Saturday, May 25, 2013

Parallel parking the Missile Corvette RSS Vengeance


Empowered: Framed by the portside bridge door, Major Ng Cheng Siong, OOW on the Missile Corvette RSS Vengeance, issues yet another steering order as she comes alongside RSS Vigilance. A lookout keeps a keen eye on the bridge wings to make sure no paint is scratched and nothing is dented.


RSS Vengeance 9 May 2013: Aboard the Republic of Singapore Navy's fastest strike craft, some things are still done the time-tested way. This includes parallel parking a warship.

Despite her upgrade, the Missile Corvette RSS Vengeance is brought alongside in the same way as ships of the line from Admiral Nelson's time: With the help of an officer empowered to order the warship this way or that just by eyeballing the way she handles in wind and current.

Vengeance and five other sister ships of the Victory-class from 188 Squadron are the last of the RSN's strike craft with four engines and four propellors. So watching the bridge action as OOW Major Ng Cheng Siong plays with the four MTU diesels is a real treat.

Knowing how to drive the MCV is one thing. Major Ng also keeps in mind the large sail area of the MCV. Yes, she has no sail for propulsion but her large mast packed with electronic sensors has a large sail area which can catch the wind and pose a challenge to moving the deck where the OOW wants it to be.

Joy ride over, Vengeance approaches Changi Naval Base on helm order course 270, throttle order slow ahead all engines to bring her into protected waters sheltered by a vast concrete pier that serves as a breakwater from choppy waters of the Singapore Strait.

Through open doors port and starboard on her bridge - a working area about the size of two parking lots crammed with a dozen plus sailors, machinery and navaids to steer the warship - one observes concrete emplacements with searchlights, loud hailers and MGs which lord over the entrance to Singapore's largest naval base. Warnings painted in red on the sea facing side of the pier are less subtle. They inform seafarers not to enter protected waters.

Activity picks up on Vengeance as sailors on her upper decks are readied for coming alongside portside. RSS Vengeance, last of the Singapore-built 62-metre long, 530 tonne missile-armed vessels of the Victory-class, is entering harbour.

All's quiet on the bridge as OOW Major Ng rattles off a series of helm orders (Steer 265. Ship proceeding in now), throttle changes (Up Step 2 all engines) and queries about the MCV's speed (SOG?) and position as the East Pier looms into view just off her starboard bow.

Her Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel He Ruimin, keeps a keen eye on the proceedings from the CO's seat on the right hand side of the bridge. He says barely a word and appears content to allow his OOW to run the show. Such delegation of authority may appear wonderful to exercise but LTC He knows the buck stops with him.

Every update is acknowledged by the OOW as updates come in thick and fast. Reports by multiple lookouts port and starboard, the helmsman who takes the ship's wheel, throttleman who controls the engines, the sailor who scrutinises every blip on his radar display add to the buzz on the bridge as Vengeance approaches journey's end.

Indeed, it will probably take the Principal Warfare Officer fewer verbal commands to order a Harpoon missile launch than Major Ng will make to bring his deck alongside.

There's no model answer to berth a ship. Every approach is different. In degree of difficulty, there's only challenging, more challenging and career wrecking.

And despite the recent upgrade that gave Vengeance an eye in the sky (Scan Eagle UAV), a pair of new Lxxxxxx multi tube decoy launchers and other refinements, Singaporean defence engineers have not given her parking assist.

A lookout on the bridge calls out a floating log. Major Ng acknowledges the lookout and a dozen eyeballs on the bridge track the flotsam silently as it bobs past us to starboard. It may seem trivial, but that log -harmless though it may seem - could damage her props.

The parking area comes into view. It is 62 metres long - same length as Vengeance - and like Vengeance has protruding bits on the same level as the bridge wing that should be avoided. It is Vigilance, the MCV's sistership. We are to berth alongside Vigilance on her starboard side.

Denting Vigilance would be a career ending compromising move. So would scratching her paint. Ditto misjudging the approach and letting the overhanging bridge wings kiss. Overshoot the designated berthing space and one risked bumping into the backside of the stealth frigate Steadfast (another career compromising move).

Aboard today as passengers for the Sea Cruise joy ride are a dozen-plus Singaporean bloggers whose combined daily readership probably numbers into the tens of thousands. Any mishap and it is very likely news would reach cyberspace before the RSN's Chief of Navy learns about it.

If the task at hand was stressful, the OOW and bridge hands did not show it.

With 40-plus people aboard Vengeance trusting his judgement and millions of dollars of Singaporean tax payers defence dollars under his feet, Major Ng is a picture of composed calm as he coaxes the MCV alongside.

To the uninitiated, it may look like OOW cannot make up his mind as orders are given, acknowledged then rescinded just after they are carried out. Multiple orders are given and acknowledged in the space of less than a minute. [OOW Major Ng would probably make a formidable customer if he changed his food order like this in a restaurant...]

OOW: Check stern
Lookouts: Check stern. Stern clear Sir!
OOW: Very good.
OOW: Slow ahead all engines
Throttleman: Slow ahead all engines Sir!
OOW: Very good.
OOW: Stop all engines
Throttleman: All engines stop Sir!
OOW: Very good.
OOW: Finish on both port. Starboard inner slow ahead.
Throttleman: Finish on both port. Starboard inner slow ahead Sir!
OOW: Very good.
OOW: Stop starboard inner.
Throttleman: Starboard inner stop Sir!
OOW: Very good.

And so it goes on and on and on.

This back and forth between OOW and his colleagues as port and starboard propellors are moved, then stopped a split second later and then moved again. MTU diesels driving inner props are gunned into action only to be stopped a moment just after the throttleman acknowledges the order to gun them into life.

The effect is tangible. We see and feel Vengeance coming alongside Vigilance smoothly.

Outside, sailors put spherical (neon pink!) air-filled fenders in between the hull and bridge wing of both MCVs.

OOW: Both starboard stop. Both port finish. Finish with both starboard.

We're done.

All the above was executed in calm clear weather in bright sunshine.

This is just for berthing a warship.

Think it's easy? Now you try doing all that in the dark while balancing on your deck in stormy seas, with minimal sleep and with someone out to bomb, shoot or torpedo you while you manoeuvre your warship to do the same.

PWO: Report all contacts within range...


Acknowledgements:
Am grateful to LTC He Ruimin and his crew for the hospitality aboard Vengeance during the Navy Open House preview and to the MINDEF Public Affairs Directorate team for making it happen.

Having clocked sea time (defined as overnighters) with the RSN, RAN and USN on both sides of the Malay peninsula and in the Persian Gulf, it is always a joy to watch a bridge team in action.

FYI, among the three Services land, sea and air, the one I would sign up for if I lived my teen years all over again is the Navy.

Thank you.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Guide to Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable class stealth frigate upgrades: Mast and upper works


Bespoke: The Republic of Singapore Navy's multi-role stealth frigate, RSS Tenacious, displays upgrades which make her unique among six Formidable-class warships. The modifications tailor her for OOTW missions such as those performed by sister ship Intrepid in the Gulf of Aden's piracy-prone waters in late 2012.

Last week's Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Navy Open House allowed visitors to see three versions of upgrades to Formidable-class stealth frigates (FFS).

Whether or not you were there to see the upgrades for yourself and regardless of how familiar you are with this class of 114-metre long warships, this guide will present a virtual tour of changes to the upper works of the Formidable-class vessels.

The three FFS displayed at NOH were:
RSS Intrepid (69) - Modified for Operations Other Than War (OOTW). First FFS sent for anti-piracy sweeps in the Gulf of Aden under Operation Blue Sapphire (Maritime). Twin Harpoon SSMs on front and rear of the three missile mounts on the SSM deck.

RSS Steadfast (70) - Displayed multi-role FFS configuration for conventional hot-war maritime scenarios. This is the baseline FFS configuration. Twin Harpoons on the centre of three missile mounts.

RSS Tenacious (71) - Latest evolution of the FFS OOTW evolution. Bespoke equipment fit based on the one for ITR with refinements thought to have been recommended by the OBS(M) after-action review. Quad Harpoons on the front and rear of three missile mounts on SSM deck. Own seaboat placed in RHIB station amidships to demonstrate where Singapore Armed Forces Special Operations Task Force RHIBs would be embarked.

The anti-ship missile configurations showcased by Fleet RSN point to the following:
1. Anti-ship missiles can be fitted on all three missile stations port and starboard.

2. Harpoon missiles can be double stacked to form a quad pack (as seen on TNC). This indicates a warload of 24 Harpoon SSMs, giving Singapore's six Formidable-class multi-role stealth frigates an anti-ship warload that is unrivalled by other frigate types and almost every class of destroyers and even missile cruisers.

If the Full Force Potential of 185 Squadron, the RSN's FFS squadron, goes out to sea, the six warships could potentially embark 144 Harpoon missiles.

Assuming four missiles are kept in reserve for ship self-defence and one FFS deployed close to Singapore Territorial Waters to add her Aster 15s for sea-based air defence, a missile strike by just five Formidables could bring into play up to 100 Harpoons fired in a coordinated salvo (Unlikely as this is a gross overkill. There is nothing afloat that can absorb and survive an attack by 100 Harpoons at one go. The ROI can still be achieved with fewer birds launched) or launched at intervals in sufficient numbers and with varying flight profiles to saturate the target vessel(s) defensive aids.

The sizeable anti-ship missile armament allows many permutations to the missile strike end game, including having Harpoons converge upon the target from multiple compass points at the same time. This almost guarantees a hull rupture, even after granting the target the concession of downing some Harpoons that are part of the strike package.

The effectiveness of the FFS missile strike is multiplied when time over target is coordinated with action by friendly air and submarine assets.

Coming back to improvements made to the FFS, let's turn our eyes to the warship's structure above the waterline.  

Among the visible changes to upper works, changes to the FFS electro-optics (EO) ball, which combine images captured by powerful optics and range finders on the operator's electronic screen (hence its name) and non-lethal hailing devices like the Long-Range Acoustic Device 500 Xtreme (LRAD 500X) indicate how the FFS baseline design has been adapted for OOTW.

Fire control radar

Here's Steadfast (above) with the baseline configuration for bridge roof and main mast. Compare the image above with the one for Tenacious (below).


The fire control radar (FCR) fitted onto the bridge roof is new. The FCR was initially thought to be the Thales STIR model but was subsequently identified as the Thales STING. The device, which is slaved to the warship's OTO Melara 76/62 Super Rapido main gun, can calculate fall of shot and can also be used for long-range observation of contacts of interest with radar cold.

New location for EO sensor & mast modification
As the EO ball was displayed by the new FCR, warship fans who love to look for lumps and bumps on RSN surface combatants may have been thrilled to see the new EO perched midway up the main mast. Can you spot the EO in the image above and below?


The EO's high perch gives Tenacious the abilty to see farther as the EO's visual horizon is extended compared to a lower placement. It is thought to give an unobstructed 180-degree view in the warship's direction of travel. However, questions arose on whether Tenacious can service the EO's viewing glass should it be obscured while underway (by seagull poo, for example).

The image above shows another feature thought to be unique to TNC - an extended horizontal arm on the main mast which makes the portion to starboard asymmetrical. It is thought that the extension of the horizontal arm was necessary to place undisclosed sensors in a position with minimal electro-magnetic interference with other sensors on the mast.

The 25mm Typhoon gun mounts found on the RAS decks of both ITR and TNC are further giveaways to whether one is looking at the baseline hot-war configuration or the bespoke OOTW evolution.

Two unknown structures on the hangar roof (you may like to read the earlier post on WASS C310 anti-torpedo decoys...) is proof that Fleet RSN and Singaporean defence engineers have been kept busy ensuring the stealth frigates can dish it out and take it during high intensity naval action.

Tips for defence buffs:
1. When it comes to SAF equipment, never assume you've seen it all just because you've seen it once.

2. Meticulous and sustained documentation will help uncover unannounced mods.

3. Familiarise yourself with the baseline configuration of any weapon platform or system. Such product knowledge will make new stuff stand out.

4. Observe at close range.

5. Shoot everything. Twice.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable-class stealth frigates display upgraded capabilities at Navy Open House 2013

Three decks of the Singapore navy's Formidable-class stealth frigates (FFS) went on show at this weekend's Navy Open House - every one of them with a different equipment fit.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Navy Open House marked the first time new design evolutions to the stealth frigates went on public display. It was also the first occasion when three different upgrade evolutions went on show at the same time.

Visitors who made time to tour RSS Intrepid, RSS Steadfast and RSS Tenacious at the two-day event (18-19 May 2013) may have noticed upgrades made to sensors, equipment and armament options aboard these 114-metre long warships.

The changes - some subtle, some pretty obvious even to untrained eyes - underline ongoing projects that are tailored to keep the six stealth frigates with the RSN's 185 Squadron at the top of their game.

Here are the pictures.
Same but different
FFS Missile Deck (Portside)
RSS Steadfast: Anchor points for mounting three quad launchers were seen on each side of the SSM deck. Boxes for attaching missile umbilical wiring that connect missile to CIC were also evident. Maximum warload: 24 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.


RSS Intrepid: Central missile cluster has been replaced by a crane, dubbed the Launch and Recovery System or LARS, which was used to handle the warship's RHIBs during the counter piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. Codenamed Ops Blue Sapphire (Maritime), the mission saw ITR deployed in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aden for three months from September 2012.

RSS Tenacious: Frigate 4 used the design template which configured Intrepid for Operations Other Than War (OOTW). The LARS is where it should be but Fleet RSN doubled the Harpoon warload to eight missiles. The Navy Open House 2013 is believed to be the first time a Formidable-class stealth frigate was displayed with quad packs of Harpoons.

FSS Missile Deck (Starboard side)
RSS Steadfast: The stb'd missile configuration is a mirror image of what is found on the opposite side of the deck. Note the large footprint of the SSM deck which allowed Singaporean defence engineers and naval architects to find deck space to fit the RHIBs used during counter piracy sweeps.

RSS Intrepid: RHIBs used during Operation Blue Sapphire (Maritime) display the Harpoon racks and associated boxes for attaching umbilical cables that connect missiles to the warship's nerve centre.


RSS Tenacious: The second FFS configured for OOTW, Tenacious shows the storage area for RHIBs. Note that the RHIBs carried aboard TNC have less powerful engines that the ones used by ITR during OBS(M).

Takeways from NOH 2013 from the SSM deck observations:
1. The pictures plainly show that the stealth frigates can be from the same class of ship, yet very different.

2. As bulwarks either side of the SSM deck shield the deck cargo from outside observation (the bulwarks were added as a stealth design feature), it is impossible for observers to tell what lies within just by looking at a FFS from the outside. Every opportunity should therefore be taken to view Formidable-class stealth frigates at close range.

3. An understanding of the equipment (LARS and RHIBs), sensor (EO and FCR) and armament (25mm Typhoon guns) is not complete unless one makes an attempt to understand the reasons behind such evolutions. This would reward the observer with a clearer understanding of how the FFS may be employed.

4. The RSN's experience operating the frigates that carry the most number of SSMs in the world has apparently inspired local shipyard Singapore Technologies Marine to do the same with its Fearless-class multirole frigates. Compare the SSM deck of the FSS that you just read about with the one shown on the model of the proposed Fearless frigate (below) at the IMDEX 2013 naval show.



You may also like:
WASS C310 anti-torpedo decoy. Click here

Magic moments aboard RSS Intrepid as special modifications go on show for the first time. Click here

RSS Tenacious displays latest evolution to OOTW upgrade. Click here

Saturday, May 18, 2013

RSS Brave at Navy Open House


Make smoke! The Patrol Vessel RSS Brave trails a banner of black smoke as she leaves the East Pier at Changi Naval Base on the first day of the Navy Open House 2013. Her MTU diesels were probably gasping for air after they were fired up for the cruise.

New entries to notebook from this morning's walkabout. Good outing.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

WASSIt? WASS C310 anti-torpedo countermeasure worth reading about

When it comes to underwater weapons, Italian defence company Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei (WASS) makes both the sword and the shield.

The sharp end of WASS' product catalog comes in the form of torpedoes that can be launched from submarines, warships and aircraft/helicopters.

WASS also used years of accumulated know-how in underwater weapons to develop an anti-torpedo countermeasure system for surface vessels called the C310. It is the CIWS for underwater attack.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is worth reading about. :-)

The system takes into account attack profiles of "current and future generations of active and/or passive torpedoes, wire or non wire-guided, launched alone or in salvo mode".

Expendable decoys called "effectors" are propelled by compressed air from trainable launchers, with the elevation of the tubes fixed at (deleted) degrees. The effectors are so-named because the unspecified underwater effects which deceive or degrade sensors of incoming torpedoes are contained within these decoys.

It is not known how the effectors would deal with straight running torpedos launched dumb at a target ship at a predetermined depth and running speed.

WASS tactical scenario
A pair of launchers is usually recommended per surface ship. The launchers deploy effectors "during the course of predetermined evasive counter-manoeuvres, to maximise the ship survivability against modern torpedo attacks". The compressed air bottles can throw each effector out to a maximum range of (deleted) metres.

Upon being alerted of a torpedo attack by submarine, a PWO would probably want the warship to put as much distance between the incoming torpedo(es) and the ship's hull. Running for it at full ahead all engines on a helm order close to the bearing of torpedo attack would present the warship's stern to the incoming ordnance. From a tactical standpoint, it presents the target ship's smallest profile to the torpedo's sensor while increasing the distance to run with every second elapsed.

A surface ship, say for example a frigate, cannot outrun a torpedo. But the fortunes of war which weigh the range at which the torpedoes were launched, underwater tidal streams which may affect torpedo speed and accuracy of the guidance package/firing solution calculated by enemy submariners could result in a situation where torpedoes run out of fuel before impact with the target or miss altogether due to faulty firing data.

To be sure, this is wishful thinking. But running for it is a better alternative than staying put at a slow rate of knots with your full side profile for the torpedo sensor to detect and track.

Here's where the WASS C310 comes into play. Effectors ripple fired or salvo launched from 8 or 12-tube launchers fall into the sea ahead of the incoming torpedoes. If the effectors work as advertised, they should buy time for the mothership's evasive action by messing up the torpedo's guidance.

A successful evasion should allow the mothership to immediately launch a counterattack by firing ASW ordnance down the bearing of the torpedo tracks.

All this assumes that the warship has sharp ears and can compile a dependable underwater situation picture. It should also be able to pick up signs of an incoming attack to give the anti-torpedo countermeasures time to deploy and do their work.

Firing arcs
You do not have to be a naval architect to realise that your WASS C310 launchers should have a clear arc of fire covering the stern of your ship to enable effectors to be sown in the path of wake-homing torpedoes.

As the launchers are said to be trainable, its location should also allow unblocked firing arcs on the port and starboard beam. This is not rocket science.

Looking at C310 launchers installed on warships elsewhere, it is the opinion of this blog that WASS designers have given some thought to reducing the radar signature of these launchers with features characteristic of stealth warships.

The size, shape and form of the anti-torpedo countermeasure is distinctive and therefore hard to miss, even when covered with a spray cover.(It is even harder to miss if your spray cover is draped such that it follows the contours of the launcher and left under the sun for so long that it basically melts onto the launch tubes to reveal how many tubes your launcher has. Duh.)

While the decoy makes an interesting conversation starter with Navy personnel on certain warships, what's even more interesting is a hypothetical discussion of what would happen if the Whitehead anti-torpedo decoy is tasked to defeat a Whitehead torpedo attack.

Then what?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Republic of Singapore Navy upgrades to Missile Corvettes and Stealth Frigates result in addition of mystery objects

"I was the more deceived." Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1


Object of desire: An unspecified object on Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Victory-class Missile Corvettes (Valiant pictured above) appears to be the same kind of device installed aboard selected Formidable-class stealth frigates (Intrepid seen below).


Aboard RSS Vengeance, 9 May 2013: She had been displayed fully exposed on several previous occasions. But the Navy wouldn't give us the pleasure of seeing her uncovered today.

Under radiant sunshine and perfect sailing weather, she stayed cloaked and tightly wrapped under her spray cover. An mysterious implement of dilution distraction range gate stealing seduction, so near yet so far.

Edging past her at the edge of the bridge wing aboard the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Missile Corvette (MCV) RSS Vengeance, one couldn't resist an accidental side swipe that brushed one's open palm and curious fingers on The Object.

It was the kind of grope you would sometimes plant on the butt of your almost-girlfriend to see what reaction it would evoke. A slap on the face? Complaint to HR? A warm grin that signalled she was up for more? Hrmmm...

The effect of that side swipe was electrifying. One could feel her through the protective cover that was her shield against prying and inquisitive eyes. Her beautifully contoured form, her smooth and well finished stealth mounting, vented exhaust ports were all purposely designed to keep her signature as small as possible.

The thought of getting her zipper undone to gently tease and ease off her spray cover to show The Object in her full undressed glory for some up close and personal touchy feely was most tempting indeed. Fingers would first get to work on the zip fastener, coaxing it to expose a breach in which one's palm could slide inside to feel, firsthand, the handiwork of the Lxxxxxx factory in (country deleted) which made the countermeasure dispenser.

So beautifully designed, the Lxxxxxx launcher is a work of art. A piece of fine craftsmanship that is a joy to read about and marvel over what she can do in various tactical scenarios involving range gates, dog-leg flight paths and emitters.

That first touch would be so special. It would put to rest oodles of speculation on what lies beneath those spray covers and what her tubes can take.

That minor incursion would be exploited if her warners weren't vigilant - the RSN minders were. But problems would of course snowball if one got caught (likely!) red-handed with hands where they were not supposed to be.

And so, being well behaved guests, we didn't molest what was not meant to be touched and definitely banished the attempt to mount the Lxxxxxx mount on the high seas.

But who says we won't go beyond mentally undressing the Lxxxxxx launcher and do it for real, if given half the chance at the Navy Open House this weekend. :-)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable-class stealth frigate RSS Tenacious to display latest evolution to its OOTW upgrade

Sea view: Interesting man-of-war in the foreground, the upgraded stealth frigate Tenacious, and yet another in the background!

Singapore's latest answer to maritime security challenges, the upgraded stealth frigate RSS Tenacious, will display capability improvements this weekend that make the warship unique in the class of six.

Prominent among the upgrades is a Thales STIR fire control radar (FCR) on the bridge roof. Less prominent but nonetheless obvious to those who know where to look is an electro-optic (EO) sensor mounted in a prominent position.

These evolutions make Tenacious distinct from sister ship RSS Intrepid. Both warships were modified for the Operations Other Than War (OOTW) role to enable the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) to perform constabulary duties on extended patrol in distant waters.

Tenacious goes on show at the RSN's Navy Open House 2013, which will be held at Changi Naval Base from 18 to 19 May.

In the opinion of this blog, the upgrade for Tenacious could have been based upon additions and alterations to adapt Intrepid for hunting sea pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The deployment, codenamed Operation Blue Sapphire (Maritime), lasted three months and marked the first operational deployment for stealth frigates.

It is the opinion of this blog that an after-action review could have recommended further changes to the first evolution of the OOTW fit. Recommendations tabled by the AAR could have included urgent operational requirements now seen aboard Tenacious.

Observation of both warships, kindly facilitated by the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Public Affairs Directorate (PAFF), has allowed Senang Diri to record some of the visible changes to these FFS.

Evolution 1 OOTW for RSS Intrepid includes but is not limited to the following:
2 x Long Range Acoustic Device Xtreme 500 (LRAD 500X), effective range 2,000 metres
1 x Launch & Recovery System (LARS) on SSM deck
2 x Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) on SSM deck for embarked Naval Diving Unit combat divers
2 x Typhoon guns in stealth mountings on RAS deck
2 x EW countermeasures of European origin on foc'sle
2 x torpedo decoys of European origin on hangar roof

Additional berths for embarked NDU team was installed in crew quarters while gym equipment like free weights and treadmills were added in the torpedo magazine.

Evolution 2 OOTW for Tenacious includes but is not limited to:
All Evolution 1 refinements for ITR plus
1 x Thales STIR FCR on bridge roof
1 x EO

It is thought that additional mid-life upgrades to the FFS may see a further evolution that would give the embarked Naval Helicopter more punch against fast craft like skiffs favoured by pirates in the horn of Africa.

It is likely that the pair of Seahawks said to have been purchased by Singapore will be the naval variant armed and equipped as helicopters gunships. The sharp end of these MH-standard Seahawks could include Hellfires, rocket pods and belt-fed automatic weapons of various calibre.

It would be surprising if a UAV capability was not added to the OBS(M) standard FFS in due course.

The addition of the FCR is thought to address concerns that the FFS might be blinded should its prominent Herakles radar sustain hits from small arms, MGs or shoulder-launched projectiles like RPGs.

The FCR's ability to sweep the forward 180-degree sector of the FFS allows the warship to maintain some degree of situational awareness independent of the Herakles. The sea situation picture in the direction of movement of the FFS can be maintained using the STIR alone, with the 76mm OtoBreda Super Rapido A-gun slaved to this FCR.

The EO sensor adds to visual and electromagnetic data gathered by the FCR. However, it is the opinion of this blog that the location of the EO may make it difficult for crew aboard Tenacious to keep the optics clean while at sea. A shamal dust storm, which is not uncommon in the Middle East, could potentially degrade the EO's performance should a layer of dust cake its protective cover.

Without actually stepping onboard, nothing more than guesstimates can be made about these evolutions.

This blog looks forward to the opportunity of inspecting visiting Tenacious during this weekend's Navy Open House at Changi Naval Base.

We will be thorough.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Navy Open House 2013: Special high speed vessel


Caught on camera at Changi Naval Base (CNB), a new vessel (right) that could be on trial by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).

To the left of the image is a RSN Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV).

To the USV's right is an unknown type of surface vessel, with civilian registration. The pronounced flare of the hull and enclosed slope-sided superstructure suggests it was designed for high-speed runs and low observability on radar. The fast craft may rely partly on the surface effect for its speed.

Find out more of the RSN's warships and capabilities at the Navy Open House 2013, which will be staged from 18 to 19 May'13.


Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Navy Open House 2013: Armoured landing craft to be unveiled at NOH 2013



Protected by armour and bristling with weapons, the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) special landing craft are better placed to fight and survive firefights on the high seas.

Once secret modifications to RSN Fast Craft Utility (FCU), which are fast landing craft propelled by twin waterjets, go on show next weekend (18-19 May) at the Navy Open House 2013.

The public display of the special FCU comes after the craft was said to have been deployed for operations in the Gulf of Aden for deterring and intercepting sea pirate attacks. Its mothership was the tank landing ship, RSS Endeavour.

Thus modified, the FCU armoured troop carriers elevate the humble 23-metre long landing craft from the role of support craft for ferrying troops, vehicles and cargo to that of a combat vessel.

An armoured troop carrier will be one of the stars of the mock attack sequence during the open house at Changi Naval Base. Its role is to provide covering fire for RHIBs from the navy's crack Naval Diving Unit, which storm into action to wrest control of a merchant ship (played by MV Swift Rescue, the RSN's submarine rescue ship) from gunmen.

The twin 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) aboard the armoured troop carrier are complemented by classified weapons carried in the FCU's cargo deck.

Equipment for non-compliant boardings of vessels is also carried during operations. Senang Diri understands that the FCU cannot lower its bow ramp for beaching operations due to the presence of classified equipment used to support Vessel Board Search & Seizure (VBSS) missions.


Prominent among the changes are the following mods:
* Sun shelter and armour for the FCU crew position aft
* Armoured glass panels for the crew
* Large box-like shelter on the cargo deck and steel bird cage steel armour that encases all crew positions and vital machinery
* Ladders at the bow which facilitate boardings

These modifications are modular, which means an ordinary FCU can be role changed rapidly.




The bird cage armour on RSN landing craft evokes memories of America's riverine warfare forces - known as the Brown Water Navy - that made their combat debut during the Vietnam War.

Such armour is said to protect the FCU against attacks by rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) while what appears to be bolted composite armour panels inside the bird cage does a similar job protecting Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel and vital machinery against small arms fire and shell splinters.

See this special FCU at the RSN's Navy Open House this coming weekend.

Shuttle buses leave the Singapore Expo between 8am and 4:30pm on Saturday and from 8:30am to 4:30pm on Sunday. Do note the departure timings for the last bus.

This blog will carry one post on the Navy Open House every day this week till Friday.

Among the highlights:
* A look at OOTW FFS
* Sea cruise aboard an upgraded MCV

Admin note

Embargo lifts at 1800 Hotel today.

We had a good outing. Waiting to share the pickings at H hour.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Navy Day 2013: Harnessing information as an instrument of naval firepower

Visit the modernised Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) at the Navy Open House from Saturday 18 May to Sunday 19 May 2013 at Changi Naval Base.

"Like" the official Republic of Singapore Navy Open House Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/singaporenavy


At war, at sea, at night, the name of the game for Singapore's navy in the 1980s was see-and-be-seen.

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Patrol Craft A-class RSS Freedom, rigged for night action, was all set to do just that during a naval war game in the South China Sea.

The crew had festooned their Patrol Craft with a string of lights fore to aft. It was almost like dressing ship for a naval review, except that RSS Freedom's role during the war game had a more serious intent. She would be a Trojan Horse, steaming at a slow rate of knots among brightly lit fishing craft that plyed close to commercial shipping lanes off the coast of Malaysia.

During the night encounter exercise, RSS Freedom's job was to spot the enemy warship - played by a frigate from a FPDA country - and tip-off Missile Gunboats (MGBs) lurking just off the visual horizon. No missiles would actually fly. Everything was simulated through voice comms with umpires stepping in to help decide who saw whom first and who got their decks shot out from under their feet.

RSS Freedom's "camouflage" was her ability to blend in with the coastal fishing craft which used light bulbs and flood lights to attract and thereafter entrap schools of fishes.

The Vosper-built patrol craft armed only with guns (and nothing larger than 40mm) would entrap too, and would let missile boats punch the lights out of the commerce raider, assuming the enemy commanders let their guard down. That was the theory.

There was no finesse to this naval tactic devised by Fleet RSN, no consideration for stealth and nothing deserving of a Defence Technology Prize.

Naval warfare of that era was conducted within visual range of the commerce raider with the reasoning that the sheer amount of contacts would clutter the radar scope of the opposing man-of-war. Anyone scanning the horizon using night vision scopes (this was 1980s technology) would have the image flare whenever it came across the brightly lit small craft.

Freedom had her own night sights installed on the 0.5 inch Browning heavy machineguns (B guns) on either side of her open navigation bridge. These were presently concealed with grey spray covers, which would be removed once the cat-and-mouse night action got underway.

Had RSS Freedom roamed the waters blacked out, the warship would have stood out as a critical contact of interest among the surface clutter.

So long as she kept her lights on, RSS Freedom was safe from visual and radar observation.

Out of sight but not out of contact, the upgraded MGBs waited for their call to action. Their Harpoon missiles could reach beyond the horizon and had a longer reach than Gabriel anti-ship missiles.

Singapore's upgraded MGBs still carried both. While the Harpoons outperformed the Gabriels on paper, the ability to guide the missiles after launch made the Gabriels useful for hit-and-run tactics in congested waters.

On the other hand, the Harpoon's longer legs would only be a tactical advantage if the MGB could tell the missile where to look for its intended target.

That's where the Mark 1 eyeballs on RSS Freedom, now dressed as a coastal fishing craft, would play their part.

At the time, a rudimentary attempt were made at putting eyes in the air to extend the awareness of RSN warships with the Colosa project, which added a surface search radar to the belly of Republic of Singapore Air Force SC.7 Skyvans.

Hardware aside, some of the tactical coordinators who joined the upgrade Skyvans on maritime air surveillance flights came from the RSN. Their job was to assess surface tracks on the radar scope to place RSN task groups of fast missile boats in optimal position for gun/missile engagements while friendly surface forces were still outside the radar detection range of the hostile vessels.

To symbolise tighter coordination and cooperation between Singapore's air and naval forces, Skyvans from RSAF 121 "Gannet" Squadron carried the RSN insignia on their nose for the first time.[This practice was followed in later years after a "proper" Maritime Patrol Aircraft, the Fokker 50 Mk.2S, joined the RSAF. The air force's S.70B Seahawk naval helicopters also carry the RSN insignia.]

Gannets gather: Half the fleet of Republic of Singapore Air Force Skyvans, operated by 121 Squadron, seen here on the taxiway. Can you spot the difference between upgraded Skyvans and the tactical transport variant?

The box-like twin-engined tactical transport joined the naval battle unarmed. Her value was information provided to the RSN's surface situation picture from her belly radar. It was a good effort, except for the fact that Skyvans were not optimised for night flying over the open sea and had to shadow surface vessels outside the range ring of their anti-aircraft gun or missile armament.

If this early attempt at integrated warfare took place for real, the Skyvans would have acted as eyes for the Fleet and Republic of Singapore Air Force strike packages sent aloft for anti-shipping flights.

Low-level flights during FPDA war games of that time, governed by rules of engagement under FACES (Formal Agreement for Conduct of Exercise Starfish) and FAME (Formal Agreement for conduct of Maritime Exercises), often saw RSAF warplanes skimming the wave tops at mast top height. It was not uncommon for RSAF F-5s to streak by so low that each warplane generated its own rooster tail wake as hapless warships attempted to bring their AA guns to bear.

The takeaways from yesteryear was the game-changing value of being able to see first, see more and decide and act more decisively than one's opponent.

Such evolutions do not kick in automatically. There are naval forces around the globe who go out to sea in vessels with vintage electronics that are several generations behind the kind of technology on mobilephones carried by the young sailors who man these ships.

In the Singapore navy, progressive capability upgrades and replacement programmes for its fighting ships (and now, naval aviation) are discussed, planned, implemented and refined with a time horizon of many years. Naval acquisitions due to urgent operational requirements can, of course, take place much faster if the button is pressed.

In today's RSN, surface combatants no longer sail into battle with strings of electric light bulbs as part of their tactical equipment.

Battlespace awareness can be built up and refreshed using multiple sensors to the extent that the naval platform engaging a target may be able to let its missiles fly using target data handed over from someone else.

Comparing the 80s tactics with what we do today, naval tactics of yesteryear seem hopelessly outdated.

But we learnt and internalised the value of harnessing information as a game changer. And we can do this using C2 and BM systems we develop in-house, with a speed and weight of fire that shortens the endgame.