Friday, March 30, 2018

Understanding Singapore Armed Forces SAF war machines through open source information

Many interesting nuggets about Singapore's military can be found from close examination of open source literature. Such "Easter Eggs" are found in weapon brochures from defence companies or pictures taken in foreign training areas upon whose soil the Official Secrets Act cannot touch.

Even before social media entered our lives, events such as open houses and arms shows offered rich opportunities for data miners to do their stuff.

Researchers have been rewarded with tantalising glimpses of war machines that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) placed on field trials that were never publicised. The MaK Armoured Weapons Carrier, which was tested by the SAF in the 1990s, is one example. Pictures of the heli-portable tracked vehicle found in MaK brochures from that era show assets that appear to be in SAF warpaint. Though the pictures do not single out the Lion City's armed forces, SAF cognoscenti should be able to pick out the Easter Eggs unaided.

Keen observers and SAF otakus would have learned the same from open source literature of the United Defense M9 Armoured Combat Earthmover (ACE), which emerged second in a two-horse race between the American ACE and British Combat Engineer Tractor. Tail number registrations of new SAF assets on acceptance trials overseas are another source of data. Many other examples abound.

Along with data mining comes the job of making sense of all the data. Two rules worth following when sussing out signals from the noise as as follows:

Validity: A hypothesis can be accurate but not necessarily valid. All too often, we see people jumping to conclusions, force-fitting the "facts" to fit their own hunch or hypothesis. It takes discipline and a systematic approach (key elements in the info-collection cycle such as Plan, Collect, Process, Analyse, Disseminate/Red Team Review etc) to information gathering to avoid this pitfall.

Accuracy: This essentially means one's observations must be reliable and unbiased. Not easy when we all have inherent biaises towards how we see various situations. One must also be able to discern between observations and opinions when joining the dots to find those Easter Eggs. Have fun while doing so. :-)

Note to the reader:
There's an Easter Egg in the text. Can you find it? Happy holidays everyone. :-)

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Understanding defence creep. Click here


Shawn C said...

Speaking of open source - the RSAF just outed a recent new capability on their own Facebook page.

Unknown said...

Aster 30 SAMP/T?

Unknown said...

Found the Easter Egg!