Sunday, December 15, 2013

Downtime in Arizona

What do Singaporeans do when they have free time in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, that takes them away from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)' largest and most complex war games involving precision strikes?

A number raid factory outlets to pick up cheap designer brands or launch shopping expeditions of some sort. *yawn* Sorry but am just not the shopping type.

Some go to the Grand Canyon to see the eight wonder of the world.

Or you could drive two hours south to watch A-10 Thunderbolts fly and, while in the vicinity, visit Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.[The suggestion came from a Republic of Singapore Air Force officer who saw my eyes glaze over when the others were planning shopping trips.]

And so, I drove myself two hours south of Phoenix to watch A-10s fly (above) and got a bonus with an unplanned visit to a hardened missile silo.

With no travel partner, it was a solo self-drive that started before sunrise with the GPS lady's voice as company throughout the journey. Engine start was at 0500hrs as I wanted to avoid the traffic jams on Interstate 10 in Phoenix. Most of the run to the south took place in darkness. If as the old saying goes "it is darkest before dawn", this was the setting for the 120+ mile one way trip south to the city of Tuscon where Davis-Monthan AFB is located. This night pre-dawn drive at 55-75mph on the wrong side of a motorway which is largely unlit is new to me.

I leave the radio off throughout and savour the silence. It gives me ample time to run through the many things seen and experienced during XFS'13 and with the PCII team. It has been a memorable week.

Am thankful the car rental guy's advice to go one up and not rent the cheapest wheels was accepted as the tiny low CC Fiat would've had a tough time winding in and out of lanes populated by huge American semis (i.e. prime movers and trailers).

Had no clue about the landscape either side of the interstate. Saw signs for Marana. Flirted with the thought of making a side trip to stalk the RSAF's Peace Vanguard Apache detachment but decided to stick to the plan as Davis-Monthan has been on my to-see list for some time.

Arrive at the Pima Air & Space Museum just before 7am after a non-stop journey. Gates to the museum are wide open so I pop in for a look. Not a soul in sight. High tide. Gift shop toilets are locked. Found a discrete spot out of line-of-sight and security cameras where I water the cacti :-)

Spent time before museum's 9am opening driving round the fenceline of the sprawling air base. Breakfast at a gas station. Ate more than usual as unsure when next meal would be. Had a quarter pounder with cheese and milk and am basically fully fuelled.

The two hours is well spent as there are no dogs here.

A-10 drivers have an early start to the day. Same goes for the C-130s. Breathtaking watching them perform circuits against the backdrop of brilliant blue skies. Yes, cheap thrill but that's me.

Pima is all that it was made out to be. Toured the AMARG boneyard. So this is where our A-4  Skyhawk journey began.

Someone mentions an ICBM museum. How far? 40 minutes. Consult map with gift shop lady and decide to skip lunch to make it there before last entry for the day. The museum is off the map but gift shop lady assures it isn't too far off. Her finger points to a spot on the table top reassuringly close to the edge of the map. The journey resumes.

Ventured further south than planned on Interstate 19. Lovely Red Indian country. It is a desert plain home to cacti and dry scrub with mountains looming in the background under a cloudless, electric blue sky. If you need a setting for a cowboys and Indians movie, this would be it.

Will probably never get to see T3-9 TAB so it was a treat visiting this 1960s era underground hardened facility, which is a feat of military engineering.

The Titan Missile Museum sits on elevated ground overlooking the plains. Most of the fixtures from the 1960s are still there. Enjoyed a tour of the missile facility and hardened areas underground. Volunteer guide was a former missileer. Enthusiasm and subject matter knowledge shows through in his narrative, which he probably has to repeat several times a day to visitors. But he did so with panache.

Run to the north back to Phoenix shows what kind of landscape lies on either side of Interstate 10. In some areas, the car windows frame scenes from tourist postcards: ancient mountains and low hills, dramatic in their outline and form, with assorted cacti striking their classic pose to motorists as we zoom past. I find out why the signs warning motorists of Blowing Dust Areas are there. Cotton fields and dry desert plains can pose a hazard when visibility is affected when dust is blown across the freeway.

An enormously long train rumbles past the interstate, containers double stacked on flat cars. Realise later this is the famous Union Pacific railway line.

RTB after sundown. Clocked just under 300 miles during the solo drive.

Yes, I'm weird. Get used to it. :-)

Love this sign. Yes, to be a credible deterrent, you have to be a credible threat. The tricky bit comes with weaving in the defence diplomacy bit with the neighbours.


bob villa said...

Damm,peter you got to visit two of my must visit place ,and thanks for the heads up on the icbm silo.


Anonymous said...

Is that F-4 phantom in IAF colours?


Anonymous said...

You have a nice time ...whilst your local singaporeans are "suffering", why dont you tell the Minister there a need for spent so much..


he truth is that they are exploiting Sinkies and the good infrastructure here for their own good. The people that are exploited are the Sinkies, particularly the PMEs. Wait till these local PMEs find life unbearable and unsustainable when they could no longer provide for their families. Just wait for their wrath.

And a final word, if the Indians, professionals and the workers, find it so bad here, exploited here, discriminated by the racist Chinese here, please get lost, go back home to the great comfort of your great country.

If our relations with India are so good, why are the Indian media so hostile to Singapore? Remember Sun TV. Who is spreading the myth that relations between the people of the two countries are so good that it deserves a big celebration in 2015 using public money? How much of the people’s money would be spent on this make belief while the Indians are cursing us everyday in their media?

Do we still want to spend public fund on this 150th Anniversary? For those people who believe that relations are so good and it is deserving of a big celebration, can they please use their own pocket money for it and not the people’s money? It is so easy to spend OPM ya.
Posted by Chua Chin Leng aka redbean at 9:37 am
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Anonymous said...

The F-35 that could have been

At least twice since 2007 Chinese hackers have stolen data on the F-35 from the developers’ poorly-guarded computer servers, potentially including detailed design specifications. Some of the Internet thieves “appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel claimed.

The September 2012 debut of China’s latest jet fighter prototype, the J-31, seemed to confirm Hagel’s accusation. The new Chinese plane, built by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, bears an uncanny external resemblance to the F-35: same twin tail fins, same chiseled nose, same wing shape. “It certainly looks like the Chinese got their hands on some [F-35] airframe data,” said Richard Aboulafia, a vice president at the Teal Group, an arms industry consultancy in Virginia.

But the J-31 lacks many of the features that were included in the F-35 “mainly or entirely because of STOVL,” according to Aviation Weekwriter and fighter expert Bill Sweetman.

Namely, the J-31 does not have a lift fan or even a space for a lift fan. The omission apparently allowed Chinese engineers to optimize the new plane for speed, acceleration, maneuverability and flying range — and to add good pilot visibility and a second rearward engine — instead of having to build the plane around a pretty much useless vertical-takeoff capability that slows it down, limits it to one motor and blocks the pilot’s view.

It could be that China doesn’t know how to build a working lift fan and that’s why they left it off, Aboulafia said. But for a country that has unveiled two different radar-evading stealth warplane prototypes in just the last two years, that seems unlikely. It’s more plausible that China could build a lift fan-equipped plane and has chosen not to.

The F-35 was compromised by, well, compromise. A warplane can be maneuverable like the F-16, tough like the A-10, stealthy like the F-117 or a STOVL model like the Harrier. A plane might even combine some of these qualities, as in the case of Lockheed’s nimble, radar-evading F-22. But it’s unrealistic to expect a single jet design to doeverything with equal aplomb. Most of all, it’s foolish to believe a jet can launch and land vertically — a seriously taxing aerodynamic feat — and also do anything else well.

Jet design like any engineering practice requires disciplined choices. The JSF is the embodiment of ambivalence — a reflection of the government and Lockheed’s inability to say that some things could not or should not be done. “It’s not clear with the F-35 that we had a strong sense of what the top priority was — trying to satisfy the Marines, the Navy or the Air Force,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Ward, an expert in weapons acquisition who has been critical of complex, expensive development efforts.

By contrast, the Chinese J-31 does not appear compromised at all. Surrounded by rivals with powerful air forces — namely India, Russia, Japan and U.S. Pacific Command — and with no grudge-holding Marine Corps to hijack fighter design, it would make sense that China prioritized the air-combat prowess of its new jet over any historical score-settling.

That apparently apolitical approach to (admittedly illicit) warplane design appears to have paid dividends for the Shenyang-made jet. “With no lift fan bay to worry about, the designers have been able to install long weapon bays on the centerline,” Sweetman wrote. The centerline bay helps keep the J-31 skinny and therefore likely fast and maneuverable — in any event, faster and more maneuverable than the F-35, which in a decade’s time could be pretty much the only new U.S. jet the Chinese air force might face in battle.


Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)

Anonymous said...

Hi, whilst you and your fellow RSAF personnel are enjoying yourself in safe AMERICA...Our PM says that we are more...


PM Lee finally spoke about the Little India Riot. For the benefit of the non-Chinese, I’ll transcribe the interview aired by the news yesterday as accurately as I can. I’m not proficient in my Mandarin so correct me if I am wrong.

“We should not generalise a group because of some individuals. I don’t think that is fair or justifiable because their (foreign workers) crime rates are, in fact, lower than Singaporeans in general.”

David Boey said...

Dear Anon 10:30 AM 16 Dec'13,
Yes, I had a nice time as I had worked and saved up for the road trip. Try it some time.

Am also thankful that our Sing dollar packs some buying power when we're overseas. Also, those of us who made the most of our education system should find it a cinch moving about in English-speaking countries.

150th anniversary? Surely you mean SG50?

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Why dont you think about what you we need this and that..and not to repeat what the SAF wants you to repeat...Do some critical thinking...or are you are free trip for you to Australia, America etc.

Do you ready believed that we need the F-35..

You are letting the whole Singaporeans NSF down, if you are a real Singaporean

David Boey said...

Dear Anon 10:55 PM,
Thank you for your feedback.

The XFS commentaries were not delivered on a silver platter. If you were an observer at the war games, you had to join the dots and figure things out by yourself.

This blog doesn't need free trips behind the fence line to write about MINDEF/SAF matters and we've declined media opportunities on homeground before.

The blog posts on previous XFS were all researched and written without the benefit of being there.

Our views on the F-35 are reflected in an earlier on South Korea's decision to buy the fighter.

Btw, the phrase is "really believe" (present tense as it's a point of view still held by the person addressed) and not "ready believed" (which is nonsensical).

Best regards,


P.S. I usually don't feed trolls, so be prepared for lean spells now and again when zilch comes your way. I do so when I feel like it and am having great fun doing so right now, just as you undoubtedly have fun stewing your creative juices for what you think are clever repartees.

Be mindful of your hardwired cynicism. You might just blow a blood vessel one of these days :)

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

Wow! That's a classic plane you took the pic as the background. M

Noticed there's a F105 and a F100 behind that Phantom? Envious!

TheSounDOne said...

Dear Anon 9:04AM,

Totally i wish i could be standing right next to those F-4 & 105 now! Been crazy to meet them face to face since my school days when i love reading up up about Vietnam air war stuff...

Anonymous said...

To anonymous troll(s), who keep claiming that Singaporeans are "suffering" while those who stand on the wall to defend this country "enjoy" themselves:

I see what you did there, pretending to be Singaporean and all. Nice try though.;)

Ranting behind the comfort of your PC (you can afford a PC!), is just lame. Get off your ass, do volunteer work, help the old gentleman cross the road, donate generously to charity, alleviate your fellow men's suffering. You can make more difference to this country than trolling here!

Anonymous said...


I find it funny that the RSAF personnel (I guess they were mostly regulars some more) were interested in shopping while you were more interested in the museum and the boneyard. That's the thing. To them, it's a job.

Anonymous said...

For those who are interested :

David Boey said...

Hi Anon 10:27 PM 17 Dec'13,
The shoppers came from the group who flew there from SG.

I think the RSAF PC detachments are pretty well travelled? In any case, the suggestion to head to Pima and the boneyard came from an RSAF staff officer who had served with the Apaches at Marana.

Re: Anon 6:52 AM,
That is some road trip. :)

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

That's what I mean. You fly in to the US and have one chance to visit a boneyard unique in the world, yet some people pass it up and go shopping instead. Only the staff officer had some interest in visiting while stationed there.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha... this shows that RSAF regulars are just interested in shopping / pay and instead of their work...

What a joke....and whilst our local PMETs are being displaced by foreigners...these regulars are enjoying themselves..

Anonymous said...

It's an all Singaporean thing. The national past time. Natural habit when you have nothing to do on the island.

Anonymous said...

Which Singaporean...the rich ones.or those without jobs..

Ha Ha..What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Watch the video in which RAND Corporation disputes the Joint Strike Fighter assessment:

The report practically condemned the JSF F-35 program as a useless piece of equipment that cannot face the challenges of current aircraft and known future aircraft developments coming online from China and Russia.

Each aircraft will cost US$240 million excluding the engine, electronic hardware, weapon systems, stock of missiles and ammunition, pilot and ground crew training, and spares.

While the Australians are having a rethink and internal debate – there is total silence in the mainstream media, and in Parliament.

What is in the minds of the big wigs in the Ministry of Defense and the entire PAP Government in committing to this useless and overpriced single-engined aircraft?

Singaporeans will have to hold the PAP Government accountable in the use of Singapore’s reserves, especially our CPF savings that the PAP Government continues to hold as ransom to ensure their own political survival, which they have been gerrymandering for the last 54 years.

Shame on the PAP Government if it should proceed to commit billions of our money when it refuses to look after the welfare of Singaporeans, who have largely contributed to the largesse that the PAP Government is spending on itself and the toys it needs to continue with its efforts to “manage the perception” that Singapore is a “safe haven”.

Emeritus Singaporean

Anonymous said...

I was fortunate to be in Tucson several years ago and managed to visit Pima Air & Space. Wasn't able to visit the Titan and Desert Boneyard due to only having a free afternoon. Most memorable was seeing the SR-71, X-15 and the Norden bombsight.

I was near Cambridge and spend one full day at Duxford, still insufficient time to cover everything I hope to see!

Anonymous said...

The problem with a lot of these think tanks is that they are non profit and funded by companies and organizations with vested interests. This can more than not result in skewed analysis. More importantly, they are not in the know of a lot of technical details and abilities which only key air force and defence officials, pilots and engineers have access to and are bound not to reveal to the public. That South Korea made a u-turn on the F-35 is a case in point. That Singapore's Mindef justifies its inherent capabilities is another. Detractors like to post such reports as the gospel truth. Also, planes from communist countries do not get similar attention because they are good but because their media is controlled. It us a lot worse than it looks.

Anonymous said...

Hey asshole, I know you hate rich people. But you should distinguish between those who work hard for their wealth and those who rig the whole system to grow their wealth at everybody's expense!

BTW most RSAF personnel are hardworking and are not considered rich!

Anonymous said...


first thing to do is to go shopping...with their nice pay check...

Look at the Iranian Air Force personnel...first to run when there are troubles with the Shah...

The most pamper servicemen in Singapore..

Anonymous said...

They are still workers, working people working a job. How much do you think their pay is? How much would you slash it to? If someone works hard, would you stop them?

The important thing is they don't make a living by oppressing you, do they? They don't hand out passports or point cameras at you, do they?

Anonymous said...

The kind of hypocrisy as shown by 9.12am is really amusing.

Anonymous said...

Not too worry. The Malaysians bring even their wives and children on overseas official visits. All paid for by their wealthy government running into deficit next year, yet again.

Anonymous said...

Err...even overseas deployment has recreation time for relaxation. Duh.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Everyday bitch about invading Malaysia. Do you think your PM wants to spend your money to invade Malaysia and give you the land?

No, he rather keep Singapore small so he can sell, no, lease your HDB flat to you at the appropriate price of his liking. You syok here, but in reality you are his bitch.

Anonymous said...

Right, that is why our Minister are willing to deploy NSF men overseas, so that they have a chance to go overseas, free of charge...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sounds legit. PAP sends NSFs overseas to give them a free holiday, not because there is no space in Singapore to train.

Anonymous said...

Urmmm no....we are actually buying property in third world places like Malaysia so that we can rent them out or sell them at high prices later. In so doing, we increase the income disparity in your country and accompanying discontent. We will own you.

Anonymous said...

Invade My for what!?? They are already destroying their country by themselves and doing a good job. We just watch the show and grab our popcorns.

Anonymous said...

Beware then, properties in third world countries can be repossessed "at the stroke of a pen" (quote LKY). How many properties do you own, good sir? ;)

Talking about jingoistic Singaporean sentiments...

Anonymous said...

...which will cause more harm to than good to a decaying Malaysia..lost jobs..income. Any savvy investor will move money out when there's no money to be made.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of which, Malaysia's economy is forecast to grow faster than Singapore's.

Anonymous said...

Ermm, comparing to oranges. Singapore is a developed country. Malaysia is developing. Developed countries grow between 1-3% plus usually on average. Singapore is expected to grow 4-5% next year and that is very fast for a developed country. To be frank, Malaysias growth is fuelled by investors, many of whom are Singaporeans. Domestically, Malaysias is a mess. Without Petronas, she will default. Malaysia has little money to play around with. As far as developing countries go, Malaysia is amongst the slowest. Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Philippines are faster. These are the countries you should be matching up against. Not Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, etc. Singapore is in a different league.

Anonymous said...

I meant comparing apples to oranges. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

In that case, it shows that investors don't agree with you that Malaysia is an unsound investment. Also, thanks for inflating Singapore's 2014 growth to "4-5%".

By your logic, I count myself fortunate that I have a Singapore passport, like so many PRCs, Indians, Filipinos... and Malaysians. Allow me to express my heartfelt thanks for your ongoing commitment to my military protection, on behalf of the foreign community.

Your growth is foreigner fuelled. By 2030 and beyond, with the world's lowest fertility rate, there will be few native Singaporeans left to enjoy this growth, not that living in a pigeonhole, as a minority (40% TOTAL citizens by 2030) on a crowded island is enjoyable.

As for your calling for war, let us hope for peace. We can revisit the war talk if your government actually embarks on the war path. Like Malaysians, Singaporeans are peace loving people who will not answer the call for a war of aggression, especially if there are so few native Singaporeans left to pay the cost but not reap the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Economic growth rates tend to be higher than government forecasts. Anything wrong for 3%-4% ? That is still high and good for a developed country. Immigration levels are tightly controlled. Singapore is a country made up of immigrants. Many of them will leave and many will call Singapore home. This is the new global environment - economically competitive. This is unlike Malaysia where rampant breeding in the uncompetitive segment of the population will ultimately cause the country's downfall. Get your popcorns people. Petronas cannot last forever. Also, another year of cuts for the Malaysian military. Subsidies? One thing at time purlease...

Anonymous said...

The population white paper is a postulation and work in progress. It will be refined time and again and concurrently run with other projects. And anon 5.32pm, get your facts right on the population of PRs:

Anonymous said...

I agree, the population forecast is surely subject to revision. I am not the same guy, just pointing out.

In the run up to GE 2011, PM Lee in his web chat said: "We are not planning to make a 6+ million population. Not trying to get there. Dont worry."

In Jan 2013, the population white paper with the 6.9m figure was released.