Saturday, July 13, 2013

Exercise Tsunami on the way as Singapore Armed Forces enters war games season

If Singapore's defence information management calendar of yesteryear is used as a guide, the coming months post-NDP should see the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) flex its muscle in high-profile war games overseas.

The light and sound show as live munitions are unleashed at Exercise Forging Saber in the United States and Exercise Wallaby in Australia should provide ample media opportunities to dazzle, wow and, yes, to deter.

The exercise tsunami on home ground and overseas - typically seen during towards the year-end period after the National Day Parade (NDP) - marks the high water mark of the SAF's war games calendar before it winds up the calendar year.

For SAF watchers, publicity for successive runs of Ex Forging Saber has furnished telling indications on the pace, extent and professional competence within the maturing Third Generation SAF, particularly in the area of UAV-enabled combat missions. In recent times, the Republic of Singapore Air Force Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Command appears to have moved its skill sets into a higher orbit (figuratively speaking) as its drone force is used not just to observe, but to direct air and ground attacks in support of manoeuvre forces, in realtime and by day and night.

Lessons picked up from overseas missions in places such as Afghanistan and the Gulf of Aden are likely to be dissected, studied and applied to suit the SAF's specific operational requirements when operations are staged and sustained from one degree north of the equator, with the little red dot as MSA.

Likewise, the battle scenarios that unfold across the Australian outback in Queensland's Shoalwater Bay Training Area during Ex Wallaby reflect the 3G SAF's efforts to raise, train and sustain network-enabled combat and combat service support forces that can project substantial combat forces in its area of operations (AO) within a tight mission timeline and while fending off external interference in contested areas.

Wielding Singapore Army ABGs and airmobile Guards battalions as a block force against enemy movements are exercise scenarios that have been stepped up in size, scope and complexity in previous years under separate war games conducted under the umbrella of Ex Wallaby.

The exercise Frames drawn up under Wallaby have also practised closer coordination and cooperation between SAF land and air assets, particularly in tightening the sensor-to-shooter loop in designated kill boxes.

The action is likely to stay dynamic during the SAF's war games season in 2014.

For military enthusiasts, the action starts long before the first round is out.

Exercise preparations, which include shipping of SAF assets across the water by Ro-Ro vessel and in the air via heavy-lift transports to faraway locations, are interesting to track.

For Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) publicists, the challenge lies with rolling out something familiar (getting the media to write about the war games) while attempting to give it a fresh spin and making the media event newsworthy.

MINDEF publicity plans tend to be somewhat predictable, patterned after the same old template, set piece. It's almost like you can sketch out the media plan and draft the talking points for the media tipsheet by studying how it was done in past installments.(See: More creativity needed in MINDEF/SAF defence media relations. Click here.)

This phase of MINDEF/SAF's WY 2013/14 work plan - the defence information cycle - is also worth scrutinising closely because there are valuable takeaways here in the way MINDEF/SAF handles defence information as a strategic lever for building mindshare among the populace, in reassuring friends of the SAF's capabilities and in reinforcing the message of deterrence.

You may also like:
Decisive victors: A primer on the 3G SAF. Click here.

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