Thursday, April 30, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 24 pix: Singapore Army AMX-10P and AMX-10 PAC 90 amphibious AFVs

While the AMX-13 light tanks served the Singapore Army for more than 30 years, its modern stable mate from the same AMX tank factory in Roanne, France, had a much shorter service life.

Here're pictures of the AMX-10 PAC 90 tank destroyer (above) and AMX-10P 25 infantry fighting vehicle (last pix below) at the National Day Carnival at Marina South in the year 2000. The AMX-10s were acquired under Project S.

There are few pictures of Singapore Army AMX-10s in official Singapore Armed Forces publications like Pioneer magazine. Before NDP 2000, the AMX-10s were last seen in public at the Army Open House in 1997, which was the year the Bionix was unveiled. I believe the AMX-10s were shown to the public for the first time at AOH 97.
AMX-10 PAC 90 rigged from swimming. Note the raised screens over the engine deck, which are not fitted in the first AMX-10 PAC 90 image. This vehicle was displayed aboard RSS Persistence during the National Day Carnival 2000.

AMX-10P 25 with a one-person Dragar turret armed with a 25mm cannon. Note the additional pintle mounted GPMG on the rear deck.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

RSS Enterprise A 301 update

5 May 2020 update: Thank you to the reader who sent pictures of the RSS Enterprise exhibit at the RSN Museum.

When I wrote about RSS Enterprise, I thought the lack of information might be because the ship was useless AF or there was something special about her.

Realised Enterprise isn't useless AF :-)

Big thank you to the reader who sent me this picture and some tidbits. It's the best image I've seen of the auxiliary. Someday, I'd love to write her story!

Updates on Singapore Army AMX-10s and Republic of Singapore Air Force UH-1H rocket gunships coming up in subsequent "circuit breaker" postings. Please look out for them.

Circuit breaker Day 23 pix: Mystery auxiliary ship RSS Enterprise A 301

Big day: The late Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Minister for Defence, arrives at Pulau Brani to officiate at the commissioning ceremony for RSS Enterprise (seen here) and two minesweepers, RSS Mercury and RSS Jupiter. The name plate attached to the bridge wing is unusual because it includes the "RSS" prefix. Usual convention just indicates the ship's name in raised capitalised gold lettering, for example Sea Wolf or Endurance. (Photo: National Archives of Singapore)

In the United States Navy, ships called Enterprise are well known. The WW2 aircraft carrier Enterprise played a major role in the Battle of Midway. The US Navy named its first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. The name got a major boost after the popular Star Trek TV series named its thespian starship Enterprise.

Here in Singapore, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) auxiliary ship, RSS Enterprise (A 301), was one of the Navy's lesser known vessels. 

Few Singaporeans would have heard of her and almost nothing exists on Google about the ship. She's more stealthy than even the Formidable-class stealth frigates when it comes to digital footprint. Apart from some national archives pictures of her 1977 commissioning ceremony, there's no information online or in RSN anniversary books on RSS Enterprise. Who built her, what was her role, who formed her crew and what was her fate remains a mystery.

Enterprise was commissioned on 27 February 1977 at Pulau Brani together with the minesweepers, RSS Mercury and RSS Jupiter. For a ship of that era, Enterprise had a clean and modern looking bridge with a short mast topped by a navigation radar and an angular smoke stack. She had a crane mounted on her deck amidships, giving the auxiliary the ability to load and unload cargo on her own.

Enterprise had no gun mounts visible though RSN warships at the time had pintle mounts for 12.7mm Brownings. 

Two lift raft stations suggest a small crew, estimated around 30 officers and men. (Photo: National Archives of Singapore)
RSS Enterprise seen sandwiched between Brani Wharf and two minesweepers, RSS Jupiter and RSS Mercury. The picture was taken in 1983 when my family and I took a ferry to Sentosa for an outing. The ferry used the jetty next to Serapong Golf Course, which was opposite Brani Naval Base. I digitised the print photo to black and white as the colours in the photo have faded. I regret not taking more pictures.
RSS Enterprise (A 301) on her commissioning day watched by Missile Gunboats and tank landing ships (LSTs). Enterprise appears to have a degaussing cable around her hull, which leads to the suggestion that she could have been acquired to support the two minesweepers. Bravo Whiskey is now used by the Singapore Police Coast Guard. When this picture was taken, the Navy had yet to discover that there were unexploded bombs in the channel, Selat Sengkir. (Photo: National Archives of Singapore)

If you've more information on this mystery ship RSS Enterprise or her crew, I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 22 pix: Colourful F-5 camouflage schemes

Before the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) settled on the F-16 lookalike warpaint (see below) for its upgraded F-5s, the F-5E/F fleet was painted in a colourful variety of camouflage patterns from the 1980s through to the 1990s.

We present the colourful warpaint of the now-retired RSAF F-5 Tiger II fleet.
An RF-5S Tigereye reconnaissance fighter, converted from a F-5E, wears the F-16 style camouflage that was the final warpaint pattern for the RSAF's long-serving F-5 fleet. This RF-5S was displayed at the RSAF Open House in 2003.

The F-5E, which was the RSAF's first supersonic fighter jet, was delivered in a three-tone grey wrap around scheme seen below. This disruptive pattern was the dominant scheme. Some colours were sun-faded till the three tones merged into what looked like an overall pale grey when seen from a distance.

An F-5F approaches Paya Lebar Air Base with an RF-5E. Both wear the three-tone grey warpaint.
At least two F-5Es were painted in green and tan camouflage that looked similar to the one on RSAF A-4 Skyhawks. The camouflage was said to be quite effective when green/tan F-5s skimmed above ground level. In the 1980s, F-5Es were also seen in a variation of the three tone grey camouflage scheme, with a deep blue and dark grey replacing two shades of grey. Sadly, I do not have a picture of this attractive camouflage scheme.
RSAF F-5Es were also painted silver overall, much like the Soviet MiG-21s. While one might think that a silver painted plane is easy to spot, the silver warpaint blended well with the clouds and made the F-5 (which presented a small profile when seen head on) difficult to see.
At least one RSAF F-5E was painted in a non-standard camouflage scheme of dark and light grey topside and light grey on its ventral surfaces. This beauty served with RSAF 144 Squadron.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 21 pix: 106mm Recoilless Rifle and Scout Jeeps

Gun demo: A106mm Recoilless Rifle crew at the 4 SIR Family Day in the early 1980s. The 106 could be also removed from the jeep and operated as a standalone crew-served weapon. The 106 complemented the 84mm Carl Gustav in infantry battalions. Both were recoilless weapons with a lethal backblast area that made them less suitable for use in urban areas.

My elder brother served his full-time National Service in the early 1980s with the 4th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (SIR), which was then at Bedok Camp (now home of the SAF Guards). These pictures were taken during a 4 SIR family day in Bedok Camp, likely in 1983 or 1984.

I loved attending the 4 SIR family day when the infantry battalion's various companies would introduce their weapons to the spectators. This was followed by a mock attack supported by artillery and armour. Lots of blank rounds would be fired, with thunderflashes and smoke grenades simulating the sound and fury of an infantry assault. All this was done on the parade square surrounded by four-storey barracks blocks.

Before the Spike was the MILAN. And before the Singapore Army upgraded to anti-tank guided missiles, the 106mm Recoilless Rifle (RR) was the heaviest anti-tank weapon organic to SIR battalions. The 106 jeeps were intended as fast, mobile fire support platforms. The gun was aimed using a 0.5 cal spotting rifle attached to the top of the recoilless rifle.

Crash action demos by 4 SIR Support Company were quite exciting to watch. The 106 jeeps entered the parade square one behind the other at high speed, fanned out in a line and screeched to a halt with tyres smoking. Individual gun commanders barked out orders which echoed round the parade square as spectators watched. On each jeep, the long 106 barrel would be released from its gun lock as the crew took up all-round defensive posture. Then the gunner squatting next to the gun would crank the hand wheels to point the barrel at the "enemy" before reporting the weapon ready for action.

The SIR Scout platoon was also jeep mounted. Scout jeeps were lightly armed with a single pintle-mounted 7.62mm GPMG as their role was to observe and report and not to engage in combat. 

Ouch, those elbows. For those of you who've tried it, it's not comfortable maintaining prone firing position on the parade square.
4 SIR soldiers in these pictures would be in their mid-50s by now. Hope they're all keeping well. Thank you for the family day demo which I enjoyed!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 20 pix: Bloodhound SAM Site RAF Seletar

This aerial view of RAF Seletar shows a Bloodhound missile site operated by Royal Air Force (RAF) 65 (SAM) Squadron in the 1960s. It was contributed by a former British serviceman who served in Singapore. The Bloodhound SAMs appear to be distributed in clusters of four with a total of nine clusters visible.

The 65 (SAM) SQN site at RAF Seletar was known as Missile Site One. Here're some views of MS1 seen from the Johor Strait. Pictures are from the National Archives of Singapore.

The Bloodhound site was renamed Missile Site Alpha after the Singapore Air Defence Command, the precursor to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), took over the RAF Bloodhounds in 1971.

The Bloodhound SAM was guided by the Type 87 Scorpion target illumination radar, visible here towering over the missile sections. 

Here's an old article I wrote on RSAF Bloodhound missile sites.

Mindef does 'national service' too

In land-scarce Singapore, even the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) performs "national service" when it gives up defence land that can be put to better uses. -My Paper

By David Boey

Thu, Mar 28, 2013
My Paper

SINGAPORE - In land-scarce Singapore, even the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) performs "national service" when it gives up defence land that can be put to better uses.

One example is the ITE College Central campus in Ang Mo Kio.

It sits on real estate once protected by Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) sentries, high fences and barbed wire, but is now an open campus whose sports facilities, FairPrice supermarket and restaurants have added much value to residents just across the road.

More than just four walls and a ceiling, the air-conditioned, Internet-enabled classrooms and well- equipped teaching facilities - you can find a Boeing 737 airliner inside, used as a teaching aid for aero-nautical-engineering students - are matched with an open concept design that encourages residents to enliven the campus.

This represents a new paradigm for school facilities that were once dormant after school hours, dead on weekends behind locked gates.

The decision to shape ITE College Central in this way underlines more than just our Government's commitment to, and support for, nurturing the next generation of industry professionals.

The very existence of the campus on former Mindef land indicates that space can be reallocated for different national needs within our lifetime, provided that we invest in good planning that ensures concurrent and competing demands for living space are weighed carefully.

The roughly 10.6ha of land taken from the SAF's Amoy Quee Camp to build the ITE has a colourful past.

The land formed part of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) launch site for Bloodhound Mark II surface-to-air missiles and was once part of Singapore's largest pineapple plantation - run by the SAF. Amoy Quee Camp is still there, just downsized after some defence land was allocated for education purposes.

The Bloodhound launch site in Ang Mo Kio, known as Missile Site Bravo, was one of three air- force sites armed with missiles that could shoot down hostile aircraft up to 80km away.

Missile Site Bravo was developed in 1972 when defence planners at the then Ministry of Interior and Defence (now Mindef) recommended that Bloodhounds be deployed to two other launch sites, apart from the original Bloodhound base in Seletar.

Defence planners reasoned that Singapore should avoid putting all its eggs in one basket at Missile Site Alpha in Seletar, so land was set aside for missile sites Bravo in Ang Mo Kio and Charlie in Lim Chu Kang (next to Nanyang Technological University), for the air force to operate some 60 Bloodhound missiles.

Seletar was the place where Britain's Royal Air Force deployed all its Bloodhounds before British forces withdrew from Singapore. The Bloodhound missile launchers were surrounded by open land several hundred metres from the fenceline. The generous footprint around each missile site was there for a purpose.

When launched, each 8.5m- long Bloodhound was propelled into the air by a pair of ramjet motors and four powerful boost rocket motors which pushed it to twice the speed of sound.

The boosters were designed to break away from the missile once their job of getting it airborne was done. Vacant land ringed Bloodhound launch pads as you would not want missile boosters, each several metres long, falling onto populated areas.

Bloodhound missiles served Singapore for 20 years till they were phased out on April 1, 1990. Thanks to astute planning two decades back, the landscape in this corner of Ang Mo Kio has been transformed beyond recognition, with Nanyang Polytechnic and now ITE College Central built on part of the RSAF missile base.

This year, while more than 10,000 ITE students and more than 1,000 staff have moved into their advanced-learning venue at ITE College Central, few may realise that the campus would not have reached fruition if government departments had clung on to historical land-use parameters.

The seed for the growth of ITE teaching facilities was planted 20 years ago, when government planners set their eyes on the future, which is our today.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Circuit breaker Day 19 pix: National Day 2000 Maritime Review

We continue with our daily spread of Singapore Armed Forces pictures with this selection from the National Day 2000 Maritime Review 20 years ago off Marina South, which some of you asked for. I hope these pictures, shared during the COVID-19 circuit breaker period, will bring you something to look forward to and stave off boredom. 

Am following closely Singapore's pandemic public communications and engagement efforts and will write something in due course. Am also concerned about SAF SAVER, particularly the erosion in value following the stock market meltdown, as well as employability issues for post-SAF careers and NSFs and will share some thoughts at the appropriate time. The health and wellbeing of SAF detachments overseas is also something I look at daily.

And yes, of course am concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on the community in Singapore, whatever passport you hold.

After this batch of RSN pictures, we'll swing back to the RSAF and Army. Tomorrow's update: Bloodhound SAMs at Missile Site Alpha. Take care everyone.

RSS Resolution led the National Day 2000 Maritime Review with a Super Puma on deck. The sail past of 36 vessels from the Republic of Singapore Navy and Police Coast Guard stretched more than 5km long.
RSS Perseverance (former casino ship Lowland Lancer, former Royal Fleet Auxiliary Sir Lancelot) took part with a Fennec on her helideck. The Landing Ship Logistics (LSL) was fitted for but not with a heavy anti-aircraft armament of four Simbad SAM launchers, one covering each quarter. Portside Simbad launch stations are visible - the square block aft of the for'ard crane and the slightly raised platform on the helideck in front of the Fennec's nose. Sadly,  Percy (as she was fondly known by the Fleet) was sold to defence contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia in December 2003. This was a year before the December 2004 Boxing Day tsunami saw three Endurance-class LSTs deployed to Meulaboh, Indonesia. One other LST was in the Gulf, which marked the first time 191 SQN sent all four LSTs overseas for concurrent operations.

Victory-class Missile Corvettes appeared for the first time with their full battery of eight Harpoon missiles. The MCVs are usually seen with two to four Harpoons. Vigilance (90, above) and Valour (89, below) seen here. A trio of Republic of Singapore Air Force Fokker 50 Mk2S Enforcers from 121 Squadron reminded spectators of the maritime element in RSAF air ops.

Missile Gunboats RSS Sea Dragon (P78, above) and Sea Lion showing enhancements from a mid-life upgrade. Note that the orientation of Harpoon missiles is the reverse of that on the MCVs: portside then starboard.

Successive classes of Singapore Navy fast craft have grown progressively larger. Compare and contrast the 1970s vintage MGB with the 1990s era PV. The MGBs were, however, faster, more heavily armed and better protected by EW than the PVs. There is little doubt which would have remained afloat in a MGB versus PV shootout.
RSS Fearless (94), name ship of the Fearless-class Patrol Vessels, displayed a prominent bin-shaped sensor on her mast and torpedo tubes, which Freedom (86) did not have.

Mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) like RSS Punggol (M108) brought up the rear of the RSN ships which sailed in line astern formation. Interesting placement for the MCMV. During operations, the reverse would be the case as MCMVs would sweep ahead of the Fleet to clear sea mines. Hence their motto: Safe In My Wake.

RSN displayed its submarine for the first time
RSS Conqueror, the first RSN submarine to arrive in Singapore, made her first public appearance at the Maritime Review after the surface ships sailed past. The submarine announced her presence with a smoke flare and what looks like a periscope....
 Then her conning tower broke the surface...
There was an audible gasp from spectators and a ripple of excitement among the crowd as the sub appeared.
 Sub ahoy!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Help with identifying RSN officer, RSS Excellence L202, August 1986

Any idea who this Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) officer is? The photo was taken on the morning of Sunday 10 August 1986. There can't be that many Singhs in the Navy who were onboard RSS Excellence L202 for the National Day Carnival 1986. I've always wondered who he is. At the time I felt he "spoiled" the picture as I wanted the LST with nobody in the frame. But I grew to appreciate the unknown officer because he gives a sense of scale to those huge bow doors.

Republic of Singapore Air Force RSAF new Airbus H225M helicopter

Engineers and team members from Singapore's Defence Science & Technology Agency (DSTA) H225M project team pose with a naked Airbus H225M medium lift helicopter. Must've been pre-COVID-19 as social distancing hasn't kicked in yet.

Working closely with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), DSTA's H225M project team has looked at supporting the new helicopter throughout its life cycle. 

DSTA said: "For the acquisition of the H225M medium lift helicopter, the DSTA team incorporated the display of flight information onto the helmet-mounted display to reduce the pilots’ workload, and further streamlined the new helicopter’s scheduled maintenance requirements."

Please choose a nice colour scheme for the RSAF's new H225M. Delivery could start as early as this year!

Circuit breaker Day 18 pix: Republic of Singapore Navy RSN Changi Naval Base sail past 2004

RSS Resolution: Don't let the empty boat davits fool you. Tonne for tonne, the Singapore Navy's Endurance-class tank landing ships (RSS Resolution seen here) can carry more landing craft than any other amphib. In reality, the Endurance LST should be classed as a Landing Platform Dock (LPD). Note the winches and reinforced hull strake, which are yet another fitted-for-but-not-with feature that characterises many RSN warships. I hope Fleet RSN will allow Endurance to be photographed at least once before her retirement with all the bells and whistles attached to show people what she is truly capable of.

On Friday 21 May 2004, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) held a sail past at Changi Naval Base to mark its official opening that afternoon by then Prime Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong.

All RSN ship types took part. We present the CNB official opening sail past, with ships arranged in the sail past order - LST, MCV, MGB, APV, PV, MCMV, sub.
RSS Valour: Before the Formidable-class stealth frigates arrived in 2007, Victory-class Missile Corvettes formed the Navy's sharp end of its surface fleet. In 2004, the MCVs retained their ASW suite that comprised a variable depth sonar and two triple Whitehead A.244S torpedo tubes. The 30-year-old MCVs are now the oldest RSN surface ships. The ASW gear was removed during an upgrade and replaced by a ScanEagle UAV system. This MCV is fitted-for-but-not-with something that can be added to its superstruture in front of the bridge wings.
RSS Sea Wolf: In their time, the Sea Wolf-class Missile Gunboats (Lürssen TNC45) carried the heaviest missile armament among RSN warships. You're looking at an open secret here. This MGB is fitted-for-but-not-with another two Gabriel anti-ship missiles. Now that the MGBs have been retired, do note the extra Gabriel missile pedestal to the right of the fourth sailor from the stern. Max missile warload for MGBs was four Gabriels and up to eight Harpoons. In comparison, MCVs could carry up to eight Harpoons. 

Though the Gabriels had a shorter range, the RSN liked the weapon as it was just the thing needed for anti-ship sweeps in congested waters as the semi-automatic command line-of-sight guidance from the open bridge gave the MGB control of the Gabriel when merchant ships were nearby. The missile operator guided the missile by tracking a flare on its tail. Harpoon's launch and leave feature made it better suited for open waters. The Formidable-class FFS take the fitted-for-but-not-with approach to a new level with a max anti-ship missile warload twice that of the MGBs. 
Even in daylight, the RSN's fast attack craft (above) are small and hard to detect. Imagine meeting this bunch during a night encounter exercise in congested littoral waters.
RSS Gallant (above) and RSS Sovereignty: The RSN had two types of Fearless-class Patrol Vessels. The Anti-submarine Patrol Vessel (APV) was equipped with a hull-mounted sonar and two triple Whitehead A.244S torpedo tubes while the Patrol Vessel variant lacked the ASW suite. The APVs and PVs had different deck fittings.   

RSS Bedok: The Bedok-class mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) is a tropicalised and customised variant of Sweden's Landsort-class MCMV. The Bofors 40mm L/70 A-gun seen here has been replaced by a 25mm Bushmaster RCWS. Future MCMVs may be optionally manned. 
Challenger-class submarine: The RSN's oldest boats are its Challenger-class submarines, which first entered service with the Royal Swedish Navy around 1967/68. The effort and assets required to hunt and successfully persecute a single submarine is often out of proportion to manpower and size of the submarine itself. Even in the shallow waters of the South China Sea, a submerged and skilfully handled SSK is hard to find. [Tip for those photographing surfaced subs: Frame the sub so you can get the tail fin too.] 
Here we see the RSN in May 2004, haze grey and underway. A stirring sight indeed.