Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Exercise Wallaby 2017 XWB training incident: Sad homecoming

One of our own prepares to come home from Exercise Wallaby 2017. 😢


We wish the crew and passengers aboard 752 a safe journey home.

The incident weighs heavily on our hearts and our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the late Third Sergeant Gavin Chan Hiang Cheng. 

To the men and women of the SAF Armour Formation: Stout hearts. Rally round those who need support during this difficult time and complete the rest of the XWB Frames safely and professionally. 

H/T to the Central Queensland Plane Spotting community in Rockhampton for the dedicated yet sensitive coverage of this morning's proceedings. Photos by IAD and Daniel Bishop.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Contemporary National Education: Former Singapore Armed Forces SAF Chief of Defence Force CDF, Lieutenant General (Ret'd) Desmond Kuek, reflects on Indonesia-Singapore defence relations

Note: This essay by LG (Ret'd) Desmond Kuek was contributed to the commemorative book published by the Embassy of The Republic of Indonesia in Singapore (KBRI Singapura) to mark 50 years of Indonesia-Singapore diplomatic relations.


This year, Singapore and Indonesia celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations. Our ties today are longstanding, strong and extensive, underpinned by a defence relationship that is founded on mutual trust and respect. 

I witnessed the closeness of our defence relations when as a young Captain in 1989, I accompanied the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, Mr Goh Chok Tong, who led a senior Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) delegation which included the Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General Winston Choo, to visit Bandung.  We were received personally, and with great warmth and hospitality, by MENHAN General Benny Moerdani and PANGAB General Try Sutrisno.  It set the tone and standard for our bilateral ties that have been upheld and strengthened through the years. In recounting the depth and extent of our ties, I am reminded of the chorus in our bilateral Exercise SAFKAR INDOPURA song:

“Persahabatan kita, rekan seangkatan walau diseberang lautan”
[A friendship that lasts, that’s how it must be, comrades in arms across the sea]

Indeed, over the years, the SAF and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI) have worked purposefully together, in true spirit of cooperation and friendship, to ensure peace and stability in our region. The depth of our bilateral military ties is evident from the wide range of exercises and professional exchanges between our armies, naval and air forces. Exercise EAGLE INDOPURA, a bilateral naval exercise, was first established in 1974 and is the SAF’s longest-running bilateral exercise with any foreign armed forces.  Our naval divers regularly train together during Exercise PANDU. From time to time, we conduct joint socio-civic engagements with coastal communities in the Indonesian archipelago under the banner of SURYA BHASKARA JAYA. From 1980, our military exchanges expanded to include Exercise ELANG INDOPURA, an air combat exercise; and further deepened with the establishment of the Siabu Air Weapons Range in Pekanbaru. As for our Armies, we conduct Exercise SAFKAR INDOPURA annually, alternating between training areas in Indonesia and Singapore, while the SAF’s Commandos and TNI’s KOPASSUS hold annual engagements as part of Exercise CHANDRAPURA.

Exercise SAFKAR INDOPURA, in particular, is an exercise close to my heart.  As Commander of the 3rd Singapore Division from 1998-2000, I worked closely with Lieutenant-General Soegiono, then Panglima KOSTRAD to organise the annual exercises. As Co-Chair for the Indonesia-Singapore Joint Training Committee from 2000-2003, I supervised its development; and as Army Chief from 2003-2007, I had the honour of co-officiating the exercise with my KASAD counterparts General Ryamizard Ryacudu and General Djoko Santoso.  The exercise progressed from its humble beginnings as a mapping exercise to the full troop Brigade-level exercise it is today. I am pleased to note that next year, our Armies will be marking the 30th year of this flagship Army bilateral exercise.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that thousands of our SAF and TNI personnel have interacted through these years. Since 1969, the SAF has sent Officers to attend the TNI’s Army Command and Staff College (SESKOAD). Today, they attend all four Command and Staff Colleges in Indonesia.  Many of the graduates now hold senior positions in the SAF and also in Government.  Likewise, TNI Officers have been attending Singapore’s Command and Staff College and other training courses.  There are regular visits on both sides from junior levels through to senior leadership echelons. These exchanges have allowed us to grow lasting friendships, and give us the comfort and confidence to be able to pick up the telephone and converse with our counterparts with the view to resolving issues that occur from time to time, as might be expected even with the closest of neighbours.

 “Apapun terjadi pelihara, Ikatan teguh sepanjang waktu”
[Through thick and thin we’ll strive to keep, the bond that stands the test of time]

Many personal and professional ties have been forged through these opportunities for our people to spend meaningful time exploring options and solutions for complex operational scenarios, coordinating live-fire drills, and enjoying social and sports activities. It is most heart-warming to see our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women train and operate alongside one another, working hand in hand to accomplish a common mission. The mutual understanding and interoperability fostered between TNI and SAF units were especially crucial when we were called at short notice to operations in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

When the SilkAir MI185 crashed in 1997 in the Musi River near Palembang, the TNI led extensive search-and-rescue efforts, and TNI-AL divers recovered the flight data and voice recorders after more than a week of working tirelessly in extremely difficult conditions. The TNI also provided troops to search the crash site. It was a national tragedy for Singapore, and we will always appreciate how the TNI so readily assisted us in times of need.

When the Boxing Day tsunami struck Aceh in 2004, we mourned with our friends in Indonesia over the loss of lives in the disaster. We spared no effort to assist in the relief operations in Medan, Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, deploying landing ship tanks, helicopters, medical teams and combat engineers. SAF personnel worked alongside the TNI to assist in search and locate operations, as well as with the evacuation of victims, delivery of medical aid and emergency relief, provision of logistical support and in engineering reconstruction works.

“Persahabatan kita terus berlanjutan”
[This friendship will last for all to see]

Our defence cooperation is multi-faceted, and we worked collectively toward a Defence Cooperation Agreement between our two armed forces that I signed in 2007, as Chief of Defence Force, with PANGTNI Air Chief Marshal Djoko Suyanto.  The regional security environment we face today continues to be complex and unpredictable, and the need for cooperation against sea piracy and regional terrorism is ever more compelling. In our desire to work together to overcome common threats, we forged an ASEAN Chiefs of Defence Informal Meeting (ACDFIM) from the existing web of bilateral linkages among regional countries, and subsequently constructed a multilateral format for the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM).  The strong bilateral defence ties between Indonesia and Singapore have served as a key pillar in this vital regional security structure.

Reflecting on our military ties, in our commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Singapore, has brought back many fond memories of my friendships with TNI Officers, and it is my sincere hope that future generations of Officers, men and women of the SAF and TNI will continue to uphold this legacy and build on our excellent, longstanding relations.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Beware tech infatuation in the Third Generation Singapore Armed Forces 3G SAF

Call centre: MAN 5-tonner seen during Exercise Wallaby 2005 with a non-standard inscription on the driver's cabin door.

4 December 2022 update: 

Pukul Habis: Available from Amazon sites that serve your location. "Look Inside" function on some sites shows sample pages.

Singapore: https://bit.ly/3XJzInH

Australia: https://amzn.to/3ViaX0i

Canada: https://amzn.to/3VkjqQP Look Inside

France: https://amzn.to/3uenBS5 Look Inside

Germany: https://amzn.to/3XLcJc0 Look Inside

Japan: https://amzn.to/3gS2Loz Look Inside

Spain: https://amzn.to/3OSfi7S

Sweden: https://bit.ly/3GWq7UI

United Kingdom: https://amzn.to/3EZ6clA Look Inside

USA: https://amzn.to/3Ui3Eo1 Look Inside

Tech-related news out from Singapore had a bruising week at the end of July 2017.

On 27 July, it was reported that 300 drones failed to fly during a National Day Parade rehearsal the previous Saturday (22 Jul'17) due to a technical problem with the GPS guidance.

Also on 27 July, social media reported that an app linked to the SGSecure movement - which aims to raise the level of security awareness and national resilience among people in Singapore - had earned a dismal One Star rating (Five Stars reflect the best user experience). This was after citizen soldiers complained of being coerced into downloading an app which they found had little relevance or value.

That same day, Amazon Prime was launched in Singapore. Within 24 hours of its launch, a flurry of complaints marred the online shop as customers vent their frustrations that Amazon Prime failed to fulfil its promised two-hour delivery window.

A bruising week for technology in Singapore, no doubt. But tech weak?

Hands up those of you who will forego tech for the typewriter and migrate back to snail mail. Any takers?

Despite these setbacks, technology continues to dominate our lives in Singapore.

The examples cited above are relevant to defence efforts in the Lion City because:
a) It makes one wonder how military ops that rely on swarm UAVs will be affected if these fail to perform;
b) Unhappy citizen soldiers could affect commitment to defence;
c) If Amazon Prime fails to deliver, would Call For Fire also fail?

The downside for Amazon Prime is limited to bad press and unhappy customers.

The downside for the military if a tech-enabled sensor-to-shooter system fails will be more dire. Doubly so in a short-war scenario where boffins may not have the luxury of time to install a system update.

When the Battlefield Management System (BMS) was first unveiled to the media around the turn of the century as part of the Third Generation (3G) Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), one oft-quoted anedote used to describe BMS was the parallel with the pizza delivery service of a famous chain. (This pre-dated food delivery apps, so please bear with the story telling).

At the time, customers of a popular pizza delivery service used just one number for deliveries anywhere in Singapore. Television and radio ads for the pizza company had a catchy jingle built around the number. See picture above for a hint.

According to the SAF, BMS functioned in broadly the same way. A request for fire support, routed by warfighters through the BMS, would prioritise and allocate assets expeditiously.

This concept of operations (CONOPS) may work perfectly for war games involving a small number of tactical units plugged into the grid.

However, the reality is the SAF has never operated with everything "switched on" at the same time to serve the full force potential of the SAF.

Whether the C4ISTAR system can cope when under time pressure and under fire is a question that no one can answer, as it has never been tried before in the real world with every single SAF radar and electronic sensor switched on.

The history of warfare has many examples of outgunned, low-tech combatants who managed to not only prevail on the battlefield, but win the day.

The United States Army in Vietnam dominated their regular and irregular North Vietnamese adversaries in defence technology. The MacNamara Line relied on a variety of electronic gadgets to thwart the movement of Vietnamese forces in the jungle.

In the air, F-4 Phantom warplanes initially went into battle in Indochina without a gun. Air warfare planners had deemed guns irrelevant, in view of the reach and lethality of the combo of short-range (Sidewinder) and medium-range radar-guided AAMs (Sparrow) that could (theoretically) knock bandits out of the sky outside gun range.

During the 1991 Gulf War 1, the aerial might of coalition forces using the then-new J-STARS surveillance planes and F-15E Strike Eagles failed to find and destroy a single Iraqi Scud TEL. This despite overwhelming superiority in sensors/shooters that blanketed Iraq.

More recently, the tech-heavy Israel Defense Forces (IDF) went to war several times against Hezbollah units in Lebanon. Both sides claimed victory. While this may be true when argued from the IDF's perspective, the hard truth is that Hezbollah is still in business. And tank warfare using the likes of Merkavas and other IDF heavy tank assets will never be the same again in Lebanon, when faced with an adversary liberally armed with ATGMs fired from well-emplaced and prepared kill zones with overlapping fields of fire.

As you read this in September 2017, preparations are underway Down Under for Exercise Wallaby (XWB). As with previous editions, this year's XWB will once again put to test the tech-heavy SAF's ability to fight and manoeuvre, with military operations coordinated by computer.

It's a fine CONOPS, which we should carry on perfecting.

But at no point should one embrace tech so blindly to the point of tech infatuation.

You may also like:
A primer on the 3G SAF. Click here.
SAF demonstrates Dynamic Targeting at Exercise Forging Sabre. Click here.
Urban legends abound about the SAF's true combat capabilities. Click here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Exercise Pacific Griffin HarpoonEx with USS Coronado

The Littoral Combat Ship, USS Coronado (LCS-4) seen sailing in company with a Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) stealth frigate off the coast of Guam during Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017 (XPG). The naval manoeuvres between the United States Navy and RSN were held from 19 August to 2 September 2017.

The war games involved more than 850 personnel from Singapore and the United States. The RSN contributed two Formidable-class stealth frigates, RSS Stalwart and RSS Supreme, and an Endurance-class tank landing ship, RSS Endurance, that served as command ship. 

Apart from the Coronado, the US Navy also contributed an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Benfold, and underway replenishment vessel, USNS Pecos. Air elements involved in XPG were a US Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and Hawker Hunter fighter jets from a civilian defence contractor, and a Republic of Singapore Air Force Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk naval helicopter embarked on RSS Supreme.

Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017 Special Reports:
RSN warships depart for Exercise Pacific Griffin. Click here
Exercise Pacific Griffin enters live-fire phase. Click here
USS Coronado tests NOMAD EW drone during Pacific Griffin. Click here
USMC 5th ANGLICO train with Singapore navy during Exercise Pacific Griffin. Click here

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

US Marines from 5th ANGLICO train with Republic of Singapore Navy's RSS Endurance at Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017

Lance. Cpl. Patrick Diemer, assigned to 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, communicates with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Endurance Class Landing Ship Tanks RSS Endurance (LST 207) during a live fire exercise while aboard an MH-60 Seahawk, belonging to the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (HSC-25), during Pacific Griffin 2017, off the coast of Guam Aug., 30, 2017. Pacific Griffin 2017 is an exercise between the U.S. and Republic of Singapore Navies, representing the enhanced capabilities of both navies to operate and work together to ensure maritime security and stability. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joan E. Jennings)

Few aboard RSS Endurance had heard of Farallon de Medinilla.

But the tiny Pacific island was the centre of attraction for the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) tank landing ship, RSS Endurance.

Orbiting off the coast of Farallon de Medinilla Target Range this morning (30 August 2017), a United States Marine Corps fire control team aboard a US Navy MH-60 Seahawk survey the island intently through binoculars. It’s the designated target area during a live-fire exercise held as part of war games between naval forces from the United States and Singapore, codenamed Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017.

Today's shore bombardment practice forms just part of the Pacific Griffin exercise game plan. Held over several weeks from August 19 to September 2, the war games involved some 850 men and women from both navies who were put through realistic engagements involving anti-surface, anti-air, anti-submarine and ship-to-shore scenarios, conducted day and night and with OPFOR thrown in for added realism. The war games are arguably the most complex ever staged between warships and naval aviation from both sides, and underscore a long-standing defense relationship forged between both nations.  

Eyes on target, the Marines are linked to Endurance via radio. At their call, naval artillery will pound their targets with shells discharged at a rate of two every second.

Marines like Lance Corporal Patrick Diemer are known as ANGLICOs. LCpl Diemer serves with the 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (5th ANGLICO), which is part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF). Their motto “Lightning from the Sky, Thunder from the Sea” provides a telling hint of the work they perform in shaping the battle, on and from the sea. 

When 5th ANGLICO swings into play, their motto needs no further explanation... or translation into any language. 

Marines, assigned to 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, communicate with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Endurance Class Landing Ship Tanks RSS Endurance (LST 207) during a live fire exercise while aboard an MH-60 Seahawk, belonging to the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (HSC-25), during Pacific Griffin 2017, off the coast of Guam Aug., 30, 2017. Pacific Griffin 2017 is an exercise between the U.S. and Republic of Singapore Navies, representing the enhanced capabilities of both navies to operate and work together to ensure maritime security and stability. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joan E. Jennings)

Their job is precisely as stated in their unit’s name. These Marines provide air and naval gunfire liaison during a shooting match. Few see them in battle. But they lurk close to the frontline or beachhead in small teams and let results speak for themselves. On call is a devastating menu of firepower options for ANGLICOs to reach out and touch their targets and change the landscape. Every frontline commander would welcome ANGLICOs, such is their value as force multipliers. 

At LCpl Diemer’s command, naval artillery from the Singaporean warships will drop shells at a designated target till point of destruction. 

As gun crews aboard the RSN warships will not get to see their target on land, corrections radioed by LCpl Diemer and his team mates form part of what's known in military parlance as the sensor-to-shooter cycle. The sensors in this case are his Mark 1 eyeball. The shooters are the Singaporean navy's 76mm Super Rapido guns. Put bluntly, this is the tighly coordinated no-nonsense kill chain that hostile units dread.

A high rate of fire counts for nothing if gunners are unable to engage a distant target accurately. Here's where the gunfire liaison teams make their presence felt. A well-trained ANGLICO can walk shells to the target and have naval artillery fire for effect once the shells are zeroed in accurately.

It’s not an easy task as the warship may be on the move on the gun line while assigned for naval gunfire support. And unlike artillery emplaced on land, the pitch and roll of the warship and meteorological conditions like wind and rain can affecting the accuracy of naval gunfire.

The ANGLICOs count themselves lucky if their target at the impact area is stationary. If the target is mobile and if there are more targets than gun barrels, the ANGLICOs have their work cut out for them during a fire mission. They will have to quickly prioritise targets and assess where the mobile target(s) might be, taking into account the estimated time of flight for the projectiles, before they bring on the steel rain.

And when working in concert with foreign navies like the one from Singapore, differences in target engagement procedures - even accents and peculiarities in speech on both ends of the comms line - may further complicate matters.

The fire mission conducted off Farallon de Medinilla is valuable for the RSN too. Live-fire ranges in and around Singapore island, a tiny diamond-shaped city-state 12 miles (20km) wide and some 26 miles (42km) long, are unable to accommodate naval guns whose shells can hit targets more than 12 miles away.

So war games like Pacific Griffin are valuable for putting to test tactics, techniques and procedures that enhance the capabilities of personnel from both navies to operate and work alongside one another.

There's another plus for Americans who train with foreign navies. When onboard a Singaporean warship like Endurance, the lucky ANGLICOs may get to sample some local hospitality, like Singaporean food.

All things considered, a win-win solution for all involved.

Good shooting. ANGLICO out!

Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) sailors chock and chain an MH-60 Seahawk, belonging to the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (HSC-25), on board the RSN Endurance Class Landing Ship Tanks RSS Endurance (LST 207) participates in Pacific Griffin 2017, off the coast of Guam, Aug., 30, 2017. Pacific Griffin 2017 is an exercise between the U.S. and Republic of Singapore Navies, representing the enhanced capabilities of both navies to operate and work together to ensure maritime security and stability. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joan E. Jennings)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

US Navy Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado LCS-4 tests new Nomad EW drone on sidelines of Exercise Pacific Griffin

Revision dated 6 September 2017: After the blog entry below was posted on 5 September'17, we found out that Nomad stands for Netted Offboard Miniature Active Decoy. It is a 3-foot long UAV with a rotor diameter of 6 feet. The Nomad decoy is launched from a tube 4 feet in length with a diameter of 6 inches. According to the US Office of Naval Research:
  • Nomad is a rotary wing UAV specific for electronic warfare operations
  • It is tube-launched for compact storage and rapid deployment
  • The decoy is designed to work in multi-Nomad teams or formations. In other words, swarm UAV tactics.
  • It is a low-cost design for expendable or recoverable operations.

H/T Shawn Chung 

Civilian contractors from the Office of Naval Research conduct a test on a Nomad drone system aboard the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). Coronado is on a rotational deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, patrolling the region's littorals and working hull-to-hull with partner navies to provide 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples/Released)

The United States Navy has tested a drone system - apparently new to Google - called "Nomad" from the flight deck of the Littoral Combat Ship, USS Coronado (LCS-4). Nomad is short for Netted Offboard Miniature Active Decoy.

The drone was vertically-launched from a bank of four tubes and carried aloft by propulsion mechanisms that apparently unfold upon launch. The Nomads recovered in vertical position, propped up by four "legs".

It is possible that the Nomad is a type of lightweight, expendable UAS that can operate as a solitary unit or coordinated for swarm tactics.

A Google search failed to uncover more information on the Nomad drone system, whose [See note above dated 6 Sep'17] The trials were administered by "civilian contractors" from the US Navy's Office of Naval Research. According to a US Navy release, the trials took place in the Philippine Sea on 28 August 2017.

Forward deployed at the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN's) RSS Singapura Changi Naval Base, Coronado recently took part in the first joint USN-RSN naval manoeuvres, codenamed Exercise Pacific Griffin (XPG). The war games took place off the US Pacific island territory of Guam from 19 August to 2 September 2017.

A Nomad drone launches from the flight deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). Coronado is on a rotational deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, patrolling the region's littorals and working hull-to-hull with partner navies to provide 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples/Released)

A Nomad drone lands on the flight deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4). Coronado is on a rotational deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, patrolling the region's littorals and working hull-to-hull with partner navies to provide 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb R. Staples/Released)

The trials of Nomad indicate that Coronado deployed off Guam with at least two unmanned aerial systems. Apart from Nomad, the LCS embarked the MQ-8B Firescout, which was employed to feed targeting data back to the ship via the MH-60S Seahawk during an anti-surface engagement.

Both assets are fielded by the US Navy's Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23, which had a detachment aboard Coronado for the duration of XPG as well as naval activities conducted on the sidelines of the exercise.

The MH-60S/MQ-8B combo is the first of its kind in the US Navy. Sending the Firescout aloft extends the eyes and ears of the LCS, contributing high-value track data to the air and sea situation picture compiled in realtime for the Coronado's warfighters.

Drones are not new to the Singapore Navy. The Formidable-class stealth frigates (FFS) have tested at least two types of UAS. The types tested aboard the FFS include the ScanEagle, currently deployed aboard Victory-class Missile Corvettes for mid-range scouting missions.

Swarm UAVs are an endeavour spearheaded by Singaporean defence science community in support of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). A sanitised, civilian application was demonstrated at Singapore's 52nd National Day this year, with 300 tightly coordinated UAVs displayed as part of a light-and-sound show. See below.

Higher up the evolutionary ladder are large UAVs, whose roles go beyond merely providing visual reconnaissance or target designation functions for SAF manoeuvre forces. Such assets are likely to co-exist with manned Republic of Singapore Air Force air platforms in the coming decade.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Singapore Ministry of Defence MINDEF releases images of Exercise Pacific Griffin 2017 XPG

Look out for our reports on XPG, out in the coming days. 

RSS Stalwart takes aboard fuel from USNS Pecos while underway. Photo: Ministry of Defence, Singapore

Warships from the United States Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy during a photocall for Exercise Pacific Griffin (XPG). The naval war games, which were held off Guam over two weeks, involved some 850 personnel from both armed forces. Photo: Ministry of Defence, Singapore

You may also like:
RSN warships depart Changi for Exercise Pacific Griffin XPG. Click here