Thursday, June 25, 2020

National Day Parade 2020 fly past rehearsal 1


A big "Thank You!" to friends around the island who kept my phone buzzing with updates this morning as the National Day Parade fly past rehearsal got underway.

Thanks to your keen eye, we managed to track the formation of five Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG Strike Eagles as they circled Singapore repeatedly even as many of us were committed to work-from-home arrangements. (Note: I wasn't at the window staring into oblivion. Don't have to with chat apps providing near realtime updates and pictures.)

Weather conditions this morning were perfect for low level flying. After weathering two consecutive days of pre-dawn Sumatras on Monday and Tuesday this week, the dry weather, sunny skies and gentle breeze were a welcome change.

The RSAF Heli Group was active too. At least two formations of helicopters were seen. Each comprised a CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter accompanied by two AH-64D Apache attack helicopters. The Chinook rehearsed without the Singapore flag, which is usually carried underslung from its cargo hook.

Paya Lebar Air Base, which is the home base for the F-15SGs, was busy on Thursday afternoon with static line paradrops from a C-130 Hercules sharing the air space with flights of F-15s.



NDP 2020 flypast rehearsal dates:
June 25: 8.55am-11.30am

July 4, July 11, July 18, July 25: 8.55am-11.30am

Aug 1, Aug 9, Aug 10: 8.55am-11.30am

An RSAF Chinook and two Apaches seen practising for the NDP 2020 flag fly past during the RSAF's first internal rehearsal for this year's parade. Every image and sighting report is welcome as they help contribute to the bigger picture. Thank you all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

National Day Parade 2020 flypast rehearsal

This arrow formation of six Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SGs will soar across Singapore tomorrow morning. The flight will be part of the RSAF's first internal rehearsal for this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

The Air Force will use the internal rehearsal to verify and fine-tune the NDP 2020 flypast holding areas, flight routes and time-over-target at key locations.

Personnel from the RSAF's Paya Lebar-based 149 Squadron, which operates the American-built F-15SG Strike Eagle, were observed training hard for the flypast in recent weeks.

The above picture was taken today around lunchtime as the arrowhead returned to base.

Let's hope for clear skies tomorrow.

NDP 2020 flypast rehearsal dates:
June 25: 8.55am-11.30am

July 4, July 11, July 18, July 25: 8.55am-11.30am

Aug 1, Aug 9, Aug 10: 8.55am-11.30am

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Senang Diri Blog Time-out

Sunrise on Monday 1 June 2020,  the dawn my father never lived to see.

Dear Friends,
The Senang Diri blog will take a time-out of a month or more from today.

My dad died at home on Sunday 31 May 2020 at the age of 85. He left peacefully and with us by his side, which is the way he always wanted. We sent him off yesterday. Father Vaz delivered a beautiful service and his solo rendition of Nearer, My God, to Thee as we bid my dad a last goodbye from this world helped with closure and will ring in my ears till my dying days. As you can imagine, am in uncharted territory as my brother, sister and I have never lost a parent before. So navigating what's required is taking up our time outside of work and I appeal for your understanding as we tie up the many loose ends.

I will still attend to your comments. But by and large, spare time for writing will be spent on another pursuit. Please don't conflate blog time-out with lack of energy on other fronts. Things continue to move, just offline.

This COVID-19 Circuit Breaker has allowed me to see firsthand some fictional events I wrote about in a story. The crush of humanity ahead of the Causeway closure, the emptied out terminals at Changi Airport following the unprecedented reduction of flights to Singapore, panic buying in supermarkets were all described in the Period of Tension chapters. Nothing beats seeing it unfold online and in real life. I made several trips to the supermarket just to experience the madness. What has not happened for real is the impact of a Lloyd's war risk rating on shipping in regional sea lanes. My friends and I relied on our imagination for this part of the story. We hope the story sounds credible as we took some effort to calculate the war risk premiums and imagine its impact on shipping movements rather than pluck figures from thin air. Surface vessel movements affect shipping density, which is a factor that will help the reader understand the nature of the battlespace before he/she flips to the pages where air and sea battles are fought in a congested maritime environment. So when Bruisers are set loose and Magnums fly, you can picture how a small, determined force and even a single SSK can upset the odds. I hope the fight scenes sound real enough to keep readers enthralled. 

On another note, my term with MINDEF's Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD) comes to an end this August after three renewals over more than six years. I thank NEXUS for its stewardship of ACCORD, and all the men and women from Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team units whom I met during my time with the council.

Thank you for visiting the Senang Diri blog.

Stay strong during this pandemic.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Circruit breaker Day 56 (last day) pix: Singapore Armed Forces SAF old warriors

Adieu Intrepid: The decommissioned Republic of Singapore Navy tank landing ship, RSS Intrepid, seen at the breaker's yard. Till the very end, the LST was kept shipshape as is evident from the condition of her internal compartments and bulkheads. 

We've made it to the last day of the Circuit Breaker (CB) period in Singapore! The past few months of the CB was aimed at keeping people in the city-state at home in order to break the chain of transmissions of Covid-19 in the community.

We hope the series of Circuit Breaker pictures and stories have kept you entertained during this period.

Our last instalment gives you a look at what happens to retired Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) platforms. Admittedly, not pretty. But just as new acquisitions excite us, the retirement and decommissioning of old platforms represents the last phase and a fact of life for Singapore's Life Cycle Management approach to defence acquisitions.

Unlike some defence forces, the SAF does not have a tradition of keeping decommissioned platforms in running condition. Perhaps as our armed forces evolves, it may be worth rethinking this policy. There are sufficient numbers of skilled and interested private citizens in Singapore who can contribute the time and expertise to keep old war machines in running condition, just as enthusiasts have been able to keep warbirds and old war machines going decades after they were retired.

Gone but never forgotten.
Resting place: After long and distinguished service as the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF) most numerous warplane in the 1970s through till the 1990s, retired RSAF A-4 Skyhawk carcasses are stacked like logs at a scrapyard in Jurong in 1999. The RSAF has about a dozen A-4 airframes in museum-quality condition at Tengah and Paya Lebar.
Circle of life: Singapore Army AMX-13 SM1 light tanks are cut up for scrap in Singapore following their retirement in the 2000s. Steel from these tanks was recycled as rebar and sheet metal plates.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 55 pix: Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF Warbirds

This decommissioned Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) RF-5S Tigereye photo reconnaissance fighter with its modified nose all masked up is at the Air Force School in Paya Lebar Air Base.

The RF-5 is part of the collection of retired RSAF planes kept in a special hangar opposite the Air Force Museum.

While long-term storage and maintenance need to be budgeted for, keeping examples of old war machines strengthens the sense of unit esprit and team spirit by connecting future generations with their shared past. Such sentiments are priceless.
A line up of RSAF A-4 Skyhawks in showroom condition.
RF-5S with a SIAI Marchetti S.211. We're at a loss to explain why the Tigereye's nose has been shrouded. Perhaps to protect the glass panels on the nose?
S.211 and a rotorless Aerospatiale Ecureuil

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 54 pix: Singapore Army anti-tank jeeps

Don't you miss the time when the Singapore Army's Army Open House (AOH) used to allow visitors to watch a live-firing component at Pasir Laba?

And if you're old enough, you might even remember the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) displays at West Coast Park which had a mock attack involving army, navy and air force assets as the grand finale.

Now with this COVID-19 pandemic and safe distancing, we're not sure when we will even see the next SAF exhibition at a shopping mall.

Today's selection of images shows you the Army's battalion-level anti-team weapons that were used before the Spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).

The first two images show the Euromissile MILAN jeep, which replaced the 106mm recoilless rifle jeeps which were mounted on two platforms. The MILAN demo took place at the Army Open House 2007 (which was held in the same week that full-time National Serviceman Dave Teo ran away from camp with his SAR-21 assault rifle and bullets, but we digress).


The German-built Mercedes-Benz MB240 (above) replaced the older US-made jeep that was introduced in the late 1960s. The MB240 in this picture was displayed at AOH 2007. The 106 gun crew below served with 4 SIR in the early-1980s.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 53 pix: Guide to Paya Lebar Air Base air activities

If you're working from home near a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) air base, chances are you would have noticed the high level of air activities on weekdays.

And if you're an eastie living near Paya Lebar Air Base (PLAB) and you're looking at this post in daylight (caveat: Mon to Sat except Thurs, some flying on Sundays during RSAF/FPDA exercises), there's a good chance that you can hear RSAF aircraft flying overhead as you read this.

The three F-15SG Strike Eagles in the top image are among nine such fighter jets that have been observed taking off and returning to Paya Lebar together. The nine F-15s are probably practising for the National Day 2020 flypast.

Here's a visual guide to RSAF planes and helicopters that folks living around PLAB see regularly.

Our thanks to our reader who's stuck at home every day with these flying machines flashing past his window. Every shot posted here was taken by him from the comfort of his living room. All social distancing regulations were strictly observed. He shared them in near real-time with our private chat group, so what you see here is the same as what we usually see on our chat group.
This 149 Squadron F-15SG Strike Eagle is one of PLAB's residents. When F-15s are airborne, you'll hear them soon enough. Noteworthy are the sunset patrol sorties that takeoff around sundown and return about an hour to 1.5 hours later. This one is wheels-up for a go-around.
The 122 Squadron C-130 Hercules is a familiar sight to people living around PLAB. We love watching the pod-equipped "KC-130s" lift off early in the morning around 7AM+ before they head east towards Pedra Branca and the South China Sea. The drone from the Charlies as they climb to their training altitude can be heard all the way from Marine Parade to Hougang. Their sorties last several hours. It's a mystery why the Hercules transports continue to carry two "hose-and-drogue air-to-air refuelling pods" as none of the RSAF fighters are refuelled this way and the pods may be deadweight. Blade antenna configurations vary.

A regular visitor is the A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport from 112 SQN. Big and powerful, the MRTT is much quieter than she looks.
Occasional visitors to PLAB include 121 Squadron Fokker 50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, still looking immaculate after many years in service.  
A non-resident fighter type is the F-16 Fighting Falcon. When Tengah Air Base had her runway resurfaced, large numbers of F-16s were seen using PLAB as their temporary home. 
Super Puma medium-lift helicopters (above), Apache attack helicopters, Chinook heavy-lifters and Seahawk naval helicopters have been spotted at PLAB. The wokka-wokka throb of the Chinook's rotors is fairly distinctive and usually heralds the big chopper's approach before you spot it.   
 AH-64D Apache from 120 SQN
CH-47 Chinook from 127 SQN

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 52 pix: Singapore Armed Forces SAF assets during operations


Source: RSAF Facebook (both images)
Notice something different about these Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Super Pumas apart from the all-white United Nations livery? Yes, their Turbomeca Makila turboshafts have had exhaust diluters added to protect the helicopters from heat-seeking missiles.

You hardly ever see RSAF Super Ps flying around Singapore with these devices in peacetime.

But lo and behold, when the RSAF sent four Super Pumas on a UN operation in Cambodia in May 1993, the helicopters left Sembawang Air Base with the black exhaust shrouds attached. They are designed to dilute and direct hot efflux from the engines upwards where the rotor blades and forward movement of the helicopter would further disperse the hot exhaust.

Many Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) assets are fitted-for-but-not-with devices that appear only during operations.

The pictures below, taken at a public exhibition, show Singapore Army vehicles deployed for operations in Afghanistan. The bits and pieces added here and there should give the discerning eye some idea of the Army's efforts to protect its people during real ops.

We are willing to bet that SAF vehicles that will appear at the National Day Parade 2020 Mobile Column will be nice, clean and "naked". In other words, without the add-ons and interesting gear.

To recycle an old joke, if you see RSAF Super Ps flying over Singapore with exhaust diluters, MID vehicles with lumps and bumps attached and the Navy's LSTs fully loaded with FCEPs and the pontoons, it's time to clear the junk from your bomb shelter and stock up on toilet rolls!


You may also like:
Republic of Singapore Navy Endurance-class LSTs. Please click here
RSN Floating Bridge System self-propelled pontoons. Please click here

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 51 pix: Self Study Topic Malacca Strait Collision Case Study


A number of interesting foreign warships drop by at Sembawang Wharves, in the north of Singapore, every year.

These pictures of the United States Navy destroyer, USS Ingersoll (DD-990), were taken in June 1992 from the flight deck of HMS Invincible.

The Ingersoll collided with an oil tanker, M/V Matsumi Maru No. 7, in Strait of Malacca at night while on route to Singapore. The Ingersoll's OOD apparently misread the tanker's running lights which were swamped by the deck lighting and flood lights which were switched on to deter pirates.

USS Ingersoll Collision Case Study
The destroyer survived the collision and returned to operational service. She was decommissioned in July 1998.

If you have time to spare, there's a useful case study on the Federation of American Scientists site on the incident. Please click here for your self study slides.

If you've been on a warship in the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, you'll realise that the bridge crew gives their all during the transit because of the high level of traffic in these sea lanes.

Even with ships observing the Traffic Separation Scheme while sailing in the SOMS, ships must watch out for vessels moving across the sea lanes as not everyone observes the rules of the road. And when Sumatras hit, these tropical thunderstorms can cut visibility pretty quickly with intense wind, rain and lightning.

Radar and optronics help with safe navigation. But nothing beats alert watchstanders, an on-the-ball OOW who thinks several steps ahead and a responsive helm.

We have the highest regard for mariners who work in such an environment day after day. There's nothing routine about sailing in crowded waterways.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 50 pix: Simulated enemy vehicle

Here's a Singapore Army Land Rover Defender pretending it's fiercer and deadlier than it actually is.

The Land Rover carries a frame that changes its profile to that of a tracked vehicle with a "turret". Doesn't look like anything we've seen in AFV recognition books.

Such vehicles inject realism to the Army's two-sided encounters, especially when the Land Rover is "armed" with a tactical engagement system that allows it to return fire. Approach with care during a FTX!

26 May 2020 edit: The first image is more than 10 years old. The Singapore Army's Army Training Evaluation Centre (ATEC) has evolved quite abit since then. In April 2019, ATEC crossed a significant milestone after it evaluated its 300th unit. Here's a more recent 2019 image of ATEC OPFOR. Pioneer feature story, High Combat Readiness. Click here
Source: PIONEER magazine

On a side note: We're now into the 50th day of the circuit breaker! Looks like CB measures will be lifted in phases but the life we all knew in 2019 won't come back anytime soon.

Focus on the positives and take things one step at a time.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 49 pix: Republic of Singapore Navy RSN Missile Corvette

Before the Internet made open source information so accessible, defence enthusiasts commonly amassed a collection of brochures from defence companies to keep updated with weapons technology. Space intensive? Yes. But worth the effort.

This brochure from German shipbuilder, Lürssen, was distributed in the early 1990s at the Defence Services Asia show in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has nice line drawings of the Republic of Singapore Navy Missile Corvette, RSS Victory.

Can you spot something special on Victory's superstructure, just under the bridge? 

Hope the MCVs appear at the National Day 2020 sailpast fully fitted out. Those tubes are old anyway and quite widely known.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 48 pix: Singapore Army Trailblazer counter-mine vehicle

If there was one role the Singapore Army could hand over to unmanned assets, it's mine-clearing.

As far as dull, dirty and dangerous jobs go, clearing a minefield while driving over it with a mine flail isn't for the faint of heart.

The Trailblazer counter-mine vehicle (above) is designed and made in Singapore. The vehicle is based on the Bionix chassis and drives backwards while spinning a drum of weighted chains to flog the ground.

In theory, the force of the weighted chains (i.e. the flail) hitting the ground should trigger off land mines while the combat engineers remain safe in their armoured cabin.

Any volunteers for this job?


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 47 pix: Singapore Army Add-on Armour 5 tonner

You've soft skin B-vehicles then the armoured MRAPs. In between comes the Add-on Armour (AOA) tonners. These rarely seen vehicles are used by the Guards Formation.

Run flat tyres, self-sealing fuel tanks, ballistic glass and armour plate for vulnerable areas protect the driver's cabin and troops seated in the back from small arms fire and shell fragments. Gun ports allow troops inside to return fire.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 46 pix: Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF E-2 Hawkeye

The Last: During Exercise Torrent VI on 30 November 2008, E-2C 014 from 111 Squadron was the aircraft to land on Lim Chu Kang Road during the air force emergency runway exercise. This particular E-2C also became the last one to ever land on a road in Singapore. Pictures below show 014 during the rehearsal the day before.
A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Grumman E-2C Hawkeye from 111 Squadron took part in an emergency runway exercise, codenamed Torrent, for the last time in November 2008.

Hawkeye 014 is seen here during the rehearsal the day before the actual exercise emerging from Tengah Air Base (top photo). At full stretch, the airborne early warning aircraft's 24.56m (80' 7") wingspan stretches just past the width of Lim Chu Kang Road.

Among the challenges was getting the E-2C out of the air base as Tengah's gates were not wide enough for the plane to taxi out. So the aircraft, which was designed to be operated from aircraft carriers, tucked in her wings and simply taxiied out of the base on its own - which is a feature 111 SQN's Gulfstream G550 AEW do not have.

Here's E-2C 014 stretching her wings on a public road in a sight never to be seen again in Singapore.





Thursday, May 21, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 45 pix: Singapore Aviation Art

BAC Strikemaster jet trainers operated from Changi Air Base in 1975, which was the year the Singapore Air Defence Command (SADC) was renamed the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

Miss flying?

Here are some postcards from BAE Systems that capture Singapore's aviation history. The postcards were distributed as part of BAE System's campaign to sell the Eurofighter Typhoon multirole fighter jet to Singapore.
Singapore used the British-built Hawker Hunter Mk.74S fighter/ground-attack aircraft for over 20 years from 1970. This year marks the 50th year of RSAF fighter operations. 
BAC Lightnings of Royal Air Force No. 74(F) "Tiger Squadron" operated from Tengah between 1967 and 1971.
Eurofighter Typhoon over Singapore.
Red Arrows over Changi during the Asian Aerospace air show in 1996. The Reds were then led by Squadron Leader John Rands.
Singapore Airlines acquired the Airbus A300B4-203 in 1981- the same year that Paya Lebar became an RSAF air base.