As we enters December and the year slowly draws to a close the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is poised to respond to any crisis. Despite usually a lull period where operations tones down, men and women from SAF are on standby as Typhoon Hagupit makes landfall in the Philippines. The Ministry offers Changi’s Regional HADR (Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief) Coordination Centre (RHCC) should the need arises.
2014 has been an eventful year for the SAF. The Air and Sea services were put into action after the disappearance of the ill fated MH370. Fokker 50, C-130, RSS Steadfast, RSS Vigour and MV Swift Rescue were sent to South China Sea to assist in the search, while the Rescue Co-ordination Centre at Singapore ATC Centre was stood up.
The spread of the Islamic State (IS) was one of the greatest concern thus far in the Middle East, and after Iraq and Afghanistan, the Republic of Singapore Air Force will be deploying a KC-135 and a Imagery Analysis Team to the coalition against the IS. This will be 112 SQN’s second deployment to a non-benign area of operations after Iraq.
Also in the Gulf, RSS Tenacious completes a three months counter piracy deployment in Gulf of Aden, together with an organic S-70B Seahawk.
Other lower profile ops news would be RSN’s RSS Brave and a Royal Malaysian Navy vessel foiling a pirate attack in South China Sea.
The SAF is never short of large scale overseas exercises, as there is a saying, the sun never sets for the SAF.
Exercise Forging Sabre in the US saw all US permanent detachments, Peace Carvin II/ V, Peace Vanguard and Peace Prairie take part in the biannual exercise. The social media were buzzing with activity as the RSAF put up gun camera videos and clips as the F-15SG obliterate a moving jeep.Staying in North America, RSS Intrepid led another task force and conducted another successful live firing of the ASTER missile.
In what seems to be a developing military relations, the SAF has concluded Exercise Cooperation 14 with the People’s Liberation Army in Nanjing. Minister of Defence, also made his visit to the exercise as well as Qingdao Naval Base, of the North Sea fleet. Dr Ng said their are bigger joint trainings in the books and will continue to booster military ties between the two nations.
Back home, our Seahawks dropped its first live torpedo at the simulated target, in Exercise CARAT 14.
New Hardware Sharping Capabilities
In a Parliamentary seating in March, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen revealed plans for the SAF 2030. He announced the acquisition of the Airbus A330 MRTT to replace the KC-135R and hinted on a larger vessel to replace the current Endurance-class LST. Later in July, he further explained the need for a Joint Multi-Mission Ship, which many already believe a LHD styled carrier seen in ST Marine booth in numerous defence shows.
The RSAF also completes their delivery of 12 M346 Master jet-trainers, which was later fully inaugurated into service, thus replacing the T/A-4SU Super Skyhawks of 150 Squadron in Cazaux France.
The Navy’s Fearless-class replacement, the Littoral Mission Vessel LMV has its keel laid in the ST Shipyard. If you can’t wait till 2015, you can check out the Omani Navy’s version, which is based on our future LMV.
Keeping SAF relevant to modern conflicts, Murai Urban Live Firing Facility which was unveiled in August provides realistic opportunity for land servicemen to practice fire movements when fighting in build up area (FIBUA). Similarly, the Commandos opened its Airborne Training Facility in Pasir Ris Camp II. The fully enclosed complex will enhance airborne training and inclement weather will not halt parachute training, as with the old complex. A casual chat with a Canadian airborne trooper during my holiday reveal that the ATF has raised eyebrows and the video is circulating around the North American airborne community.
The RSAF lifted its curtain on its 55m TCOM Aerostat, the balloon will enhance radar tracking and surveillance for air and sea units 24/7, and complement the G550 in airborne early warning duties. The system which will be primarily utilised by 200 SQN of Air Defence and Operation Command which was also unveiled to the public after 30 years of silent service.
Reaching Out to the Community
The Indonesian Navy’s naming of their corvette KRI Usman Harun soured military ties between the two neighbours. Yet, it reminded Singaporeans of the forgotten history of the Indonesian Confrontation and the bombing of the McDonald House during our early years of nation building. News feature showcased young pioneer SAF officers taking part in combat operations against the Indonesians in the jungles of Malaysia.
February’s Singapore Airshow 2014 saw the RSAF’s Black Knight coming up for the first time with a new paint scheme, patriotically featuring the five stars and crescent from the Singapore flag. This year also showcased the Black Eagles from South Korea and Jupiter from Indonesia, in probably the most aircraft featured in the aerial display of SA14.
This year is supposedly RSAF’s turn for an Open House, but it was dove tailed with the Singapore Airshow 14, in conjunction with the RSAF 45 Pavilion. The RSAF further ‘made-up’ for it by holding the RSAF @ the Heartlands at four residential locations in Singapore. Meanwhile, the RSAF Museum added two new additions to their outdoor display, the E-2C Hawkeye and the Oerlikon 35mm AA gun.
The Navy continued with their third edition of Navy at Vivo with RSS Persistence docking by the shopping mall for three days over 29th May -1st June.
The men in green did their version of Heartland visits by organising the Army Exhibition- A Soldier in Every Family at Tampines and Jurong East in December. A decent showcase of hardware, including the HIMARS and Leopard 2 SG, as well as a mystery Tavor lookalike assault rifle.
The turn-out for the three events were very positive and the public continues to be engaged and inspired by the SAF. All these are also support by other smaller community outreach program and a Total Defence show at the Singapore museum in Feb 14.
One of the biggest changes made to the SAF which will affect thousands of servicemen is the revision of the IPPT. The Mark I version of five station will be replaced by a three station system, consisting of push-up, sit up and a 2.4km run. The organisation will start the Mark II from April 15 in the new work year.
SAF also outlined the initial set up of the SAF Volunteer Corp, and established an awkward looking rank design and structure. See Charlie Brown rank. With a modest target of 150 applicants, the SAF quickly hit their KPI with more than 200 signing up.