Saturday, January 7, 2012

Exercise Wallaby 2011 war machines return to Singapore after intensive war games in Oz

How many types of armoured vehicles can you identify from the image above? 

These Singapore Army war machines were part of the air-land integrated live fire manoeuvres, codenamed Exercise Wallaby, that took place in Australia last year. They were observed in Singapore after they were shipped home from Australia aboard a commercial roll-on/roll-off car carrier.

Tank nuts may notice that at this range, the BX2 Command Post vehicle and BX2 infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) are virtually indistinguishable. Special thanks to Hans Johnson for this contribution and field report.

It is interesting to compare the Bionix Launched Bridge (BLB) and Leopard 2 Biber armoured bridgelayer in the foreground of the vehicle park.

Do note that the Ultra OWS. Rarely seen in Singapore these days, the M-113s upgraded to Ultra standard and armed with a 25mm Bushmaster cannon mounted in a Rafael Overhead Weapon System are being replaced by Bionix 2 IFVs.

The number of Bronco VSAT vehicles ("coffin carriers") that were involved in the exercise is also noteworthy. Their strong presence points to the level and intensity of networking done by the Singapore Army during the war games held in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Australia's Queensland state.

This blog would like to put on record its thanks to the military enthusiasts who watched Ex Wallaby take shape at Rockhampton Airport. Many of their images and trip reports are found on the Central Queensland Plane Spotting site which is found here

Your contributions allow defence enthusiasts to see, understand and appreciate the logistical challenges involved in staging the war games 5,750 km from Singapore. Please keep up the splendid effort.

Further reading:
Forging sabres, forging knights: Making the most of war games and battlefield experiments. Please click here.

Big bird: Sunday, 27 November 2011, Rockhampton Airport. A Polet Airlines Antonov AN-124-100 Ruslan, arriving as Flight POT4765 from Perth, prepares to load her cargo of four Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopters (063, 065, 066 and 067) and one Eurocopter AS.332M Super Puma (281).

The availability of heavy lifters such as the Ruslan, leased from a Russian company, gives RSAF mission planners from the Transport Group a heavy airlift option unimaginable during the days of the Cold War. During a period of tension, strategic transports like these could rapidly reinforce home defences by airlifting Army and RSAF war machines based overseas back to Singapore. The success of this air bridge hinges on excellent strategic intelligence of a potential enemy's intent and drawer plans that can quickly mobilise and deploy commercial airlifters in support of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

At a tactical level, RSAF engineers must also be well-versed with the intricacies of strategic airlift. This skill was amply practised ferrying cargo to and from Singapore to Rockhampton - and are captured by pictures from Australian plane spotter Ben O'Dowd.

Homeward bound: Apache gunship 067 from RSAF 120 Squadron ready for her ride home in the Antonov AN-124-100 Ruslan heavy lift transport. The pre-flight planning and SOPs that Team RSAF executed during Exercise Wallaby are exactly the same skill sets that will be called into play for a strategic airlift tasking. Such skill sets are perishable and cannot be practised in a simulator. The logistics involved in airlifting RSAF and Army war machines to and from Singapore and Australia provided a valuable dress rehearsal for skills that will be called into play should the SAF be required to mobilise and deploy its full force potential.

Easy does it: The AN-124-100 Ruslan kneels by lowering its nose wheel to aid the loading of cargo through its nose, which is hinged like a visor, and in goes Apache 065. Watching the action is Super Puma 281 from 125 Squadron.

Special delivery: Super Puma 281 is gobbled up by the Ruslan. Main and tail rotors have been removed by RSAF engineers. It takes about eight hours to cover the air miles between Rockhampton and Singapore. This means the Aussie-based Super Pumas and Cougars could conceivably be back in Sembawang Air Base within 24-hours in an emergency. This of course assumes the availability of commercial assets such as the Ruslan. 

More importantly, Team RSAF must be able to execute the strategic airlift mission and draw up a loading plan in collaboration with the commercial air cargo operator. Exercise Wallaby allowed RSAF engineers the opportunity to take down, load and reassemble RSAF assets in an out-of-base environment thousand of miles from home base. 

Over the years, overseas deployments such as the one you see here have given RSAF mission planners firsthand knowledge of which mission critical spares it needs to pack and what items can be left at home. Such know-how contributed significantly to the air force's ability to surge, deploy and sustain operations in two theatres simultaneously after the Boxing Day earthquake/tsunami in 2004. 

Within these theatres (Phuket in Thailand and Sumatra in Indonesia), the RSAF operated from no less than nine austere airstrips for up to three weeks. These were Phuket Airport in Thailand as well as Banda Aceh, Medan, three landing strips in Meulaboh and three Republic of Singapore Navy helicopter landing ships (RSS Endurance, RSS Endeavour and RSS Persistence) offshore. The designation "helicopter landing ship" was a temporary expedient to indicate to the United Nations and foreign media that the tank landing ships (LSTs) could embark helicopters. To add to the confusion, the LSTs are in reality dock landing platforms (LPDs)... :-)


Anonymous said...

Would someone be so kind as to point out a BX2 Command Post vehicle in the picture for me?

David Boey said...

Double click on the picture. You'll see it presented as part of a film strip. Right click: "Open image in new tab". Click the image to enlarge "+".

Left watermark. BX just above the "Hans".

Best Regards,


Anonymous said...

Looking at the commercial AN-124, I wonder will Singapore ever buy the C-17?

Anonymous said...

what's that vehicle on the left of the VSAT Broncos, and what are those M113s on the left of the BX2 CP?


Anonymous said...

If civil heavy airlift is denied for some reason (bought up by adversaries or occupied in another crisis), the alternative would be to use conventional surface shipping. This would have some vulnerabilities (RE: Sinking of Atlantic Conveyor in 1982 Falklands Conflict) when up against a foe with air and surface launched anti-ship missiles and submarines. One lucky hit could take out about a dozen helicopters or an armoured battalion on board.

Our rotary winged aircraft don't seem to be equipped with mid-air refuelling equipment like MH-53 Pave Lows...

Anonymous said...

Thanks David for pointing out the BX2 Command Post vehicle. Is it equipped with a 40mm/50cal weapons station? The weapons look very similar to the two 40/50 M113s behind them, in the same row.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:50pm I presume our modest tactical airlift and lack of strategic airlift, suggest the the planned radius of SAF ground action as attainable
from an advance from Singapore, via causeway or modest water distances. Military action beyond the radius is likely limited to RSAF strikes and preservation of SLOC.

David Boey said...

Hi Anonymous at 9 Jan'12 4:43 PM,
I added a closer view of the BX2 CP. It's main armament is information, not the 40/50.

The Germans used a similar concept with their panzerbeobachtungswagen observation tanks.

Best Regards,