Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Best Units 2014

The dry heat was enervating yet tolerable as it was hot back home too. The lack of  humidity they welcomed. It was the dust, omnipresent and pervasive, that the soldiers found a nuisance.

A bigger challenge were ground rules for their training stint at a location that could not be shared with family and friends, on war machines that could not be mentioned, all executed under a training arrangement that would probably never ever see the light of day.

Still, all took it in their stride. The soldiers proved to be eager and attentive students as they were taught how to handle their massive war chariots. Project H had turned from concept to reality.

Their experience is, alas, not unique. There are other episodes within the land, air and sea services of their country's armed forces that have allowed the careful infusion of combat capabilities calculated to result in a swift and decisive over-match should push come to shove.

Herein lies the irony: That commanders of some of  the most lethal capabilities in their armed forces end up as bench warmers as their country celebrates the achievements of the best military units.

The applause and cheers that erupt from spectator stands are well-deserved for the officers, men and women from battalions/squadrons that earned their accolades. The banners that some units inevitably bring along add more than a dash of colour and bravado to the event with their stirring unit slogans and rousing war chants. They are a tangible and heart-warming display of unit esprit and of the sense of comradeship fostered within and throughout their formation.

Amid the pomp and pageantry sit officers whose respective commands will never be lauded publicly. This comes not from want of achievement nor from lack of professional competence or dearth of opportunities for them to shine against their peers.

The standard of war craft in these units has, in many cases, evolved from good to great. The synchromesh of war-fighting capabilities, tested and refined during realistic war-fighting exercises, has proven time and again that their concept of operations is practical, the concentrated firepower at their disposal potentially devastating.

They may never share the limelight at the parade but they know they do not need it. Nor do they hanker for awards that are feted by the media.

They are special, in a class of their own, primus inter pares.

Those who know deeply appreciate the contributions of these men and women to their country's defence and security. They are, well and truly, their country's best units.

Kits for Kids fund raising drive

Now for something different. Please share this appeal in aid of Singapore's Students Care Service (SCS). TY.

By Tan Chuan-Jin, click here for TCJ's Facebook page

Like many, I found the hobby of piecing together a box of plastic parts to assemble a scale model of a plane, tank or soldier a fascinating one.
Do you remember your first model kit? My first was a 'Matchbox' 1/72 scale Royal Air Force Hawk with Red Arrows marking. I remember the two-colour plastic and the clear stand upon which you placed the finished aircraft so that it looks as if it is flying.

This hobby calls for patience and along the way, reading up about the model being built also provided many lessons about military history.

Over the years, my stash of unbuilt kits slowly increased. Collecting it was as much a hobby as building them! There was that thrill of opening the box, pouring through the instructions, examining the details and then putting it aside while imagining the various painting schemes, diorama settings etc. Often not quite getting back to actually building it!

My unbuilt model kits are crying out for new owners who can give them more attention and time. The Kits for Kids charity event will put on sale unbuilt kits from my personal collection along with kits donated by others. It has been heart-warming to see the modelling community step forward by offering their time and kits for this charity drive. We have already received dozens of model kits donated by well-wishers. More are welcome. We look forward to expanding the stash thanks to your contribution, which can be dropped off (logistics details to come).

While many of these kits have sentimental value of the kind that fellow collectors can possibly relate to, I am donating these kits for a good cause as the Students Care Service deserves our support. All monies raised will go to students who need some assistance, and to help them develop to their fullest potential.

Even before the start of the charity sale, corporate donors have already pledged more than $10,000 in support of Kits for Kids. It is a promising start!

Although money can be raised in many ways, this effort is about galvanising our community of modellers to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Along the way, we renew friendships and have a great time - adding an intangible element to the charity drive that goes beyond putting money in a tin.

Come join me on 12-13 July at Kampong Ubi CC in support of Kits for Kids. Catch up with old modeling friends, meet some of our world class modelers who will display their works, and find something that will give you and your children hours of joy.

See you! Do share this!

Check out as we load more info over time.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

CARAT-Wira Eagle: Malaysian and US forces execute amphibious landing demo in Johor

Skirmish line: Malaysian paratroopers and United States Marine secure the beachhead at Tanjung Resang in Malaysia's Johor state as LCACs disgorge troops and vehicles shipped ashore from the dock landing ship, USS Ashland (LSD-48). The amphibious landing capability demo was staged as part of the CARAT-Wira Eagle war games hosted by Malaysia.
All images courtesy of Dzirhan Mahadzir, who witnessed the action firsthand at CARAT-Wira Eagle.

Attacking from the sea, warfighters from Malaysia and the United States stormed a beach at Tanjung Resang, just north of Mersing, yesterday in a joint show of force.

The capability demonstration, staged as part of the CARAT-Wira Eagle war games (Wira is Malay for Hero), represent the second major MY-US military exercise held in the Federation this past week after United States Air Force F-22A  Raptors and Royal Malaysian Air Force war machines launched the air power manoeuvres, Eksesais Cope Taufan 2014, on Monday.

CARAT-Wira Eagle saw LCAC hovercraft, loaded with B-vehicles like ATM Vamtacs and USMC Hummers, despatched off Tg Resang from the dock landing ship, USS Ashland (LSD-48). The landing force was supported by AAV-7 tracked armoured carriers deployed from the Ashland.

Malaysia's contribution to the amphibious landing force comprised elements from 9 RAMD (Para) (Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja -  Royal Malay Regiment), which is part of the Malaysian Army's crack 10 Brigad Para (10th Parachute Brigade). The battalion's parent brigade is the Malaysian Army's Pasukan Aturgerak Cepat or Rapid Deployment Force.

Paratroops from 9 RAMD are adept at securing enemy objectives from the air. The battalion is also the designated amphibious landing specialist in the Malaysian Army.

At  CARAT-Wira Eagle yesterday, Malaysian troops provided air defence cover (above) for the landing beach by deploying MANPADS fire units upon landing with the intention of protecting subsequent waves of LCACs from attacks by low-flying enemy warplanes or attack helicopters.

The joint force defeated entrenched enemy infantry, who attempted to defend the beachhead, before securing the area for friendly forces.

Malaysia and the United States enjoy warm and friendly defence relations. The military might demonstrated at CARAT-Wira Eagle and Eks Cope Taufan 2014 - the latter saw the US deploy its latest warplanes to the region for the first time - is indicative of concrete and continuing efforts by both countries to uplift their bilateral defence relations during joint exercises, defence courses, visits and exchanges of military personnel.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

First public show for Singapore Army ammo resupply vehicle at Republic Polytechnic

Source: Singapore Army Facebook

A Singapore Army vehicle that has yet to be seen at an Army Open House went on show at Republic Polytechnic (RP) this past week.

What is thought to be the public debut for the CLAS-V (upper right in the first image) lifts the veil on an important yet hitherto unseen aspect of the supply chain that serves Singapore Artillery Primus 155mm Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzers.

The CLAS-V is based on the Singapore Technologies Kinetics Bronco all-terrain tracked carrier. The rear cabin has been specially designed to carry 155mm projectiles and associated charge bags in an armoured container. The open face of the container reveals racks for 40 155mm projectiles.

The vehicle is thought to draw its name from the first two letters of the Singapore Army project name for the Primus, with "AS-V" thought to stand for Ammunition Supply Vehicle. Interestingly, the Primus maker calls the self-propelled gun by another name - Project A.

CLAS-V is designed to support Singapore Artillery Primus batteries by providing fast resupply of ammunition across all terrain, even across water obstacles. The ammunition resupply vehicle's ability to perform its mission under fire optimises the hide, shoot and scoot concept of operations adopted for the Primus.

CLAS-V is one of 26+ distinct Bronco models in service with the Singapore Armed Forces.

Swedish yard Kockums to build Littoral Mission Vessel composite superstructure

Swedish shipbuilder Kockums, renamed TKMS AB, looks set to build the composite topsides for eight Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Littoral Mission Vessels (LMV), according to news reports from Sweden.

Kockums reported that it has been involved in the LMV project since 2013, with work share involving the design and fabrication of the superstructure of the warship and all structures above the steel hull. Singapore yard Singapore Technologies Marine (STM) is the project lead.

According to a yard statement dated 23 May 2014, the Kockums komposit superstructures are to be fabricated in Sweden and then shipped to Singapore.

Upon arrival here, the superstructures will be mated with steel hulls, which will be made in Singapore. When completed, each LMV should measure 80 metres from bow to stern, 12 metres wide and displace around 1,150 tons.

The use of composite for the LMV superstructure and enclosed sensor mast points to weight saved for each warship. It also suggests that the LMVs will have a reduced radar signature compared to warships made of conventional materials such as aluminium or steel.

Kockums Chief Executive Officer Ola Alfredsson said the yard was proud to renew its association with the Republic of Singapore Navy and STM, noting contributions from Kockums' skilled workforce, expertise in naval architecture and innovative production methods for naval systems.

The yard said composite structures for the RSweN's Visby-class corvettes were designed and fabricated by Kockums. It also performed similar work for the Indian Navy's Kamorta-class corvettes.

Trusted brand
Among Singapore's naval community, Kockums is a familiar and trusted brand name.

The ties that link Kockum with the Lion City are long, deep-seated and cherished by Singapore. Important capability leaps in the RSN's capability in areas such as submarine technology and mine countermeasures, involved close and extensive collaboration with Sweden's defence community.

Such ties led to the multi-year attachments of RSN personnel in Karlskrona and a number of Singaporean children which is not small resulted from their parents' happy time in Sweden.

The yard was responsible for reactivating and refurbishing two classes of former Royal Swedish Navy diesel-electric submarines (SSK) for the RSN. Among the engineering challenges: the Archer-class underwent extensive renovations that involved cutting and stretching the hull with an additional module for Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) machinery. This class of SSK is the first in Southeast Asia with AIP.

Kockums also gave Singapore its first purpose-designed MCMVs for operations in local waters. Four Bedok-class MCMVs regularly sweep the sea lanes leading to Singapore harbour to keep them free from underwater devices that could impede freedom of navigation. Such sweeps take place regularly even in peacetime.

In addition, Kockums supplied unmanned robotic sweeps used along with the Bedok class for hunting sea mines.

Reports about the less-than-friendly merger with German naval yard, ThyssenKrupp, have been noted in Singapore. The future of the skilled workforce who work for Kockums has come under the spotlight not just in Europe but also in Singapore. This is because any contraction of Kockums industrial capability will affect the choices from its customers for future naval purchases.

The dynamics of the relationship between Kockums and ThyssenKrupp will be closely watched by friends of Kockums in Singapore.

You may also like:
Details of Singapore's Littoral Mission Vessels as of February 2014. Click here.

Royal Malaysian Air Force to train with world's most advanced fighter in Eks Cope Taufan 2014

Cutting edge: A United States Air Force F-22A Raptor taxis past a Royal Malaysian Air Force S61A-4 Nuri helicopter at TUDM Butterworth on 6 June 2014 and is later ringed by ground crew. Photos courtesy of Dzirhan Mahadzir.

Starting tomorrow (9 June 2014), United States Air Force (USAF) Lockheed F-22A Raptors - the world's most advanced fighter jet - will join Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) warplanes and helicopters for the most complex US-Malaysia air warfare manoeuvres held in the Federation to date.

Codenamed Cope Taufan 2014, the bilateral exercise marks several milestones in US-MY defence relations. Taufan is the Malay word for Typhoon.

First, the deployment of six F-22As makes the RMAF the first air force in ASEAN to host the Raptor for war games held in regional airspace. The learning value for the RMAF is noteworthy. The commitment of all fighter types by the RMAF indicates that Malaysia recognises this point and wants to maximise opportunities for its pilots to fly with and against advanced fighters such as the F-22 Raptor and F-15 Eagle.

From the US point of view, American military aviators will probably relish the opportunity to fly with advanced Russian fighters such as the MiG-29 and Su-30 as the air combat serials represent the ultimate in dissimilar air combat training.

Second, Cope Taufan will see the United States military deploy its Joint Deployable Electronic Warfare Range (JDEWR) to Malaysia for the first time. This training aid should add value to the Angkatan Tentera Malaysia (Malaysian Armed Forces) as it will allow Malaysian warfighters to understand and appreciate how air combat tactics should be executed in contested airspace. Nurtured judiciously, this is expected to engender a shift in Malaysian mindsets from a platform-centric view of warfare to a network-enabled one involving integrated platforms working with one another. When they eventually see the light, it will mark a paradigm shift in the way they do business.

Third, the quantity and quality of American air assets now in Malaysia signals that the US is hedging its bets when it comes to regional engagement. Senang Diri understands that plans to fly F-22s to Malaysia were hatched at least six months ago - which is round about the time Singapore gave extensive publicity to its integrated live-fire exercise, codenamed Forging Saber, held in the United States. This point shows that the US has alternatives in anchoring its military presence in Southeast Asia and is prepared to look beyond, and work with, partners other than Singapore. Oftentimes, we tend to overrate our importance in grand strategy of major powers.

Last, the commencement of the war games - the largest and most staged between the two air forces - demonstrates the high exercise tempo of the RMAF's war games calendar. Cope Taufan comes close on the heels of the RMAF's recent involvement in the Five Power Defence Arrangements war games, Bersama Shield, which saw it send Hawk 200 fighter jets to Singapore as part of the fighter land-away arrangement.

Eksesais Cope Taufan 2014 will see assets fly from 9  to 20 June from TUDM Butterworth, TUDM Kuantan and TUDM Subang near the Malaysian capital  Kuala Lumpur.  These air bases will offer the Cope Taufan exercise directorate flexibility in employing air assets as missions can be staged over the Andaman Sea to the west or eastward over the South China Sea.

The F-22s flew into TUDM Butterworth on 6 June (the historically aware will recognise the date as the anniversary of the Overlord landings in Normandy), with the moment captured by Malaysian defence journalists (see images above from Dzirhan Mahadzir).

Air assets from the following squadrons will be involved:

6 and 15 Skuadron - BAE Systems Hawks
11 SKN - Sukhoi Su-30MKM
17 SKN - Mikoyan MiG-29
18 SKN- Boeing F/A-18D Hornets

131st Fighter Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts (F-15C)
199th Fighter Squadron, 154th Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii (F-22A)
19th Fighter Squadron, 154th Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii (F-22A)
36th Airlift Squadron, 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota Air Base, Japan (C-130)
517th Airlift Squadron, 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (C-17)
535th Airlift Squadron, 15th Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii (C-17)
204th Airlift Squadron, 154th Wing, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii (C-17)

A statement from the US Pacific Air Forces said:"Cope Taufan is an excellent opportunity to improve combined readiness and cooperation between the U.S. and Malaysia. This large force employment exercise will include operations in air superiority, close air support, interdiction, tactical airlift, and combat search and rescue."

US PACAF added that the war games will allow for "an exchange of techniques and procedures to enhance cooperation between U.S. and Malaysian Airmen". 

"It also provides a quality training venue for U.S. and Malaysian aircrew and maintenance personnel," it added."Pacific Air Forces has conducted exercises with the Royal Malaysian Air Force since the early 1980s. By participating in exercises with military forces from partner nations in the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. demonstrates its commitment to peace and stability in the region."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Spouses of SAF Regulars deserve attention in ongoing defence narrative

If you think it is tough being in a military organisation like the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), where your rank in the social order hangs literally on your heart, try being in an organisation where one's standing in the pecking order must be sensed rather than seen.

For many young wives inducted into the SAF Officers Wives' Club (SAFOWC), their induction to the club set up exclusively for female spouses of the Officer Corps forces them to grow up quickly.

Make no mistake: the SAFOWC has done sterling work funding charitable causes, serving as a support structure for our men in uniform deployed for long and distant service in places like the Gulf of Aden, and in helping numerous Singaporean families come to terms with the demands of military service that only kith and kin can identify and empathise with.

Indeed, the SAFOWC is such a key part of our defence ecosystem that it is surprising scant attention has been paid to making sure it does not falter. Recent reviews of defence issues in Singapore have cast the spotlight (rightfully) on stakeholders such as National Servicemen and their families, on Regulars, employers and the role of women serving the SAF.

Alas, spouses who support the SAF leadership have to fend for themselves. And if you are the husband of a female Regular, good luck to you as there is no male equivalent club for SAF Officers Husbands.

In the Glossary of the recently-released Committee to Strengthen National Service report are found acronyms for organisations such as ACCORD (of which yours truly is a member), the SAFVC and SAFVL. But we've missed the SAFOWC, perhaps because of its charter which shapes it as a social club rather than a tool for winning hearts and minds? Pity.

The narrative thus far sidesteps the pivotal role that wives of SAF officers serve in keeping households in order when the head of household is away serving his country. And when the role of Family Liaison Officer brings the conversation into the household, it is done more to describe a functional role than a lead-in to a wider discussion on demands shouldered by the military family. This misses the opportunity exploring what more can or ought to be done to help wives of our officers and WOSPECS underpin commitment to defence (C2D).

And so the SAFOWC plods on valiantly. It gives uninformed observes the mental picture that it is all about chatty womenfolk who meet for high tea and the occasional jumble sale, when the influence such wives command should be better recognised and employed to advance C2D.

Fault lines in the social order
The SAFOWC deserves greater attention from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF because the social structure that sets norms and expecations for its esteemed membership is crisscrossed by fault lines that could fracture the organisation, if we are not careful.

Take the example of the young officer's wife, pretty and demure, at her first SAFOWC function. Determined to expand her social circle, she mingled easily and chatted with new faces even as she struggled to remember all their names.

That social encounter was akin to an interrogation. But so subtle was the technique that one would hardly notice that some wives were trying to suss out where the newbie stood in the social order. Central to the conversation was the rank and background of her beloved hubby. You see, some members of the SAFOWC are adept at charting a mindmap showing the CEP of our officers. They will quiz a newbie with vigorous intensity to find out whether a newbie's husband is a scholar, and then whether he was funded to study locally or overseas (the latter signals he is set for higher things in life).

As senior appointments in the SAFOWC tend to mirror the hierarchy of the SAF leadership, the social order in the SAFOWC tends to mirror that of the SAF with wives of Generals at the top and everyone else falling in behind.

One wife found out the hard way when the SAFOWC planned an overseas trip for a social  event with the officers wives' club of an ASEAN country. Her excitement was dampened when she was put on the wait list, all because the wife of a more senior officer wanted to bring her kid along. Lo and behold, junior didn't go in the end and the wife on the wait list was told she could finally go. She didn't. She politely declined because the offer to go came at the last minute and she felt wives of junior officers should be treated more respectfully.

Today, her husband has risen to the SAF's senior leadership and she can recount that episode with confidence. The incident made her acutely aware of  the potential pitfalls that could beset the SAFOWC, should an invisible cast system infect the wider membership of the organisation.

Such reasons probably explain why a sizeable number of SAF officers wives are absent as active participants to  the SAFOWC's activities. It is not a hostile or cold environment. Far from it.

Pilllow talk
But moving in a social circle such as the  SAFOWC demands a high level of social intelligence and self-awareness because gossip picked up from social events could easily end up as pillow talk with the boss of young officers. Negative impressions, shared at an inopportune time, picked up by the wrong ears and spread as salacious gossip, could wreck a career if the impression that someone is lazy at housework or a lousy father ends up clouding impressions of one's ability and potential as an SAF officer.

The stress level for SAFOWC members also arises from the fact that people have a tendency to think that the spouse of a capable officer must be cut from the same template. Even if the husband is a charismatic leader who is a master at public speaking and a capable officer, it is unfair to expect the wife to be the same. Let's face it: opposites attract (ok, we generalise).

And while the husbands may be best buddies because they trained and exercised together or were OCS mates, we cannot expect their spouses to draw on the same emotional credit generated from the close working relationship forged between the men. Indeed, some spouses may not get along with one another, even though their husbands may be best of friends.

Here's where mirroring the leadership structure of the SAF in the SAFOWC works against the wives, because there are some who prefer to be quiet homemakers who shun the limelight and absolutely detest public speaking, yet have expectations cast upon them because their hubby is a rising star.

Mind you, the pressure from such expectations can be immense because no wife wants to letdown their other half. So some put on a show, pretending they enjoy the moment when their inner thoughts and feelings are to the contrary.

The anecdotes above underscore fault lines that could unsettle organisations like the SAFOWC. This is why MINDEF/SAF ought to keep the interests and needs of military families in its sphere of consciousness.

And if you think the wives of officers and WOSPECS are left to fend on their own, spare a thought for husbands of our growing number of Female Regulars. They are worse off as there is no umbrella organisation like the SAFOWC to take care of them.

One supposes it is a machismo thing, that husbands - as head of household - should be able to pull things together?

Monday, June 2, 2014

IISS Shangri-La Dialogue needs to uplift itself from tired, old template

Now in its 13th instalment, the International Institute for Strategic Studies' (IISS) Asia Security Summit - better known as the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) as its formal name cannot be crunched into a diplomatically acceptable acronym - now marks the calendars of regional powers as a must-attend event.

What started as an attempt to rouse defence and security officials to come together for talks under a non-official, non threatening Track 2 setting has lived up to its purpose.

Heavy hitters do make time to grace the Shangri-La Hotel's Island Ballroom year after year and they attend the SLD unafraid to speak their mind.

But for the SLD to stay relevant to the region's defence and security landscape, it must remake itself as more than just a talk shop where the Track 2 label gives officials ample leeway in articulating views that may be frowned upon or impossible to voice under more official settings.

This weekend's just-ended SLD signals that early efforts by the IISS in nurturing the summit into a forum where views can be shared openly and quasi-officially, all the while sidestepping the intricacies of Track 1 diplomacy, have been achieved admirably.

That said, the SLD's makeover ought to take place soon as a failure to break out of the now-familiar format risks turning the event into a glorified shout fest where it's all talk and no action.

Staff officers from the 27 nations represented at the 13th SLD must heave a sigh of relief now that the curtains have come down on the event.

It runs like clockwork. Alas, a tad too predictably.

Anxious to lend it a regional air, the keynote address has turned into a sort of musical chairs where speakers from regional countries are invited in turn, based loosely on the security topic du jour.

On the first say of the summit, all eyes turn to the United Stated Secretary of Defense as the representative from the world's most powerful military gives its take on the state of play for power politics.

Without fail, Singapore's Minister for Defence will host a lunch reception involving all defence ministers or their representatives. The novelty of this event has worn thin on the media, and they have thankfully moved beyond colour stories of what's on the menu or who-sat-next-to-whom.

Day Two offers regional speakers their chance to rebut, respond or recount the words that dropped from SecDef's lips. By this time, everyone is waiting for the clock to tick to the final bell and the wrap up by the raconteur, the indefatigable Dr John Chipman who has an unenviable job keeping the house in order as regional players snipe at one another.

As a template, the above format has worked its magic in coaxing regional power brokers and squabbling neighbours to sit in the same room for two days of boring intense debate.[Such debates would perhaps get more attention from delegates next year if the Shangri-La killed its wifi at strategic junctures, forcing the audience to focus their attention on the speaker rather than indulge in escapism courtesy of Whatsapp.]

But here's the rub: Group dynamics fostered by getting everyone together dissipates all too quickly as the feel-good impact has little time to sink in among all present. So to borrow taglines from group dynamics theorists, the SLD template ends after the Forming and Storming  phases, leaving no opportunity for the Norming and Performing to kick into action.

It comes as little surprise that regional speech writers will jump at the liberty afforded by the SLD's Track 2 label to let fly without mincing words. You won't find another event in this region which commands the kind of audience seen at the SLD. For the assembled media, the verbal jousting makes great copy and spawns the kind of headline grabbing stories that justify their time in Singapore.

You can bet that the tenor of this year's talks will provide much food for thought for next year's instalment as the assorted speech writers and policy types run through their respective after-action debriefs.

This is why the SLD needs an urgent makeover to break out of the template. It needs to uplift itself as more than a soapbox for power brokers to flaunt their oratorical prowess. Unless it does so, the tongue wagging and finger pointing will get us nowhere. Theatrical value aside, such sideshows do wear thin after awhile and when that moment comes, the SLD's star appeal will start to wane.

To be sure, there is value in the SLD's role as a sort of pressure relief valve which allows policy makers to vent their spleen. However, such jousting needs to be managed with a firm hand lest it upsets the raison détre of the summit, which is to promote peace and stability.

Architects of SLD redux could, perhaps, take a leaf from the suggestion by Singapore's Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen, who urged Asia to build on multilateral frameworks such as the ADMM and ADMM-Plus to instruments of "practical cooperation and interaction" that foster regional peace and stability.

Perhaps work groups could be spawned with a longer mandate and broader terms of references that help delegates extend the theories and ideas postulated during the year's SLD. Under the work groups, the traction continues outside the Island Ballroom, enabled by technology like teleconferencing and underpinned by a broader desire to keep the tempo of regional cooperation going. Such work groups could sum up their success (or lack thereof) at the following year's summit. Done this way, there will be some continuity between each year's summit, a kind of intellectual bridging that ties the events together rather than having each summit stream into your consciousness like a flash bang - loud but short-lived.

Those familiar with the ADMM-Plus exercise hosted by Brunei will know the role the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) served in pulling things together. Whether or not the men and women from the SAF get screen credits for their work is beside the point. What matters is that 18 nations and 18 military forces converged in the Brunei sultanate to confer, coordinate and cooperate with one another, in so doing creating opportunities unseen at any previous regional military exercise.

Talk is cheap. It is time for sustained action to generate and sustain positive vibes between regional military forces.