Saturday, July 15, 2017

Unique Singapore Armed Forces CONOPS arise from SAF's specific operational requirements

Among the countries in Southeast Asia with an integrated air defence network, Singapore is unique as its air defence shield is an all-missile affair with no triple A.

Among the regional armed forces with artillery guns, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is the only one that has standardised its tubes to a single calibre.

Do we know something that other warfighters don't?

There was a time when Singapore Artillery battalions fielded four different munitions in various calibres (105mm, 120mm, 155mm,160mm) for tube artillery. Today, streamlining its warshot to 155mm shells and associated charges simplifies the job of resupplying arty units during operations.

The tradeoff, however, is the loss of operational flexibility conferred by the different firing characteristics of a diversified artillery arsenal.

The Giat 105mm LG1 light guns once used by the Singapore Artillery, for example, may pack a more modest throw weight compared to 155mm guns. But the Project F guns were more heli-portable and, ergo, more mobile in the field compared to the 155mm Project R lightweight SP howitzers, which cannot move far or fast enough on their puttering APUs (essentially modified farm tractor engines).

Tailoring the sharp end of the SAF to our specific operational requirements often calls for concept of operations (CONOPS) and warfighting configurations like no other.

Our all-missile air defence shield - with Aster and I-HAWK at the high end, down to the C-RAM system and VSHORADS at the other end of the spectrum - and decision to bet on a single artillery calibre are uniquely Singaporean solutions to fighting on and from the geographical template of Singapore island.

As we forge ahead with our own solutions, the ability of the end-users who will operate the weapon platforms and systems (Ops) and the defence science and engineering community (Tech) to talk and collaborate smoothly cannot be overemphasized. Ops-Tech integration is vital for the SAF's ability to be a smart user of defence solutions.

The Vietnam War taught United States air warfare planners to relearn the value of gun-armed fighters. The F-4 Phantom, then America's premier air defence fighter, was redesigned to include 20mm cannon slaved to a lead computing gunsight to make up for the lack of guns on early model Phantoms.

During the Falklands/Malvinas war in 1982, Britain's Royal Navy learned the hard way that the lethality of missile-armed warships was far from what weapons makers had forecast. Long-range Sea Dart and Sea Slug missiles, and short-range Sea Wolf missiles could, in theory, have kept marauding Argentine fighter-bombers at bay. But a combination of good flying at low level, supported by relays of aerial refuelling tankers and the use of terrain masking saw RN surface combatants like the Antelope, Ardent, Coventry and Sir Galahad fall victim to bomb attacks of the kind last seen during WW2.

Losses like these debunked the theory that missiles alone could keep warships safe from air attack. Air defence guns operating under local control (30mm and 40mm) were installed aboard RN frigates and destroyers post-Falklands.

Ops-Tech integration
A healthy Ops-Tech framework does not entail one side or the other kow-towing to the other side. Far from it. Disagreements will arise from time to time, and one can expect points of view to be delivered robustly.

Stringing everything together is the ability and readiness for all parties to listen to, assimilate, assess and accept/debunk alternative notions or points of view, and to do so rationally and with no rancour.

Easier said than done, particularly when strong personalities on project teams are involved.

Enter the SAF two-sided war games. The use of instrumented ranges, tactical engagement systems (TES) and simulated engagements on computer can play meaningful and (one would hope) impartial roles for validating new warfighting methods. The underlying assumptions and parameters that frame war readiness exercises must be well thought through and credible, and the failure of blue force encounters during two-sided FTX or TEWT must be embraced in the right spirit.

Established and reputable armed forces learn their lessons from the crucible of war.

One doubt the SAF wants, or can afford to, go down that same road.


Observer said...

How about nobody should get a star in SAF unless they get operational experience from piggy backing on allied operations? In this way we eliminate a whole lot of arm chair generals who perhaps are suitable for pushing paper behind a desk.

Benjamin said...

I wonder does the RSAF have AA guns that are still in use?

David Boey said...

@Benjamin Ong. I believe the last AA guns, the 35mm Oerlikon with upgraded SF, were retired some years ago.

Benjamin said...

Thanks. Still i wonder if missiles alone is good enough. I was thinking about the 35mm Oerlikon guns when reading the Falklands war part.

David Boey said...

@Benjamin Ong,
Re: All-missile anti-aircraft armament.

I raised this question during the visit to the Flaming Arrow Challenge. The reply from the RSAF Air Defence Group was reassuring.


Benjamin said...

True. After all missiles today are very lethal. I did notice during the Airforce open house during the display the mechanised Igla has a machine gun mounted. Looked like a 12.7mm heavy machine gun.