 August 2011, Pulau Sudong

1 August 2003, Pulau Sudong

Eight years after storming the hell out of a beach on Pulau Sudong, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) were at it yet again on Tuesday (2 August 2011).

War games were staged on the island off Singapore for the new Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, to make his first press call at an SAF exercise.

It was an impressive setting as the exercise was about as tri-Service as one could ask for. Army, navy and air force elements were conveniently composed in one frame, with the action suggesting the brown water power projection capabilities of Singapore's war machine.

Though the SAF has made great strides in its people, war fighting concepts and defence technology, the media plan for Dr Ng seemed disappointingly faintly similar to the one rolled out for former Defence Minister, Teo Chee Hean when he made his first press call. Mr Teo is now Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs.

On 1 August 2003, the Singaporean media was invited to the same beach to watch the same landing sequence, albeit without attack helicopter support as our Apaches were then still with Peace Vanguard in the United States.

Rather than repeat what defence watchers have seen before, Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) spin doctors should have used the opportunity to showcase a new, improved and more lethal SAF.

A strong deterrent message could have been sent to the Malaysians Indonesians Taliban potential threats with a command post exercise that integrated manoeuvre elements at one location in Singapore with live-fire elements say at the SAFTI Live Firing Area and aerial support over the Delta areas in the South China Sea.

If one wanted to be more ambitious, the manoeuvre elements could be tracked during an overseas exercise with the live-fire elements on another continent.

The amount of C2 and coordination such an enterprise demands would speak volumes of the SAF's defence readiness.

It would also offer shutter bugs from the mainstream media a new setting rather than having them capture how Sudong's treeline has aged in the past eight years.

It is infinitely easier to run the same PR gig all over again. But defence watchers on the Singapore desk in regional countries who are trained to pick out trends and highlight capability developments would surely notice the rehashed camera angles and talking points.

The deterrent effect is blunted further when informed observers realise that the beach landing tactics are little changed from WW2 amphibious landing tactics.

Watching the Sudong beach landing sequence, Singaporeans who recall the opening scenes of the block buster Saving Private Ryan might be horrified at the thought of impending casualties when they are supposed to feel reassured at the vigilance of our men and women in uniform.

Imagine then what foreign defence observers might think.


Anonymous said...

Boat wouldn't even make it to shore. The boat man would be the first to get shot! :D

Wayang only.

Anonymous said...

If it worked before, repeat. Don't rock the boat.

Anonymous said...

Should have seen the videos. The gunner on the Fast Craft seemed like he was shooting across the bow of the other Fast craft

Anyway they landed some M113 APCs first followed by infantry

Spotter@Milnuts said...

"Never change a winning formula" seems to prevail here. The RSAF Open House flying display and the National Day parade has become so damn predictable.....If this extends to military exercises as well then "I don't know what to say" [switch to high pitch and stomping feet effect] !!

Anonymous said...

Were opposing forces told to face the opposite direction? yawnnn...

Anonymous said...

It's not like there are 101 ways to secure a beach head. Ask the US marines or the UK Royal Marine Commandos.

I think SAF is practicing their SOP with more regards to Air-Sea-Land coordination lah. The earlier batch of officers and men who wayang for the previous minister all ROD/ORD liao.

So these new batch of conscripts get to do it all over again using the same script written in June 6, 1944 ...die lah ! ;-))

Anonymous said...

To put on a better show, SAF could have launched the fastcraft (carrying Leopard 2SGs and Bionixs) from our Endurance LSTs. But they have been staging these types of "invasions" since the 1980's.
Truthfully speaking, we're better wired for modern warfare now (compared to 2003) such as BMS, better fire control systems etc. But it's hard to show these, unless you report from the command centre or from within the vehicles.