Friday, May 25, 2012

Singapore Army Open House 2012 - First impressions

Note: I realise this post lacks images. My Canon PowerShot conked out and I'm going to get a replacement. May choose another brand this time. Many thanks to Jon who T-loaned his camera yesterday. : )


Strictly-speaking, a display of war machines and weapons outside a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) camp counts more as an exhibition rather than an open house.

With that context in mind, the Army Open House (AOH) 2012 which you can visit this Saturday and Sunday may give you the impression that it lacks the punch that previous editions of the AOH packed when the event was staged at the SAFTI Military Institute and SAFTI live-firing area in Pasir Laba.

Military enthusiasts would probably still troop down to the event anyway, so here's a suggestion of things you can see and do at the AOH.

New sniper rifles
Location: Pavilion Display at the Infantry booth

The 9th Singapore Division/Headquarters Infantry presents new small arms that will allow Singapore Army snipers and marksmen to deliver precision firepower during gunfights, day or night. Visitors are invited to handle three sniper rifles and learn firsthand what's so special about the Knight's Armament M110 semi-automatic 7.62mm rifle (USA), Sako TRG-22 .308 bolt action rifle (Finland) and the Accuracy International AX50 12.7mm bolt action anti-material rifle (England).



These weapons are not known to have been shown in public before.

Special Operations Force (SOF) military equipment display
Location: Pavilion Display at the Commando booth
Weapons fans will get an armful of special forces small arms borrowed from SOF weapons racks to photograph, handle and drool over. These include the Heckler & Koch HK416 5.56mm assault rifle, the ever popular MP5-series in various guises, FN P90 personal defence weapon, FN Five seveN pistol, FN Minimi 5.56mm light machine gun, assorted shotguns and more.

Anonymous personnel on duty - dressed in civvies like private security contractors - will patiently explain why the SOF small arms collection reads like the weapon menu of your favourite online shoot-em-up multi-player game.

Spoiler answer: The SOF has to be ready to configure itself for a host of mission requirements.


There is also a ghost grey jet ski thingy (serial number 04) that would not look out of place in a James Bond movie. Strangely, the machine had no info board to explain its role.


Big cats - New additions to the Armour Formation's Leopard main battle tank family
Location: Army Avenue along the F1 Pit Building
Making their AOH debut are the German-made bridge-layer and armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) variants of the Leopard tank family. The bridge-layer can span a 25-metre wide gap with its Leguan bridge and is known by its German name as the Biber (Beaver). The Biber's two-person crew can execute an assault bridging mission while under fire, all the while protected by the armour of the Leopard tank chassis. Unlike scissors bridges which have a higher profile because the bridge is raised to half is max length when it unfolds, the sliding Leguan bridge allows the crew to lay a bridge more discretely. When all else fails, they will fire off their smoke dischargers and make a run for it.

The ARV, known in German army service as the Buffel (Buffalo), is designed to keep Leopard 2SGs battle ready under combat conditions. The Buffel can change the Leo2 engine and carry out assorted maintenance tasks too lengthy to type out on this blog. Ask the full-time National Servicemen or regulars on duty to find out more.


Info display on SAF past and current operations
Location: Pavilion Display
The SAF and Home Team agencies have had a busy time in the past few decades in security operations in Singapore and in support of Singapore's part as a member of the international community.

Take time to learn about the SAF's involvement in United Nations missions around the globe as well as peace support operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief taskings over the years.

This info display is quite comprehensive and should be kept somewhere even after the AOH as the historical information is timeless and allows the display to be reused at other occasions.


AOH suggestions:
1. The V200 at the entrance lacked its barrel for its 20mm Oerlikon. Am surprised the vehicle was allowed to be displayed this way as no war machine should be shown as an exhibit incomplete.

2. The duty personnel stationed alongside various vehicles and equipment along Army Avenue have no shelter and will get sunburnt should cloudless skies crown the AOH show venue this weekend. At previous SAF Open Houses - be it for the army, navy or air force - all such displays had shelter of some sort to protect duty personnel and keep them show-ready to answer a blizzard of questions from curious visitors. This is a heatstroke hazard waiting to happen.

3. Queue line management at the NS45 Showcase should be geared for a large number of visitors. A common practice in theme parks is to keep visitors in the queue engaged by theming the queue line. This could include pictures or simple info boards about the exhibition they are about to see, in this case the indoor exhibition on National Service (NS).

This has two purposes. First, visitors are prepared for what they are about to see and experience. Second, the theming gives them something to do while waiting in line so time appears to past quickly and the visitor will not feel it is a waste of time standing around idly. All movie theme parks do this.

I felt the NS45 exhibition was comprehensive but visitors guided through the exhibition may not have time to read and reflect on the stories and pictures inside. At future shows, some of the pictures and story boards should be used to theme the queue line as it gives visitors something to do.

For a quick fix, why not have mascots stalk the queue line at intervals. You could deploy a sniper team, a pair of POI troopers, an MP with dog, Spike missile crew, a GMPG crew at intervals. I can almost guarantee the people in line will happily take pictures as the line inches forward. Before doing so, please see below.

4. Several Singapore Army personnel roamed the grounds fully armed to give guests photo opportunities. At theme parks, such "mascots" are always accompanied by one or more "performer escorts" who help with queue management, phototaking and time keeping (if not, the endless queue of people will keep the mascot out all day).

At today's AOH, the personnel tasked with photo ops did not seem to have any performer escorts to explain to guests that they were actually there for guests to take pictures. Some soldiers looked like they were on prowler duty and guests were hesitant to approach them. The lack of such escorts also made photo ops messy when visitors discovered what the "mascots" were there for. Without a proper queue, a scrum soon developed as people swarmed round the "mascot". This is really a quick fix and getting some fatigue party personnel who are proactive and can guide guest into a queue line (Something like: Hi folks! Stand in front of me.The line is this way!) and take photos for visitors is all that's needed.

Rule of thumb: Avoid keeping mascots on show for more than 20 minutes. Anything more and the mascots will be fatigued. This is why the performer escorts have to know when to cut the queue line and do so tactfully. Your visitors will complain if this is not handled properly as nobody wants to be cut off from the line and will insist on being allowed to join the last person in line.

5. As a final point: I fail to see why the AOH literature does not mention Singapore when it talks about the Army. You can brand the AOH as people may be familiar with the event. But we should say Singapore Army at every opportunity as it strengthens the branding for Our Army.

And the AOH literature should also say the event is held in 2012. Why does the Show Schedule mention date and day without the year? Visitors do keep this sort of literature as a souvenir. In years to come, visitors may forget what year this landmark event was held unless they perform mental sums and figure out that the 45th year of NS was celebrated in 2012.

Good luck with crowd management tomorrow. If the PAFF publicity plan works as intended, you'll need it.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

The delivery of the Buffalo ARV was reported recently in JDW :

http://jdw.janes.com/public/jdw/asiapacific.shtml

*Singapore operating Buffel ARVs
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has received two batches of Rheinmetall Buffel (Buffalo) armoured recovery vehicles (ARV), IHS Jane's can reveal. The ...
22-May-2012

David Boey said...

Hi,
Thanks for the link.

The arrival of the Buffel was reported by Singaporean military enthusiasts as long ago as June 2010. Not sure why Jane's is making its subscribers learn about it only now.

http://kementah.blogspot.com/2010/06/presenting-singapore-armys-new-armoured.html

Best regards,


David

Anonymous said...

Some ushering civilian in the entourage of bodyguards told me to "move away" when COA, CDF and Minister came.

I think (and I hope) she would have been nicer had she known I was not a journalist. I get an idea of your experience when you describe how you media folks aren't treated very nicely.

David Boey said...

Hi,
Am sorry to hear about your experience.

The over-zealousness of officials in the Defence Minister's entourage can often spoil what could have been a person's first ever close encounter with the DM.

These sort of opportunities are special moments people tend to remember for life and the elected office holder should never let high-handedness ruin the moment and score an own goal.

If he is self-aware and watchful of what goes on as he makes his rounds, a sharp politician should be able to pick up such nonsense from his peripheral vision.

This aside, how did you find AOH 2012?

Best regards,


David

Area51 said...

This year AOH is a real let down and the minutes I walk into the area, it feels like a typical fun-fare or a recruitment drive conducted in some colleges or polytechnic.

I would have perfer it in SAFTI MI where these AFVs would be more fitting to be running around kicking up dust.

Anonymous said...

AOH was still a very pleasant experience for me despite the above.

I think the Marina site and the pristine vehicles were a magnificent showcase of Singapore's success and the resources it can give to defence. The set up was easily one of the most expensive OHs in history anywhere.

Crowd management: AOH 2012 got lucky on Saturday because the weather kept crowds away till 3pm. The blank firing tents were modestly loaded but the very small Formation displays were already jammed since there was only one of each piece of equipment in a very small space. Once the weather cleared, queues lengthened and the amphitheater only met half of demand. Queues were still shorter than at AOH09 because they trimmed long cycle time activities such as life fire range and vehicle rides into the LFA. And I am grateful that half the displays were indoors and there were plentiful food vendors, and I think their prices were checked.

Overall I don't think anything, especially the show, was very imaginative. The past 3 OHs have all featured a small bunch of gunmen. Only the 3 services' choice mode of inserting the reaction force was different.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, I think the Army's new slogan of Relevant, Decisive, Respected tries too hard. But it is the new COA's thing and it will stay for awhile.

David Boey said...

Hi Anonymous,
Please amplify comment in your 2:42 that open house is one of the most expensive to set up.

Would have traded venue for impactful show.

Am off to AOH for a second visit. Intend to compile final report thereafter.

Please keep comments flowing.

Best regards,


David

Anonymous said...

Do beware the crowd at this time, David.

I meant it was expensive for them to rent a grand venue, set up shop outside of camp, repaint every piece of equipment on display, get what looked like new uniforms for many guys, publicize the event on the street and on the radio etc. They even paid to get the Chiefs to visit on both days.

The execution of the show was very impressive. I noticed the helos circling offshore numerous times before they rolled in precisely when the introductory videos ended. The choreography of the foot soldier participants was also very well drilled. This show left less room for error than previous OH ones. Still I knew to be disappointed when I saw the temp structure centre stage.

I will be back in town for the show with pyrotechnics tonight.

Anonymous said...

It's abit shocking... Alot of cpl and sgt rank looks like kids more then a real military soldiers. All of my friends talk abt this when we watched all this kids driving those IFV and other military equipment.. I too got a shock when i was there seeing all this. And one of my friend wife is saying how are this kids going to protect this country when they arent that fit even in answering question.. One thing for sure, they arent that fit compare to those 80/90's soldiers in the past. All those equipment are indeed better then our old times but not those soldiers kids we have saw. It really makes us think "can all this new gen soldiers fight and think just like the old timer in the past ?...

Anonymous said...

^ I believe the answer is yes. Soldiers today are less fit possibly compared to those of the past and definitely compared with our neighbours. They are not articulate and are unwilling to endure a week-long field camp plus sit test. It is not ideal but the whole armed forces has adjusted to the condition in many ways. It has reduced its dependence on fitness with new equipment, introduced new capabilities and focused training time on useful skills only. This ensures a war will be decided by many factors before physical fitness. Practically speaking, our army fills physically demanding units with regulars or motivated NSFs. Other NSF units that will participate in physical confrontation with the enemy are a minority of our forces.

I believe our armed forces' greatest advantage is an education level in every soldier that no neighbour can rival. Our army has become very good at making soldiers think and take responsibility even when they don't want to. We also have huge resources to maintain high training standards and equipment readiness.

Anonymous said...

I do know agree that all CPL/3SG should be judged by how well they answer the questions. All questions answering should be reserved to the officers and regulars. The CPL/3SG are there just because their commanders are too lazy to be standing there the whole day.

David Boey said...

Hi Anonymous,
WRT your 6.00PM, you're not the first to remark that the full-time National Servicemen look like kids. Some mistook them for NCC.

It may be a sign that we're getting on in age too. :-)

The two postings after 6.00PM. All from same person or different posters?

Best regards,


David

ZZ said...

I am yesterday's 7:24 and today's 2:42 4:58 and 9:03.

Anonymous said...

I am today's 10:02PM. I remarked to my brother the NSFs looked like kids. But my brother in turn reminded me that when we served NS more than 20 years ago, the older people would have think likewise about us.

Give the kids a chance. We should appreciate their effort to serve, even though it was mandated by law.

Anonymous said...

David, can you help correct my 10:02PM post? It should read "I do not agree" at the beginning.

My wrong, apologies!

Anonymous said...

As a cpl/3sg or even higher rank, it a must for you to able to know and understand what to do and how to re-act/respone what even happen around you and your men. If a leader cant even handle a question how will he lead all of his men to a battle zone or even worst how will he lead his men to safety during a war zone.

Ofcos education level are importance so does high tech equipment/weaponery. but that does not mean you will win a war with all this. And we shouldnt think by having a higher education level person and put him/her to become leader, he/she will perform just as good in a war as he/she did in the class. It is totally difference.

Maybe some of you will disagree about what i said but i have experience and come across person with and without high education doing good and bad judgement in the force.

David Boey said...

Hi Anon 10:57PM,
Am unable to edit your 10:02.

Readers who scroll the comments would eventually see your 10:57 and figure things out.

Thank you for sharing,


David

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