Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rockets away! Bravo Battery 23rd Battalion Singapore Artillery fires first GMLRS during Exercise Forging Sabre

Missile away: Gunners from Bravo Battery, 23rd Battalion Singapore Artillery, let fly at enemy positions with Himars artillery rockets during Exercise Forging Sabre 2013, now unfolding in the Arizona desert in the United States.

With Bravo Battery 23 SA somewhere in the Barry M. Goldwater Range, Arizona: Taking aim at a target in the Arizona desert that he couldn't see with his own eyes, full-time National Service artillery gunner Third Sergeant (3SG) Tien Wei Xuan needed all the help he could get to place his rockets dead on target.

Hard enough to achieve in daylight in terra incognito, the Singapore Artillery gunners faced a bigger challenge with a fire mission issued after sundown in an exercise area where sky and land merged pitch black. This was done to test the capability and readiness of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) units in sustaining the fight round-the-clock to break the tempo of the opposing force during the Exercise Forging Sabre war games.

3SG Tien got what he needed and more from SAF battle managers who helped the gunners make every shot count as they reached out to touch simulated enemy installations far away (HIMARS rockets can reach out to 70km). They did so using battle management computers tailored specifically for the SAF's C4ISTAR requirements by Singaporean defence science managed by the Defence Science & Technology Agency.

Heavy hitter meets heavy lifter: A HIMARS rocket launcher from 23 SA crowned by a RSAF CH-47D Chinook in the background during Exercise Forging Sabre. The CALFEX has allowed SAF air and ground forces to coordinate and integrate their firepower and support capabilities as battle managers from all three  SAF Services (yes, RSN personnel are here too) plan and execute integrated strikes day and night, in unfamiliar territory and at noteworthy distances.

He got the eyes on target, which is so vital for precision strikes, and demolished it with the press of a button from the armoured cabin of a Singapore Army HIMARS rocket artillery vehicle. Ground intelligence was courtesy of Singapore Army Commandos who lurked some distance away who had the enemy target under close observation.

Another source of target data came from a ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. The UAV orbited noiselessly, persistently and inquisitively over the battlefield to provide SAF battle managers with a rich source of real-time data.

Sustaining the fight: A HIMARS launcher receives a fresh pod of rockets with live munitions during Exercise Forging Sabre 2013. Not apparent in this picture are the cold conditions that SAF regulars, NSFs and NSmen had to toil under, testing personal endurance and adaptability during a demanding conventional warfare exercise scenario that involved day and night kinetic operations over long distances. The desert sky was indeed electric blue when this picture was taken. Photo credit: Ministry of Defence

3SG Tien need not have travelled halfway around the globe to the Barry M. Goldwater Range just outside Phoenix, Arizona, to practice rocket firing. He could have done anytime any day at any lift in Singapore, so similar are the muscle movements.

Bravo Battery and elements from the 24th Battalion Singapore Artillery (24 SA, a battalion known as the firefinders. They help gunners find their targets.) flew here to gain firsthand experience working the sensor-to-shooter cycle at a combined live-fire exercise or CALFEX. The experience conducting a fire mission which resulted in the discharge of live munitions was the invaluable part of XFS that cannot be replicated in Singapore.

Unfamiliar ground, winter weather that saw night time temperatures in the desert plunge from the high teens in Celsius to just above freezing was just one of the challenges at the SAF's largest exercise. SAF units at Forging Sabre were also stalking by fellow soldiers and RSAF warplanes playing the part of the "red" forces who were determined to make it a tough fight.

Fire commands that lead to a live rocket launch from a HIMARS - its name stands for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System - were practised during about a dozen field exercise in Singapore by 3SG Tien and his fellow NSF gunners from Bravo Battery, 23rd Battalion Singapore Artillery (23 SA) executed the firing sequence with "live" ammunition for the first time.

The 23 SA gunners did so as they had been trained, confident in the knowledge that they knew precisely what to do, even in terra incognito, in harsh winter weather conditions and under pressure from "higher command" closely monitoring the battery's every move.

With the target singled out for destruction by SAF battle managers, now came the moment for Bravo Battery 23 SA to reach out and touch it.

He did so, a calm military professional who belied his age and showed he had grown up in his year plus NS experience into a full-fledged gunner about to fire the SAF's first satellite-guided rocket round. Tonight, he was Launcher 3.

As higher command in the CP approved the rocket strike, the order was relayed to Bravo Battery's CP for their information and necessary action. The order to fire is then issued.

"Command to Launcher 3, Arm, over."

"Launcher 3 to Command. Launcher armed. Out."

"Command to Launcher 3, Cancel. At my command: Fire."

Within his armoured cabin bathed in orange light and with blast shields protecting the glass windows, 3SG Tien's rocket team initiated several actions prior to opening fire. The NBC overpressure protection system was started so that exhaust  gases from the rocket plume would not enter the cabin. He then depressed the fire button.

A split second delay and the rockets roared off into the inky darkness.

What 3SG Tien and his crew did not see was the response in the Command Post miles away. As the SAF's first GMLRS soared into space, all eyes in the CP were locked on the screen showing its flight path and another screen that showed what the target area looked like. Both real time images were captured by SAF UAVs.

The rocket scored a direct hit that saw an enormous fireball erupt at target centre, triggering applause in the CP, making history as this was the first GMLRS munition ever launched by the Singapore Army and pushing morale in Bravo Battery sky high.

"Launcher 3 to Command, Rocket 1, all last shot. Over."

"Command to Launcher 3, Rocket 1. All last shot. Out."

Mission accomplished.

The writer extends his thanks to the Singapore Artillery for that splendid afternoon and night shoot, for the free hot water :-) and the company of citizen soldiers figuring things out in a strange, chilly yet friendly land far from home.


Anonymous said...

Basic gmrls rockets have been,successfully tested out to 92km.

David Boey said...

Dear Anon 1:49 PM,
No typo. Was told repeatedly that the ones SAF bought can fly to 70km. *grin*

Best regards,


Anonymous said...

Another millions of dollars wasted..just to show..what...the paper general can do..

voranoth said...

Hi David,

brilliant article as usual. am jealous of the opportunity you had to view Exercise Forging Sabre firsthand.

With regards to the comment system here, have you considered restricting comments in this blog to disallow "annonymous" comments?

As there seem to be a fair few comments here that take every opportunity to lambast the SG goverment.

I follow the blog ( as well where the discussions seem rather more civil

~my 2 cents

Anonymous said...

Yes David. Time to control some of the needless comments. Likely jealous Malaysians. By the way, what was the major announcement? Is it still on? Was it postponed to Little India Zouk-Out 2013? Terima Kasih.

Anonymous said...

Yup, then it will be easier to ban ah seng who blames everything on jealous Malaysians and suggests going to war with them.

Anonymous said...

I've got no problem with that even if it makes no sense. This is a Singaporean blog dummy. I have seen worser things written in Malaysian blogs.

Anonymous said...

So why should you hijack this blog to follow those worse examples?

Anonymous said...

The point is..dont come to someone's house and tell them what to do? If you don't like what you see, then you should be elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

There is really nothing wrong with expressing hopes and fears (even crazed ones) in your own home. It is like walking over to your neighbor and saying...pst, can,you not talk bad about us in your own home. Grow up! No wonder Singaporeans generally find Indonesians more likeable and like them more.

Anonymous said...

Your existence shows that bad apples exist on all sides.

Btw, yow come you are no longer active in your other two forums?

Anonymous said... get a life and stop telling people wut to do in their own space. On the other hand, show some respect while being in a foreign blog. Kapish?

Anonymous said...

I'm not even Malaysian. I'm Singaporean.

Nobody showed you any disrespect. You are starting everything and would be an embarrassment to any country!

"There is really nothing wrong with expressing hopes and fears (even crazed ones) in your own home. It is like walking over to your neighbor and saying...pst, can,you not talk bad about us in your own home. Grow up! No wonder Singaporeans generally find Indonesians more likeable and like them more."

Then why not say something crazy and ask the police not to arrest you for it?

Anonymous said...

too many sinvaporeans think sg will be occupied,despite sg spent billions and our guys spends two years in NS in defense.

another group think peace come to world.therefore sg should be unarmed.
i think the latter is naive.

Anonymous said...

A third group thinks that if Singapore is attacked, the UN will come and save it. They think the UN has an army and a responsibility as a world government. The result of government structure being present in every part of their lives and telling them what to do.

Anonymous said...

Fourth group: Doesn't care how hard NS is. Just wants you to do it properly. Thinks the whole goddamn world wants to attack Singapore because it is oh so strategic. Mostly lowly educated women.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 7.75pm,

Thank you for stating something that is unaccountable. Your response show proof you are blur sotong foreign poster. Yes, we should take over Malaysia when the time comes. No need for shots to be fired. We will buy them over.

Anonymous said...

Fifth group,

And by far the largest group - feels that they are too busy with their own lives to bother about other countries. However, they are prepared to give a mike Tyson punch in the face of foreign enemies if required - through the SAF.

Anonymous said...

MAF ceased to be a major concern years ago. Their problems are tied to their countrys ability to remake itself. Malaysia's problems are so deep seated that if it is not careful, it will become the Mexico of South East Asia. You can't believe just how much of its wealth and potential has been sucked away and destroyed by corrupt leaders. BA or BN it is all the same. Without massive infusion of funds from Singapore, Malaysia is a goner,

Anonymous said...

Haha. You can't argue with what I said. According to you, I have the right to say it on my home turf.

Call everyone who disagrees with you a foreigner? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

So what if you prove you are Singaporean? He will just tell you to get out of your own country.

"if you hate the system, get lost aka migrate from Singapore~ Nobody wants you here."

"Please pack your bags and go away, so many unpatriotic scumb*gs here."

Anonymous said...

They can go to Bolehland. In fact, politicians from Bolehland are asking their people who can think to leave too. @Anonymous 4.39, oh I know who I am addressing. Aha!

Anonymous said...

Can we please leave Malaysia alone? If they become like us, how to settle traffic summons at road side or makamah tepi jalan at north south highway? Kena sai..

Anonymous said...

Haha. Ah seng, you also asked those who disagree with you to leave. Dare you be the pot calling the kettle black?

Anonymous said...

Sg leaders are not the ones telling Sgs citizens to leave. It is My politicians. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Haha. So why do you emulate their bad example?