Saturday, June 27, 2015

F15SG Strike Eagles RTB after SAF50 flypast rehearsal

Seen in the skies over Paya Lebar Air Base, six F-15SG Strike Eagles from 149 Squadron return to base on Thursday (25 Jun 2015) after rehearsing the SAF50 parade flypast.

The six Republic of Singapore Air Force warplanes are due to make an appearance at the upcoming Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day Parade at the SAFTI Military Institute on 1  July 2015.

We'll bring you highlights from the parade later this week.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Look out for new vehicles at the National Day Parade NDP 2015 Mobile Column Combined Rehearsal CR2

A number of new vehicles were seen during last Saturday's first Combined Rehearsal (CR1) for the National Day Parade 2015.

These rehearsals will continue every Saturday from now till National Day on 9 August 2015. Here's a full list of the NDP rehearsal and preview dates for your calendar: 
20 June 2015, Saturday, Combined Rehearsal 1
• 27 June 2015, Saturday, Combined Rehearsal 2
• 4 July 2015, Saturday, Combined Rehearsal 3
• 11 July 2015, Saturday,National Education (NE) Show 1
• 18 July 2015, Saturday, NE2 Show
• 25 July 2015, Saturday, NE3 Show
• 1 August 2015, Saturday, NDP Preview
• 9 August 2015, Sunday, National Day Parade 2015
Catch the NDP debutants as they make their way from Kallang to the Padang along Nicoll Highway.

This is new....
In Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) service, the Renault Higuard 6x6 is known as the Protected Response Vehicle (PRV) - a new SAF acronym. At CR1, the trio of PRVs were armed with different remote weapon stations to show the range of weapon options for such vehicles. One PRV was armed with a 7.62mm GPMG, with the other two fitted with a CIS 50MG 12.7mm heavy machine gun and a CIS 40 AGL 40mm automatic grenade launcher. The PRVs were acquired to replace long-serving V-200 armoured cars.

This is new too....
This is the longest vehicle in the 160-strong Mobile Column. It's also the one with the most number of wheels and has a Republic of Singapore Navy fast craft that is a guaranteed head-turner. The trailer is believed to be a KAMAG K25H platform trailer. Look out for more details on this fast craft in a subsequent post.

Another newbie....
The Achleitner HMV Survivor I Armoured Personnel Carrier is one of several wheeled armoured transports used by the Singapore Police Force. Made in Austria, the Survivor I comes with a snow plough-like attachment which is used to push aside obstacles such as street barricades.

Other Mobile Column first timers:
Leopard 2 Kodiak Armoured Engineer Vehicle (AEV)
Ford F550 ambulance
Digitised Trunk Communication System (D-TCS)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Singapore Army's Armoured Engineer Vehicle (AEV) and upsized Leopard 2 family go on show at National Day Parade NDP 2015 Mobile Column

The Singapore Army's Armoured Engineer Vehicle (AEV), known as the Pionierpanzer 3 Kodiak in German Army service, joins this year's National Day Parade (NDP) Mobile Column for the first time. This vehicle is due to parade alongside specialised variants of the Leopard 2 tank family fielded by Armour and Combat Engineer units.

The appearance of the Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks and derivatives of the Leopard design marks the largest showcase of the German-made Leopard 2 family by the Singapore Army.

While it is several weeks before the AEV makes its "official" public debut, the vehicle was already seen and photographed in Singapore's city centre at the first Combined Rehearsal on Saturday 20 June 2015.

The AEVs are used by the Armoured Engineers for mobility, counter-mobility and survivability missions. These include the construction of earthworks such as berms, removal of battlefield obstacles as well as the breaching of anti-tank minefields.

To demonstrate its counter-mine capability, the AEVs are due to make their parade debut with a full-width mine plough and a 12.7mm remote controlled weapon station. The weapon can be aimed and fired from under armour and is used principally for vehicle self-defence as AEVs deployed for in-stride, assault or deliberate minefield breaching operations are usually screened by close protection teams tasked to deal with enemy units protecting the minefields. When required, the mine plough can be replaced by a dozer blade.

The AEV's stablemates include the Buffel (German for Buffalo) Armoured Recovery Vehicle, Biber (Beaver) Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge, all of which will form part of the 160-plus strong Mobile Column for Singapore's 50th birthday celebrations on 9 August 2015.

In Singapore Armed Forces service, the AEV replaces the M728 Combat Engineer Vehicle while the Bibers replace the M60 AVLB. The American-made CEV and AVLB were fielded by the SAF in the 1970s.

Monday, June 22, 2015

National Day Parade NDP 2015 Mobile Column gets down to business at Combined Rehearsal 1

Place a Singapore Combat Engineers M3G amphibious rig on the road and the vehicle will happily cruise along at more than 60km/h.

Place the M3G on water and the vehicle can transform itself into a bridge or a ferry, depending on the required tactical situation. As a ferry, the water-jet propelled M3Gs has an agility that belies its size. It can pivot on the spot, move sideways, forward or astern at a respectable 7.5 knots (14km/h).

But place the same vehicle in a civilian car park, make it negotiate twists and turns and the M3G cannot wait to hit the open road.

With just metres to go before the car park exit, the M3G found this proverbial "last mile" tough going indeed. Ahead lay a convoy of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) war machines which had a date at the Padang for first Combined Rehearsal for this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

Waiting behind the M3G were even more SAF and Home Team vehicles that formed the NDP 2015 Mobile Column. These queued patiently as they waited to exit the assembly area by that single road. If there was ever a single point of failure, this was it. One inoperable vehicle, an engine out or a flat tyre at the wrong spot would have thrown the CR1 timetable out of whack.

For now, the M3G driver had to get his vehicle out of this tight spot with absolutely no rough driving allowed. You see, the M3G's paintwork had been cleaned up for CR1 and it would be many moons before the amphibious vehicle would hit the water again - at least not till after NDP 2015.

With safety a top priority for the Mobile Column team, the M3G was never far from help. Road marshals and safety officers offered advice to the driver and vehicle commander, with a flurry of hands windmilling this direction and that, clutching imaginary steering wheels as they sought to guide the driver out of his predicament.

It was no easy task. The car park was designed for civilian cars and mini buses, not a left hand drive vehicle like the M3G which is 13 metres from nose to tail, making it longer than the 12-metre single deck public buses.

Even after five rehearsals in Tuas South, the ground situation at Stadium Drive presented situations that were not covered in the Mobile Column 2010 AAR.

Since NDP  2010, a road divider had appeared outside the usual vehicle assembly area. This sliced the room to manoeuvre for A-vehicles and machines with a long wheelbase. The result: Back and forth movements by respective drivers as they sought to clear the 90-degree turn out of the car park onto Stadium Drive, with some of the larger vehicles making it out only after mounting the kerb.

A speed bump just after the mouth of the car park exit was an added hinderance but proved no match for SAF war machines who clawed their way out, grinding the road surface into loose stones.

Metal sign posts along the car park exit were the bane of vehicles that needed those extra inches of breathing space. Mind you, SAF war machines are scratch resistant in combat. But planting a scratch or a dent or a blemish on shiny warpaint just before Singapore's Jubilee Parade is a strict no-no for the Mobile Column team.  

So easy does it.

With some guidance from SAF Regulars, lots of patience and adjustments to the CR1 timetable, the 160-plus SAF and Home Team vehicles made it out of the car park in about 1 hour 40 minutes. Do the math: Even if just 20 per cent of the vehicles were inconvenienced, the knock-on effect would add minutes to the time needed for the first afternoon run to the Padang and back again to the assembly area. In 2010, the team had time to execute the first run, then head back for some down time before returning to assemble along Nicoll Highway. At NDP 2015 CR1, delays robbed the team of that rest period.

That respite and time out of the sun would have been much appreciated by Mobile Column personnel. Remember that not everyone in the Mobile Column has the luxury of waiting in an air-conditioned vehicle. The personnel on motorbikes, in open MB204 scout jeeps and the Light Fire Attack Vehicles do not complain. And never forget the Malay Muslim servicemen who are fasting during Ramadan. You won't hear a word of complaint fall from their lips and they will serve with pride, but make no mistake: having them bake in the blazing afternoon sun is not everyone's idea of Care for Soldiers.

It should have been faster -  but that's speaking with the advantage of hindsight.

It could have been smoother - but aren't multiple rehearsals staged to condition participants for the real thing?

One would trust that the Mobile Column team is analysing last Saturday's rehearsal to avoid a replay of the situation where the 160-vehicle convoy lay at the mercy of a single car park exit. This certainly wasn't the case in NDP 2010, which was the last time we saw a Mobile Column roll past City Hall steps.

In 2010, SAF and Home Team vehicles streamed onto Stadium Drive from not one but three exits. The A-vehicles and vehicles with a long wheelbase were given as straight a run as possible out to Stadium Drive. The vehicle parking spots were chosen with care to expedite their deployment. What's more, the Flyer Light Strike Vehicles from HQ Guards were not left in the open sunshine to bake, but had their parking area shaded by a large, fixed canopy at one end of the car park.

The lesson in vehicle placements and deployment sequence has relevance to military professionals far beyond the NDP season.

If one cannot handle the smooth deployment of military assets in peacetime, please ponder what might ensue during operations when military vehicles have to commence their line of advance in convoy, on time and under fire. Without proper handling, training and precise planning, it would be a shambles.

Gallipoli taught military professionals the importance of military logistics such as the combat loading of war materiel - last in/first out and that sort of thing. Seen in a far more modest context, the planning and execution of a successful NDP Mobile Column speaks volumes of one's ability to marshal and deploy combat power from a cold start.

To be sure, almost every Mobile Column team has surpassed their steep learning curve to deliver a show that the nation appreciates.

Do better at CR2.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Setting your sights on a new job: Career transitions for SAF Regulars

For some Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Regulars, the move from military life to the corporate sector can be a life-changing experience that is fraught with uncertainty.

For the SAF's men and women in their 30s or 40s, with loved ones to look after and multi-year financial obligations to service, such career moves do present moments of anxiety that no war game, TTX or FTX ever trained them for.

That said, many SAF Regulars tend to underrate the value their professional military training can serve as a springboard to new career pathways. SAF Regulars may not realise that processes, techniques and procedures embraced by MINDEF/SAF in areas such as staff work, leadership and management matters and even something as basic as Powerpoint presentation formats often rival the best efforts that the corporate sector can muster.

Indeed, there are individuals from the SAF alumni whose staff work - be it for concept papers or policy positions - can pass off as a facsimile of MINDEF/SAF papers in terms of formatting style, the way situations are described and recommendations are made. Such staff work is systematic and thorough, gets right to the point, is comprehensive in scope, logical in analysis and precise in the recommendations made. If you've assimilated such best practices, your foundation in what the private sector terms as business communications will put you in good stead.

Here are other points SAF Regulars should note before they step out of uniform for good:

1.Network relentlessly
The SAF presents ample opportunities to interact with organisations without an AFPN number. These include annual affairs like the National Day Parade Executive Committee, working committees for large-scale events such as the Singapore Airshow, Singapore Grand Prix, Army Half Marathon, assorted defence dialogues, Total Defence engagements with government/private sector organisations and even the SSPP which gives you face time with educators. You can see these non-military assignments as a chore or value these as a networking opportunity. Astute individuals will use such interactions to build a better sense of what the corporate sector does, not just to get a new job (which is, really, the end-state) but also to be conversant with the names of SMEs and MNCs and have some idea of what they do. 

2. Sharpen your market intel
A key step in finding a new job is to know what's out there and convince your future employer of the value you bring to the organisation. This helps you suss out your competitors for that job, typically mid-career executives who have spent more years than you honing their skillsets in the private sector. This means you need to be one-up against the competition. And you got to know how to market yourself better.
In other words: Know yourself, know your Enemy. A thousand battles.... well, you know how the phrase goes. Jobs are not an amorphous blob with no shape or form. Think government sector or private. SME, MNC or perhaps a start-up of your own? Work locally or overseas? What is the salary scale and how much of a pay adjustment is reasonable?
Intelligence preparation of the battlefield is therefore vital. Isn't this what you learned in staff school? Apply it to a new situation by tweaking concepts such as EEI, OIR and so on for an accurate, relevant and timely view of the world outside your camp's fenceline.

3. Precision strike versus carpet bombing
Armed with an awareness of what's out there and the market value of your skill sets, you need to make your move and time it well. Should you carpet bomb potential employers with your cover letter and resume? Or are you the sort who executes a precision strike to a potential employer? Precision strikes may be better because the effort expended is more focused as there is more discipline involved in sense-making opportunities for the desired outcome.

Bear in mind that by the time an organisation has to publish an ad for an open position, its recruiters would have expended some effort in finding a candidate through a job search that is often low-key and unpublicised. This ties in with the earlier point about intelligence preparation of the battlefield and networking so that potential employers have you on their radar. Ping/transmit actively, but not so often it comes across as off-putting or desperate.

4. Dress the part
Not sure how to write a compelling resume? Try Google and take your pick from the different styles and formats available online. Just as a job seeker would put in effort to dress up one's qualifications, some SAF Regulars neglect looking the part when courting the corporate sector. Unless you're going to be the boss of your own company or intend to join a free-wheeling start-up, you may want to blend in with how executives typically dress. Eyeball how corporate types (men and women, as appropriate) dress for work and update your wardrobe as necessary.

In my time with an Integrated Resort and my current position, I have had the privilege of working with SAF alumni who successfully made the transition to new careers. The skillsets they bring to both organisations reflect well on their time in the SAF. This emphasises the value that the private sector accords to people who have earned experience serving a large, operationally-ready and technically-advanced organisation with demanding requirements such as the SAF. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Key enablers for the Singapore Navy's growth strategy

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) can deal with war machines in the surface, subsurface, air and electronic battlespace, but it needs to arm itself better against the pull of career options that could whittle down its ranks.

Lines of action drawn up for this year's RSN work plan are ambitious. And the stretch targets involving light carriers future fleet assets and fixed-wing naval aviation are tantalising to mull over.

But a larger, more capable and more sustained Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) capability to operate on and from the sea can only be enabled by the RSN's people.

At the current state of play, Headquarters RSN must be keenly aware of competing demands for its talent pool. Indeed, if fleet scuttlebutt is to be believed, the admiral assigned 33 MID may be on his way to swapping his Navy Number 1 Dress White for another kind of white - if you know what I mean.

Being the smallest of the SAF's three armed Services, the impact of any individual moving elsewhere is amplified in the Navy to a greater degree than people movements in the Singapore Army or Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

A career at sea has always been challenging. But in the Singapore Army and RSAF, the aspirational goal of a proper work-family life balance is more attainable in peacetime with the privilege of rank or an understanding superior.

Not so in the Navy - no matter how big-hearted its people are. Naval patrols can stretch for days - and these are routine runs. A sea training deployment may see loved ones away from home for extended periods. The men and women who sign up for the rigors and excitement of shipboard life may be able to "take it". But loved ones differ in their ability to cope with, understand or appreciate such regular spells of absence.

At some point in time, RSN professionals will ask themselves if it is really worth it.
For capable, ambitious men and women typically in their late 20s or early 30s, the completion of their first contract often puts them at the proverbial crossroads where they have to count the opportunity cost of serving kin and country (often unappreciated by the general public), and being there for their loved ones.

The lofty ideal of being part of the best little Navy in the world and being able to serve aboard advanced warships make for a great sales pitch for newbies to the job market. But ideals, mission and vision statements do not pay bills. And what is the point of being able to bring to bear superior firepower against enemy combatants, when one's family is outgunned by peers in bread and butter issues?

The loss of a man or woman who decides to hang up the Navy uniform for good goes beyond the loss of one head count. Attrition stats do not tell the full story. Aboard a warship, group dynamics forged between the crew are vital for bringing out the best from the naval platform. This is especially so when naval warfare is characterised by the need for warfighters to have the mental agility to quickly and effectively sense-make evolving tactical situations before the impact of shellfire, missiles or torpedoes. Add a bad sea state, which translates to a rocking office, the challenges of shipboard life and the realisation that when the shooting starts, the end game may come about in mere minutes and you will realise this kind of career is not for everybody.

To be sure, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF have gone to great lengths to recruit and retain its people. The MDES scheme, for example, goes some way in nurturing skillsets in challenging, hard-to-fill vocations such as engineering.

The last mile that HR professionals will find complex is keeping salary benchmarks relevant amid competing demands for Singapore's talent pool. Indeed, there are many RSN vocations whose roles and responsibilities are quintessentially naval in nature and not merely maritime. There is a critical difference between the two. To confuse a naval function with maritime jobs that seem outwardly similar (warship CO versus container ship captain) risks undervaluing the talent, temperament and physical profile of individuals ideally suited for waging, and winning, war at sea. 

One must realise that manpower dynamics are not the same across all three SAF Services. Being the smallest Service, tasked with a growing list of sea security missions in a period of sustained vigilance, demands that people stay on their toes perpetually.

So we're asking our people to do more, under a remuneration table that hasn't evolved as quickly as mission requirements? And we expect them to stay, say and strive? No wonder the good ones are cherry picked by talent scouts... 

Bear in mind that RSN warfighters are hardwired to figure out what lies beyond the horizon and take decisive steps accordingly. In a tight labour market, MINDEF/SAF must do even more for the RSN to ensure each individual who decides to sail the high seas or man radar installations in defence of our vital interests takes home something more tangible than the fluff of a nice-sounding recruitment pitch. 

MINDEF/SAF must act decisively to avoid the situation in the early 1980s when sagging morale in the RSN drove people away from naval careers. To this end, it is heartening to note that the RSN is making overtures to mid-career professionals to join its ranks.

The effort to value RSN personnel better must precede any move to go for bigger platforms. This is because a steady and more robust pipeline of  qualified professionals sets the basis for the RSN to make the most of lean-manning and highly automated warships.

Get the formula right and the RSN can upsize its headcount in time for greater and bigger things to come.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

SG50 flypast rehearsal by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)

This morning, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) held its second internal rehearsal for the National Day Parade over Marina Bay.

The aerial practice involved some 48 fixed and rotary wing aircraft. The RSAF is due to stage two more internal rehearsals before transiting to the Combined Rehearsals with other NDP contingents. This will see the flypast conducted closer to dusk (i.e. under poorer lighting conditions), so photo buffs may want to consider capturing the moment during the next few internal rehearsals.

Many thanks to Darren Goh for the images.