Monday, January 31, 2011

Singapore Armed Forces Training Safety Audit: SAF Deaths from 2001 to 2010

(This is the first of a two part instalment. Part 2 will examine accident trends from 2001 to 2010 ranked by Service and trigger points for SAF training halts.)

Achieving zero training fatalities in a year is well within the reach of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

The SAF had a fatality-free year in 2010. This record is unprecedented and remarkable in view of the high tempo of training activities and operational deployments in Singapore and abroad.

Anyone who thinks the record year for training safety is not a big deal should mull over SAF death statistics since 1967. In every year since universal conscription began, at least one Singaporean family has mourned the loss of its son or daughter.

The year 2010 broke the trend, giving the SAF its safest year in 43 years.

Alas, the 401-day fatality-free window from November 2009 closed early last Friday when signal operator Lance Corporal Wee Yong Choon Eugin was killed by a reversing Unimog.

In a statement, the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said LCP Wee was about to unload stores from the back of the truck when it reversed into him.

Going by accident statistics, three more SAF servicemen could die in training accidents before the year is over.

Media reports on LCP Wee's death make for sorry reading because one wonders if the SAF has really learned the lesson from 3 July 2009 when Second Lieutenant Nicholas Chan Wei Kit was killed by a reversing Land Rover.

It also raises a poser whether the decision to outsource training of Singapore Army drivers is a wise one. Have standards been maintained? Are the cost savings worth the lives lost?

Is is troubling to see the SAF - an organisation that prides itself as a Learning Army - relearn lessons from the past and reopen old wounds in families that have grieved for their lost sons/daughters. I know of a father who tells me he cries whenever he reads about SAF training deaths because the news will trigger a flood of memories of his lost son. I am sure he isn't alone.

One argument states that the best processes and systems in the world, which the SAF purportedly possesses, cannot hedge against human error or complacency. That is true.

But what is command guidance and higher leadership all about if not to guide and remind errant servicemen of their obligation to training safety, and preempt situations where SAF servicemen might take risks or flirt with danger?

If human error is at fault, so too is higher leadership in LCP Wee's C4I battalion for gross failure to remind and reinforce safety messages.

I can see where the official MINDEF/SAF investigation will lead to. Going by established procedure, the Wee family is likely to come under close scrutiny when they go to Jurong Camp to collect his belongings. Reports are likely to be submitted by the Special Investigation Branch, with tell tale signs of anger or aggression by the Wees jotted down in painstaking detail.

The banner year for SAF training safety was not without incident as we had several near misses that could have had catastrophic consequences.

If that Thai farmer had used shells with a bigger gauge than birdshot, he would have blown the head off an SAF Commando.

If Redhawk 69 was several flight levels higher, the Apache attack helicopter's off engine autorotation might have had disastrous results.

If the group of Officer Cadets had huddled a tad closer to the thunderbolt on that Marsiling Hill, six mums would have lost their sons.

There were big near misses in previous years too, including one said to have involved a submarine. If you know, you know.

One would hope MINDEF/SAF has paid heed to these near misses.

To be sure, even if SAF servicemen are 100 per cent safety conscious, elements such as the weather (aka Acts of God) and mechanical issues make training safety a constant challenge.

In the job I am in, probability and statistics play a key role in the business. This is why I felt worried for the SAF the longer its fatality-free record stretched in 2010. Sooner or later, the odds would catch up. And they finally have.

The record of SAF deaths for ten years between 2001 and 2010 is a pottered record of safety lapses and human failure in one of the most modern armed forces in Southeast Asia.

In the decade just past, 42 servicemen and women died serving their country.

Friday proved the deadliest day for the SAF. Why? I have no ready answer. From 2001 to 2010, 14 SAF servicemen died on a Friday. Could the promise of a weekend out of camp make SAF personnel let their guard down on the last day of a work week? By a cruel twist of fate, the deaths due to reversing vehicles both took place on a Friday.

After Fatal Friday, the second deadliest day was Wednesday. The mid-week menace claimed nine lives during the period.

As Saturday is book out day for the majority of SAF personnel, you probably will not be surprised by its record as the safest day last decade. Naval rating LCP Mar Teng Fong, 20, was the only servicemen to die on a Saturday although technically speaking, he died in hospital from injuries sustained the previous Wednesday aboard his tank landing ship.

June proved the deadliest month with eight deaths from 2001 to 2010 while May came a close second with seven fatalities. The safest months? February, March, August and December were tied with one death each during the past decade.

As January rolls into February, I urge all ranks to mull over safety issues and keep this uppermost in their minds.

SAF commanders especially must step up and take the lead in keeping safety awareness strong.

The record of SAF training deaths is a file I have not touched for more than a year, until last Friday. With safety a watchword, I am hopeful the file can stay dormant for as long as possible.

RIP LCP Eugin Wee.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

First SAF training casualty for 2011: Update

I found it hard to read this without feeling moved. Please click here.

Seems from the first picture in the masthead that he had visited Universal Studios Singapore because the picture was taken outside Friar's in Far Far Away.


Friday, January 28, 2011

First SAF training death for 2011

The longest fatality-free period enjoyed by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) ended today with the death of Lance Corporal Wee Yong Choon Eugin.

It is deeply disturbing to learn that the SAF has to learn the hard way that reversing vehicles with a blind spot always need a marshal.

Also, the news release should contain the age of the deceased serviceman.

My heart goes out to his family. You can only imagine how they will feel with Chinese New Year around the corner.

Death of Full-Time National Serviceman

Source: Singapore Ministry of Defence
Posted: 28 Jan 2011, 1250 hours (Time is GMT +8 hours)

A full-time National Serviceman (NSF), Lance Corporal (LCP) Wee Yong Choon Eugin, a Signal Operator, was hit by a truck driven by another serviceman in Jurong Camp 1 at about 7.00am on 28 Jan 2011. LCP Wee was about to unload stores from the back of the truck when it reversed into him.

A Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) medic attended to LCP Wee immediately. At 7.05am, an ambulance was activated to evacuate LCP Wee to the National University Hospital (NUH). He was sent to the hospital at 7.15am and arrived at NUH at about 7.45am. LCP Wee was pronounced dead at 7.59am.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF extend their deepest condolences to the family of the late LCP Wee. MINDEF is assisting the family in their time of grief and is investigating the incident.

Last updated on 28 Jan 2011
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

RSAF leadership succession plan

(Please take part in the latest poll. Thanx)

If leadership renewal in Singapore's air force rolls out according to plan, we could one day see an officer without pilot wings leading Southeast Asia's largest air force.

When that day arrives, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) may have to deal with perception issues from an internal and external audience.

Defence watchers may realise that a half-baked publicity plan may dent the RSAF's image as an air force to be reckoned with and, in the larger scheme of things, the SAF's value as a hedge against aggression.

For an internal audience, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) should expect a replay of sentiments expressed when a non-flier assumed command of Singapore's largest fighter air base some years ago.

The tenure of that base commander proved successful. But the tour of duty was not without gossip from some quarters who asked if someone who could not fly could command a fighter base in peace and war.

Managing perceptions of an internal audience means taking into account how the Singapore Army and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) will view the leadership renewal.

It does nothing for the RSAF's deterrent edge if the buzz within the SAF's three Services centres on the candidate's ability (or should we say inability) to pilot a warplane, rather than his domain knowledge, leadership qualities and strategic vision as Chief of Air Force (CAF).

In some RSAF flying squadrons like 111 SQN, the Commanding Officer's chair (CO) has been previously filled by non pilots. One should remember that the RSAF has more non-flying squadrons than those with aircraft and many outstanding RSAF officers have led frontline and support units without clocking a single minute as pilot-in-command.

For as long as manned platforms such as F-15SG Strike Eagles and Apache attack helicopters form the sharp end of the Air Force, warfighters will expect HQ RSAF to be led and staffed by a core of aviators who understand the platforms, warfighting concepts and technology.

Any deviation from such expectations must be managed astutely, preferably long before the said candidate assumes the mantle of responsibility. It does nothing for confidence within the Air Force if a future CAF is viewed more as an administrator rather than a warfighter well grounded in the theory and application of the concepts of air power doctrine.

In my opinion, an ill-advised form of damage control would take the form of a public relations exercise where the non pilot takes to the skies as a backseater. In a best case scenario, this PR photocall becomes a joyride. In a worst case scenario, the backseater could end up airsick - thus making the PR exercise a joke and providing more gossip for wagging tongues.

As the Third Generation RSAF fights as a networked force, steps should be taken to ensure all ranks understand and accept how Singapore would wield its airpower.

Gone are the days where the fledgling Singapore Air Defence Command (SADC) defended Singapore island with long range Bloodhound SAMs and Hawker Hunter day fighters, guided by GCI till the radar operator called Mixed Blips and a furball ensued.

Today's concept for Mission Air Defence includes Ground-Based Air Defence as well as shipborne assets like Aster SAMs and to a lesser degree, the Baraks aboard the Navy's Missile Corvettes. The sensors and strike assets available in the AFCP demand a leadership with a much broader-based domain knowledge than ever before.

At the same time, higher leadership must be aware of the capabilities and limitations of manned platforms. This is the gap that non pilots may struggle to bridge.

The external audience includes friends and frenemies who will interact with this future CAF.

To be sure, other air forces have appointed non-fliers as air force chiefs. Some navigators, for instance, have risen to the top post in certain air forces.

And if past is prologue, the RSAF will be acutely aware of the need to convince an external audience that the CAF without wings is not a CAF without ability.

Such a task for defence information officers is easier said than done.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Forum Page letter on National Service

The 90 cents newspaper's Forum Page presented the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) with its first action item yesterday.

The letter by Mr Chew Guan Sun is a good example of how parents of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel may react whenever military personnel are involved in an incident and clear information is lacking.

This is evident in Mr Chew's description of the "small incident" during the Basic Military Training Graduation Parade when two recruits allegedly fainted on parade in full view of spectators.

Mr Chew wrote: "During the address by the guest of honour, two recruits fainted. There were some anxious moments for parents as each wondered if it was his or her son."

The takeway from Mr Chew's description would give you an idea how parents of SAF servicemen might react when they read, hear about or witness a military incident (death of serviceman, plane crash etc) and fear the worst. During such situations, the reactions of next of kin would mirror the situation at the BMTC Graduation Parade described in the Forum Page letter.

Parental instincts to fret over their sons underscores why prompt and unambiguous communications is vital during crisis situations. Next of kin must be informed in a timely manner and must not be left to guess or rely on hearsay.

In the age of new media, defence information professionals must realize that MINDEF's information-gathering cycle must move at top speed to remain a credible source of information. The clearance processes inbuilt into a bureaucratic government machinery should not impede or hamper clear and concise messages that the public yearns for during crisis situations.

In the recent past, it was the new media ( which first broke the news that a soldier (Dave Teo) had run away from camp with a rifle.

And it was the community of plane spotters who first released the news flash that a Republic of Singapore Air Force AH-64D Apache attack helicopter had made a forced landing. Please check the earlier postings on this blog.

During operations, especially those conducted overseas in places such as Afghanistan, MINDEF's defence information apparatus may face situations when news agencies work faster than its OODA loop.

Should Singaporeans get wind of developments from online news sites - including those of dubious reliability - MINDEF will have to quickly wrest the initiative to allay concerns on the home front.

As the Forum Page letter shows, an information vacuum (i.e. parents who were unable to see who had fainted) will lead to uncertainty which in turn triggers anxiety and possibly panic.

If managed ineptly, this could erode that magic sentiment called C2D or commitment to defence.

During such situations, the defence information apparatus must ensure it is first with the news.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cyber taunt counters Singapore's stance on information security and WikiLeaks

Singapore’s military muscle has been flaunted in a cyber taunt that shows what lurks behind the fence line of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) installations.

The timing of the blog post on appears to be a snub to warnings by the Singaporean government that it will come down hard on WikiLeaks-type impresarios.

See the cyber taunt for yourself here.

The images posted give bird’s eye views of selected SAF bases used by the Army, Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). The images of these premises, which show the military infrastructure and equipment contained therein, are the stuff of wet dreams for defence buffs.

It is also the best advertisement the SAF can ask for.

Thanks to the images, any viewer who knows nothing about Singapore’s defence would realize that for a tiny city state, Singapore’s military packs quite a punch. Posted on the internet on a (presumably) high traffic site, it reaches eyeballs around the globe, educating those clueless about Singapore’s strategy of deterrence with images that show dormant military might.

No fewer than four RSAF air bases are showcased. KC-135R aerial refueling tankers on the flightline at Changi Air Base (West) suggest the long reach of RSAF warplanes.

The RSN’s Changi Naval Base is neatly presented with haze grey warships tied up alongside its various piers. There are more empty berths pierside than those occupied by warships, suggesting an operational navy with warships on patrol.

And thank goodness for all the fatigue parties and nagging RSMs who roster full-time National Servicemen for mundane tasks like gardening. All the camps look spick and span, with recreational facilities like swimming pools and running tracks making camp complexes look more liveable than rundown districts in some countries.

Contrast this with the SAF post-Independence in 1965. Singapore had no air force, a two-ship navy and just two battalions of infantry.

It will be clear from the cyber taunt that the SAF has grown into a tri-Service fighting force housed in elaborate camp facilities, air and naval bases, plus a plethora of hardened ammo dumps covered by grass-covered knolls paid for by Singaporean tax payers.

Even without Google Earth’s all-seeing eye, security planners must realize the challenges keeping military installations secret in a country with a National Service army. The name and address of SAF camps can be found in literature for Operationally Ready National Servicemen (i.e. reservists), blocks of public housing in Jurong and Hougang give residents a panoramic view of RSAF runways – and a blast of the sound of freedom every time a RSAF warplane roars into the air on full reheat.

What Singapore should keep secret – and this is perhaps the crux of the government’s tough stance on OSA breaches – are the special modifications made to black boxes in military hardware that give SAF war machines that extra edge in battle.

No amount of imagery intelligence can reveal why the RSAF’s F-5 fighters are a cut above the rest, as these supersonic warplanes look almost identical to F-5s flown by regional air arms.

Satellite imagery may photograph SAF munitions depots whenever Indonesian haze doesn’t shroud the Republic’s skies, but no satellite sensor can peer into the depots to spot what lies within.

The blog post on SAF installations reveals the amount of data that people can trawl from satellite images, if they know what they are looking for. Indeed, military forces the world over have been the subject of close attention by netizens and self-appointed imagery analysts on various sites like this one here.

So there's no reason for histrionics just because Singapore's secrets have been supposedly laid bare. Afterall, Google Earth wasn't invented yesterday.

And just as the curious, the cheeky and the scheming rely on satellite imagery to find out more about Singapore’s security apparatus, Singaporeans must likewise leverage on such technology to keep an eye on its neighbourhood.

In some ways, the SAF is already doing so - and has been at it since pre-WikiLeaks days.

The work these professionals perform - out of the limelight and without public recognition - gives tiny Singapore the ability to see above and beyond.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

National Service marches on: Basic Military Training Centre Graduation Parade: Batch No: 04/10

Infantry, Forward!: Singapore's newest citizen soldiers march onto The Float at Marina Bay, with Singapore's city skyline as the backdrop. Singapore's National Service system produces a brigade worth of soldiers every 12 weeks. 

Nineteen-year-old Army officer, Second Lieutenant Ashley Cho, was a bench-warmer the first time citizen soldiers marched at a Graduation Parade at Marina Bay in October 2010.

This morning, it was showtime for 2LT Cho and his men from Platoon 3 of Cougar Company.

The full-time National Serviceman (NSF) and fellow instructors from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Basic Military Training Centre School 1 had reason to be proud as more than five thousand recruits marked the end of their BMT at The Float at Marina Bay.

All four BMTC schools held a combined Graduation Parade for BMT Batch 04/10 - the last batch to enlist for two years of National Service in 2010.

As the 18 Companies marched onto the Float in front of some 18,000 camera-toting loved ones and friends, Singaporeans got to see what a Singapore Army brigade-plus unit looks like in parade order.

The serried ranks of soldiers made an impressive sight, undreamt of in 1967 when the first batch of NSFs joined the fledgling SAF.

Today, Singapore's NS system trains the equivalent of a brigade-plus of soldiers every three months. This renews the SAF and adds to the pool of Singaporeans trained with military, police or civil defence skills. Since NS began in 1967, more than 700,000 Singaporeans have served in uniform.

Admittedly, every NSman walks away with different experiences - not all of them positive. But when it comes to the crunch like the deadly SARS crisis in 2003, the tsunami relief operation in 2004 or other security scares, even cynical Singaporeans know what it is that gives their tiny city state breathing space and peace of mind.

More than just a numbers game, the quality of NSFs is on the rise. More than 60 per cent hold at least a diploma or higher education and this quickens the pace at which the SAF can train its citizens in the art and science of war.

Many of these soldiers will be groomed for leadership appointments as Officers or Specialists, with rank-and-file acquiring specialised know how that allows them to fight in a net-enabled battlespace.

Better quality recruits accelerate the pace of learning. Singapore's Gen Y NSFs of today are generally comfortable and conversant with computer-aided instruction. This has allowed the SAF to roll out its so-called Learnet initiative where self-paced learning allows motivated and fast learners to develop faster.

And many NSFs do excel through basics.

This explains why the occasional stories that pop up in the Singaporean media on shirkers are so news-worthy - because these laggards are the exception rather than the norm in a NS-based Army which has had 44 years of experience to shake things into place.

It will take another four months or so to train a Specialist (i.e. Non-Commissioned Officer) and outstanding recruits will undergo nine months of training as Officer Cadets before they are commissioned as officers.

Training does not stop there. The recruits who completed their BMT this morning will need at least a year of further training as military training becomes increasingly complex and exposes them to the intricacies of the military art at company, battalion, brigade and then division-level.

By the time the soldiers are ready to return to civvie street, these warfighters will be just about ready to practice combined arms operations with the SAF's land, sea and air units.

With Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) cascading down to battalion level as eyes in the sky, today's soldiers need to understand and think of the battlespace in 3-D. Citizen soldiers must grasp operational demands such as airspace deconfliction, which clears air lanes for use by UAVs organic to Singapore Army infantry battalions and fast movers such as Republic of Singapore Air Force Apache helicopters. And while the young commanders view the battlespace as a layered cake with UAVs and RSAF warplanes operating at different flight levels, commanders must also be able to picture how the fall of shot from the Singapore Army's tube and rocket artillery will add to no-fly zones for friendly forces.

At the same time, the soldiers must watch their emcon to prevent tech-savvy hostiles from pinpointing their positions or reading their mail should the hostiles succeed in penetrating the SAF's net-enabled combat units.

Indeed, the SAF's battlespace has become more complex and the soldiers who marched off the Float this morning have much more to learn and practice.

Two years of NS barely covers the basic minimum needed to equip Singapore's citizen soldiers with the knowledge and street smarts to fight and triumph against a conventional adversary.

This is why I hold the opinion that the SAF's best-trained combat and combat service support units are not those currently in active service, but the Operationally Ready NS units that have clocked up about five years of NS in-camp training.

Show of support: Proud parents and friends of the trained BMTC soldiers react spontaneously as some 5,000 Privates toss their caps into the air. 

On a personal note, the BMTC recruits who completed their basic training this morning included several Temasek Polytechnic and Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduates who were attached to my workplace as interns last year.

It was heart-warming to see these eager, energetic polytechnic graduates emerge as soldiers - raspy voiced from all that shouting, tanned and conspicuously stinky after a 24-km overnight route march from Changi to heart of the Lion City.

High spirits: 2LT Ashley Cho (front, second from left) with his men from BMTC School 1, Cougar Company Platoon 3 pose for a group photo before the platoon disperses for its block leave.

Their PC was none other than 2LT Cho from BMTC School 1; an NSF training new NSFs in an unbroken process of passing the torch that started in 1967.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Singapore DPM and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean's Letter to Mayor of Rockhampton Brad Carter

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean's Letter to Mayor of Rockhampton Brad Carter
Source: Singapore Ministry of Defence
Posted: 04 Jan 2011, 1800 hours (Time is GMT +8 hours)
4 January 2011

Mr Brad Carter
Mayor, Rockhampton Regional Council

Dear Mayor Carter,

I write to express our empathy with the people of Rockhampton as you grapple with these devastating floods. I am relieved to hear that the local authorities with the assistance of the Australian Federal Government and the ADF have matters well in hand.

I understand that the senior Singapore Armed Forces officer MAJ Low Kay Kiat stationed in Rockhampton has been in contact with you. Do let him know if there is anything that he can do to assist to bring relief to those affected.

I would like to thank you once again for the very warm welcome and hospitality that you and the people of Rockhampton have extended to SAF soldiers who have trained there over the past twenty years. I know that our soldiers would want to render any assistance needed, if only to show our empathy and support for the people of Rockhampton as a gesture of thanks and friendship for their welcome and hospitality over the years.

May I take this opportunity to wish you and your family all the very best for the year ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Teo Chee Hean

Singapore DPM Teo's Letter to Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean's Letter to Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith
Source: Singapore Ministry of Defence
Posted: 04 Jan 2011, 1800 hours (Time is GMT +8 hours)
3 January 2011

The Honorable Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence

Dear Stephen,

I write to express our empathy with the Australian government and people as you grapple with the devastating floods in Queensland. Our sympathies go out particularly to the people of Rockhampton who over the past twenty years, have warmly welcomed soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) who by kind permission of the Australian Government have trained at the Australian Defence Force’s Shoalwater Bay Training Area.

SAF Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Lieutenant-General Neo Kian Hong has over the New Year weekend conversed with CDF Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston to express sympathies and to let ACM Houston know that the SAF stands ready to offer any assistance or support that may be needed to bring relief to those affected. In particular, LG Neo informed ACM Houston that should there be a need, RSAF Super Puma helicopters currently located at RAAF Base Oakey in Queensland are available to be deployed to render assistance.

We understand that the local authorities with the assistance of the Australian Federal Government and the ADF have matters well in hand, but I would just like to let you know that our soldiers and airmen are ready to render any assistance needed if only to show our empathy and support for the people of Rockhampton and as a gesture of thanks and friendship to them for their welcome and hospitality over the years.

May I take this opportunity to wish you and your family all the very best for the year ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Teo Chee Hean

Singapore offers flood aid to Australia

DPM Teo Conveys Empathy and Offers SAF's Assistance in Response to Floods in Queensland, Australia
Source: Singapore Ministry of Defence
Posted: 04 Jan 2011, 1800 hours (Time is GMT +8 hours)

In response to media queries on the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) assistance toward relief efforts in Queensland, Australia, MINDEF's spokesperson said: "Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean has written a letter to the Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith to express Singapore's empathy with the Australian government and people as they grapple with the floods in Queensland. Mr Teo mentioned that the SAF Chief of Defence Force (CDF), Lieutenant-General Neo Kian Hong, had over the New Year weekend conversed with the Australian CDF, Air Chief Marshal Allan Grant Houston, and offered the SAF's assistance.

Mr Teo has also written a letter to the Mayor of Rockhampton Brad Carter to express Singapore's empathy with the people of Rockhampton who have been affected by the floods. The SAF has been training in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area near Rockhampton over the past 20 years during the annual Exercise Wallaby. Mr Teo also offered Singapore's assistance to Mayor Carter and mentioned that the people of Rockhampton have always extended a warm welcome and hospitality to SAF soldiers when they train there.

The Australian authorities have expressed appreciation for Singapore's offers of assistance. Singapore notes that the Australian authorities are coping well with the situation and have replied that they will contact Singapore should Singapore's assistance be needed."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Relief from Singapore for Rockhampton floods?

The Wet: Rockhampton Airport (ROK) surrounded by floodwaters. The airport will be familiar to all SAF servicemen who have taken part in the Exercise Wallaby war games. (Source: Queensland Police. Many thanks Mike Yeo) 

Without going to Google, name the key newspoint for Exercise Wallaby staged last year by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Defence-aware netizens will probably recall the gushing editorials from the Singaporean press that commemorated the 20th year of SAF war games in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia... and the gaffe by the 90 cents newspaper that placed Rockhampton south of Perth.

The town best known to Singaporean troops who have been to Wallaby, Rockhampton, is once again in the news. This time because of massive flooding that has had an area as large as France and Germany combined under water.

News streaming out of Rocky reports the worst is yet to come as inland floodwaters drain out towards the low-lying coastal areas. D Day is Wednesday when floodwaters are expected to peak and inundate Rocky for at least two days.

To show it is no fair weather friend, Singapore should prepare itself for a flood relief mission in Rocky. The close defence relations between Australia and Singapore make our circumstances different from all other friends of the Lucky Country: no other country trains its military as extensively in Oz as we do. We therefore have an obligation to offer help, without the host country asking for it.

The flood relief mission will not come cheap with Avgas prices spiralling skyward. But surely the bilateral ties between the Lion City and the Lucky Country are worth far more than the dollars and cents that such a mission will inevitably chalk up?

Help is closer at hand than you imagine: the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has flown its detachment of Super Puma/Cougar helicopters from Oakey for many years.

Relief flights by RSAF airlifters or chartered Singapore Airlines MegaArks to Brisbane would also put relief supplies within reach of Queensland authorities.

The goodwill such aid will generate with Queenslanders will outshine the public relations mileage that the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) whipped up in 2010.

It would also show that Singaporeans are the best kind of friends one can ask for: the blokes who are there for you, unasked, come rain or shine.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011

All indications point to 2010 being the safest year on record with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) closing the year with no training deaths.

This was achieved in a year when SAF personnel were sent for operational deployments in places such as the Gulf of Aden and South Asia.

The tempo of training exercises in Singapore and abroad has also not abated. The SAF staged some 70 war games over the year with a range of multinational partners. These involved everything from HADR and PSO-type scenarios to combat manoeuvres that allowed the SAF to practice, develop and refine its defence readiness in the air, sea, land and electronic spectrums.

As we push into 2011, we also push the boundaries of chance and probability.

Keeping training accidents at bay demands constant safety first reminders and an unflagging commitment by everyone not to be complacent.

Turning to defence activities, the calendar of events for 2011 includes:
15 February: Total Defence Day commemorates the 69th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore
18 February: Budget Day for WY 2011/12
March: Committee of Supply Debate on the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Budget Estimates for WY 2011/12
1 March: Hari Angkatan Darat (Malaysian Army Day)
27 April: Hari TLDM (Royal Malaysian Navy Day)
17 May: IMDEX 2011 naval show 17 to 19 May'11
28-29 May: Republic of Singapore Air Force Open House @ Paya Lebar Air Base.
1 June: Hari TUDM (Royal Malaysian Air Force Day)
3 - 5 June: 10th Asia Security Summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue.
June: NDP CR1
1 July: SAF Day Parade
9 August: National Day Parade organised by the Singapore Combat Engineers
16 September: Hari Angkatan Tentera Malaysia. Malaysian Armed Forces Day
23 - 25 September: Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix
5 December: Media Preview for LIMA 2011 6 to 10 Dec'11
* 2011 marks the 10th instalment of the Asia Security Summit, which for obvious reasons has never been given an acronym of its own by shorthand loving defence types and is better known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
The year will also see the 40th anniversary of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA). Large Eks Bersama Lima war games forecast to commemorate the occasion.

There is also a high likelihood of a General Election this year. Debates over defence and security issues raised should be of interest to defence watchers.

I thank everyone for their continued support, especially the community of Milnuts and plane spotters, as well as other interested parties whose guidance, advice and friendship is much appreciated.

Check Six!