Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April Fool

Taking the last bow: Twelve Republic of Singapore Air Force TA-4SU Super Skyhawks make their historic last flight over Singapore island on 31 March 2005. Seen here are Gryphon, Hornet and Phoenix flights, accompanied by a chase F-16D (Osprey). This was the largest massed formation of twin-seat Super Skyhawks in recent memory. The story behind this photo shoot deserves a blog post by itself. Picture by Mike Yeo

Five years ago, the newspaper I wrote for published a scoop that some readers thought was an April Fools' joke.

The last flight of Singapore’s Super Skyhawk warplanes earned my story a slot in the 1 April 2005 Prime Pages of the 90 cents paper and a tee shirt from a low-profile Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) unit.

That episode showed me that the information flow across Service boundaries in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has ample room for improvement.

On the morning the story appeared, a reader called to say that the half-page story on the last flight by TA-4SU Super Skyhawks in Singapore was an April Fools' joke. The reader was a Singapore Army Colonel.

Heavy hitters: RSAF twin-seat Super Skyhawks served a special combat role that has not been acknowledged till today. The RSAF operated one of the world's largest fleets of twin-seat Skyhawks and armed them with munitions that would have done much harm to the enemy. Photo by Mike Yeo

He reasoned that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) would not retire the Super Skyhawk when its replacement, the Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle, had not even been built.

As he was so convinced of the strength of his argument, I made a bet with him. The prize was a tee shirt from his low-profile unit.

I won the bet after the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) ran a story on the Skyhawk stand down.

If an SAF officer can misread succession plans for SAF war machines, foreign defence analysts watching Singapore from afar can make the same mistake too. In their case, only too easily.

This is how strategic miscalculations take place, especially when misconceptions or wrong viewpoints are compounded over time.

MINDEF’s tendency to play down big ticket purchases in its media releases doesn’t help the Lion City’s deterrent posture.

Defence buffs with long memories may recall that when MINDEF announced it had purchased Sjoormen-class diesel-electric submarines from Sweden for the Republic of Singapore Navy, it slanted the purchases as trial submarines – to see if Singapore needed submarines. Riiiiight.

The RSAF’s Chinook heavy-lift helicopters were purportedly bought for – ahem – “search and rescue” obligations in Singapore’s Flight Information Region as well as support of Army training. The RSAF has flown CH-47D Chinooks for numerous air assault training missions in support of heli-mobile SAF Guards battalions, but I cannot recall a single Chinook painted in SAR colours.

More recently, the Singapore Army’s Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks are said to be replacements for the SM1 light tanks (upgraded AMX-13 light tanks). Hrmmm… Those who know will probably be grinning ear to ear. One wonders what the press release will say when the SM1’s real replacement is finally unveiled. And what about the H... oh never mind. :-)

I thank the Army Colonel for so generously honoring our private wager and mailing me the tee shirt. I wear it with pride.

It was an honest mistake afterall. Few Army officers are privy to what goes on during RSAF Cascade briefings. The Army’s Workplan Seminars are also open to only a select few air force warfighters. This means few in the SAF, apart from those who work for the Joint Staff, are privy to the big picture.

With the Third Generation SAF gaining traction, it will be a challenge informing and educating one and all of fresh developments within SAF teeth arms and combat service support units.

If MINDEF's education effort falters, then defence buffs like myself cannot help but be entertained by the occasional April Fools.

Inform, educate and entertain. That’s the tagline of the newspaper I worked for. Isn’t it apt?


goat89 said...

HAHA! Cool article! One thing though, I heard that there is a dedicated CSAR unit from the RSAF that utilized the Huey back then... and they were painted Army green? I saw a pic b4, but it looked like any other ordinary Helo pic.
Replacement for the SM1? I thought it was to be the Leopards! We getting another type? :D

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention our squadron of F-22A at Tengah.

Anonymous said...

And the impending purchase of the PAK FA for testing purposes.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget our forthcoming regiment of Leopard 2A7s with 140mm main guns.

Anonymous said...

What abt the SM1 replacement? Don't make me salivate leh... IAF

Ben Choong said...

The press's response to the MLC30? They'll probably not even breathe a word about how its really the SM1's replacement :P

At the service level, at least for the army, I know information dissemination is quite good, but I didn't know inter-service info dissemination was that poor...maybe there should be a SAF mag more substance-based than Pioneer but not so intense like the Pointer so that the everyone from Brigade commanders to troopers can know more about SAF-wide developments? I just think the new Pioneer has become too much of a lifestyle magazine...

about the 'H' thing, its non-offensive ya? or is that too opsec? :P

FIVE-TWO said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
FIVE-TWO said...

nevermind the press. it is enough for us who knew all along the MLC30 will come, one day… makes me feel like Snow White: "ahhhh ahhh ahhhhhhh! One day my MLC30 will come…" ;@)

Mike Y said...

Yes the trip to get the photos would have been worth a blog post on its own. Too bad the weather was so poor on such a big occasion.

Area-51 said...

The pictures on the last flight is priceless...
By the way, anyone make out the words written on the side of the Shyhawk's last flight?