Thursday, February 27, 2014

KRI Usman Harun - Indonesia's ship of shame

"There is no way Indonesia can derive honour from the bombing of the MacDonald House. There is not a nation with military forces on Earth that has not had a uniformed member commit an atrocity at some time or other - including the United States. But Indonesia is unique in demanding the right to parade her historical shame." - Johnas Presbyter
 
"This symbolic naming gesture is a spit in the eye of important international law and the sensibilities of  their neighbours; and has the potential to sour a needed alliance for the life of the warship, and that can easily be in excess of 20 years." - Johnas Presbyter
 
 
 
By Johnas Presbyter, American Admiralty Informational Services (AAIS)
The AAIS is an informal association of maritime professionals and academics from around the world. Click here for the AAIS blog - a site dubbed the "Mother of All Maritime Links" - on maritime matters. We thank Johnas for contributing his views as a naval observer to Senang Diri.
 
Naming a warship is a sovereign right. Not all exercises of sovereign rights are a wise thing to do.
 
Refusing to exercise with an insultingly named ship is also a sovereign right which Singapore has exercised.
 
We, the rest of the World, and the World's naval professionals certainly hope that Singapore, Malaysia , and Indonesia will continue to work together to protect the vital regional shipping routes. But I don't think the World's naval professionals or the community of nations is going to let it go at that. Even if Singapore lets it drop in the interest of cooperatively meeting today's naval challenges, the Ship if she continues to carry that name will find itself blocked from some ports, shunned in international exercises, and where it is allowed into a port as part of an international exercise you can rest assured that there is a human rights movement that has not forgotten the MacDonald House incident.
 
Story of state terrorism retold
When the ships go to dress ship, and lower the visitor gangway there will be the occasional visitor boycott as the story of this act of state terrorism is retold. There will always be the whispering among the sailors of other nationalities. Within a couple of years , if it even takes that long, no Indonesian sailor will want to be assigned to that ship.
 
Indonesia can't get around the MacDonald House story. Their two dead marines deliberately detonated explosives in what was basically a civilian office complex on military orders when there was no official state of hostilities. The results of their bombing were about 33 ordinary people injured some maimed for life, just regular folks Moms and Dads whose only "crime" was going to work that morning to support their families. Among the dead not a single uniformed military member, but there were two young civilian women killed. There are no military professionals in the world who would actually take pride in that operation. But the government of Indonesia did at the time, and apparently still does, and that is going to bring shame to them. Indonesia is still refusing to acknowledge that such orders as these two marines received are unlawful under the International Law of Armed Conflict.
 
Most importantly, Indonesia is refusing to acknowledge that the International Law of Armed Conflict places individual responsibility upon individual military members to obey the law and to refuse illegal and immoral orders. This stance unjustifiably calls into question the ethical training of her military forces today.
 
Tragic, impolite but teaching moment
The naming of a warship may seem like a tempest in a teapot to many. But the eyes of naval professionals around the world who have had an opportunity to work with the modern naval forces of the region admire the professionals of these services and believe in their capabilities and professionalism.
 
We see this as a moment in the white hot spotlight of history for the Indonesian Navy.
 
This symbolic naming gesture is a spit in the eye of important international law and the sensibilities of  their neighbours; and has the potential to sour a needed alliance for the life of the warship, and that can easily be in excess of 20 years.
 
We, the English-speaking naval professionals and other global naval professionals have confidence that the Indonesian Navy is not behind this ill advised move. We have confidence that if the politicians take the face saving move of allowing this to be a Navy-to-Navy discussion that it will end amicably to the benefit of all concerned including a large portion of the world community dependent on freedom of the seas.
 
We have long accepted all three navies (Note: Naval forces of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore) as brother naval professionals and fellow guardians of this concept of freedom of navigation. Give the issue to the navies...and brothers don't disappoint us but settle this and give us a move forward to show the world  just how effective regional collaborative naval security can be.
 
The issue is tragic, impolitic, and potentially deal killing. But it can also be a teaching moment. These navies in concert are capable of their globally important mission. Will one let a long ago historical incident drive a wedge into the successful accomplishment of that mission? Those of us who have had the pleasure of working with these navies can not  imagine any one of them sabotaging the mission. Let the respective state departments transfer the issue to a direct navy to navy exchange. We believe that many of your respective best and brightest are in your navies and coast guards.
 
Doubts cast on ethical training
"I was just obeying orders" has rung hollow as a defense against "war crimes", terrorism, and crimes against humanity not just since Nuremberg, but at least as far back as the American Andersonville military trial in the 1860s. We have not read the Andersonville transcript yet but frankly we would be surprised if the prosecution didn't cite even earlier precedent against the obedience to orders defense in their successful effort to send the Commandant of Andersonville  Military Prison to the Gallows. By the name they chose for their new warship Indonesia casts doubt on the ethical training of their armed forces. Indonesia has embarrassed her military professionals. More over they have again exposed the deceased marines to another round of vilification just when people everywhere were inclined to see them as unfortunate victims of their own superiors and inadequate training.
As human rights activist organizations from time to time urge people to shun the ship they will be asked why. The story of the MacDonald House will be told again and again. The marines paid the price for their crime, their responsible superiors did not and few if any are alive today.

Over time an image of the marines standing on the gallows resolutely obedient to orders to the last has emerged but every time the story of MacDonald House is told the public mental image is of two young toughs standing over the dead bodies of two young women, ankle deep in the blood of their other victims.

Neither image is actually correct or fair.

Those marines broke the law and paid the price but people far more powerful than they set them on that course and they have never paid a price. Indonesia can't escape the basic facts of the story. They expose the memory of the deceased they buried as heroes of military virtue to public revulsion over their actual crime. 

Once again lost in the controversy is the fact that the real war criminals held civilian titles and were never made to even acknowledge responsibility.
 
No, Singapore doesn't have to lead the jeering squad, but the naval professionals of the world are feeling acute embarrassment for the Indonesian naval professionals saddled with this political misstep.
 
Soon human rights activist groups will crop up in the ship's path here and there. Once again the tired sad old story of the MacDonald House attack will be told. The facts speak for themselves. At the end of the attack civilians are injured , maimed, killed including two young women, not a person armed. Who did it? Indonesian Marines under orders.
 
Lost honour
There is no way Indonesia can derive honour from the bombing of the McDonald House. There is not a nation with military forces on Earth that has not had a uniformed member commit an atrocity at some time or other - including the United States. But Indonesia is unique in demanding the right to parade her historical shame. 
 
So let them. The global brotherhood of naval professionals don't blame the modern day Indonesian navy or marine corps for the MacDonald House bombing.
 
We do see Indonesia's excellent modern day military forces as betrayed by their politicians in this matter. We have a great deal of empathy for Indonesia's military members, we know that their integrity and ethics are in fact higher than their politicians. We have all been there, betrayed by politicians. We just hope that they don't have to live with this floating shame for a 20-year ship's life cycle.
 
Good luck to all involved but looking at it from the outside world Singapore can't make a mistake given the facts of the case.
 
The way forward
If Singapore appears angry as hell the international community will see it as justified anger.
 
If Singapore just decides to forget the whole thing Singapore looks incredibly magnanimous. Anything in between looks reasonable.
 
In the 1960s Singapore was the victim. The only possible action Indonesia could take at this point that would actually enhance their international prestige would be to immediately rename the ship, officially apologize to Singapore for the MacDonald House attack, and announce an investigation into the responsible chain of command. Then the Indonesian government on behalf of its predecessors in office should offer reparations to the victims and apologize to the families of the dead marines for exposing them to the risk and shame of unlawful orders.
 
What are the chances of that happening?
 
In lieu of doing the morally right thing Indonesia would have been well advised to have officially forgotten the incident. There is only one loser in this business and it is not Singapore.
 
 
 
You may also like:
Singapore voices concern of naming of Indonesian navy ship. Click here
 
An American Southerner addresses Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Click here
 
An episode from Konfrontasi revisited, Singapore and Indonesia. Part 3. Click here
 
Two sides of the same strait: Singapore's neighbours determined to close development gap. Click here
 
KRI Usman Harun episode sets interesting poser for Indonesia-Singapore bilateral ties.  Click here

S'pore won't allow Indonesian ship "Usman Harun" to call at its ports - Channel News Asia. Click here

Friday, February 21, 2014

Singapore Ministry of Defence Budget 2014

Committee of Supply - Head J
Ministry of Defence (MINDEF)

Mission Statement   
The mission of Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is to enhance Singapore’s peace and security through deterrence and diplomacy, and should these fail, to secure a swift and decisive victory over the aggressor.

To achieve this mission, MINDEF will strengthen the military, manpower and technological edge of the SAF, whilst fostering close relations with friendly countries in the region and beyond through greater dialogue, confidence building, and co-operation.

Desired Outcomes 
• A safe and secure environment where Singapore’s territorial integrity and sovereignty are protected and preserved 
• Safe and secure access to Singapore’s air and sea lines of communications
• A strong network of defence ties in the region and beyond
• Committed National Servicemen who are dedicated to Total Defence
• An operationally ready and well-equipped SAF that can deal with a broad range of threats to Singapore’s security
• A highly skilled, professional and technologically advanced SAF

A Defence Budget of S$12.56 billion - a record high - has been proposed for FY 2014/15.

The proposed sum represents an increase of 3.2%, or S$391 million, over the S$12.18 billion FY 2013/14 budget for MINDEF.

Of this, S$12.14 billion or 96.6% is for operating expenditure and the balance of S$429 million or 3.4% is for development expenditure.


Singapore watchers would need to know the proposed sum for the Ministry of Home Affairs, summarised here:

Committee of Supply - Head P
Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA)

Mission Statement 
To work as a team, in partnership with the community, to make Singapore our safe and secure Best Home.

The total expenditure of MHA in FY2014 is projected to be S$4.21 billion, an increase of $327.25 million or 8.4% over the revised FY2013 expenditure of S$3.88 billion.

Of this, S$3.77 billion or 89.6% is for operating expenditure and S$439.22 million or 10.4% is for development expenditure.

The Police Programme will take up the largest share of MHA’s budget (S$2.14 billion or 50.8% of total expenditure). This is followed by the Immigration and Checkpoint Control Programme (S$573.38 million or 13.6%), the Administration Programme (S$468.78 million or 11.2%), the Treatment of Offenders Programme (S$464.30 million or 11.0%), the Civil Defence Programme (S$383.98 million or 9.1%) and the remaining three Programmes taking up S$179.97 million or 4.3%.



US$1 = S$1.27

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Singapore Budget 2014 101

The Singapore Budget 2014 Speech is due to be delivered from 15:30 Hotel (07:30 UTC) tomorrow (Friday 21 February 2014).

Access the Singapore Government (Singov) Budget 2014 website here.

The proposed budget allocation which is specific to the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) will be an overall, big picture number without any specifics.

The Singov financial year begins on 1 April.

Budget Debate
The Budget 2014 debate is expected to take place from mid-March onwards under a series of ministry-specific sessions grouped under Heads, or groupings for Singov ministries, that collectively form a Committee of Supply (COS).

The MINDEF budget is traditionally discussed under Head J of the Committee of Supply (COS). This is the platform for the deep dive into major items budgeted for FY 2014/15.

The Order Papers issued by the Singapore Parliament will usually outline every oral and written question tabled by parliamentarians. It should also have a rough time estimate of when Head J of the COS will be raised. In recent years, the Speaker of Parliament has maintained a firm hand on time-keeping so the timetables in the Order Papers are reliable.

Look out for speeches for all political office holders from AFPN 1* on Level 5 at Block 303 Gombak Drive. They are:
Minister for Defence  (DM), Dr Ng Eng Hen**
Second Minister for Defence (2M), Mr Chan Chun Sing
Minister of State (Defence) (MOSD), Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman

In particular, DM's speech is expected to recap the geo-strategic situation that affects Singapore's security posture, elaborate on MINDEF/SAF's focus for the year, outline major projects as well as big-ticket defence acquisitions. Defence relations with key partners usually feature in DM's speech while issues on National Service (NS) and Commitment to Defence (C2D) are typically helmed by 2M and MOS(D).

The exciting bit starts weeks after Head J is passed.

That's when the annual MINDEF and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Work Plan season gets underway.

Repeat after me: We love the MINDEF/SAF Work Plan season. Yup.  :-)



* Yes, we collect AFPN numbers too.
** Note to Jakarta Post: The Singapore DM's family name is Ng and not Hen. Your erroneous reports in the recent past may have inspired some of your politicians to spout poultry-related analogies like the one about beating a shrieking chicken/hen with a stick.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

S'pore won't allow Indonesian ship "Usman Harun" to call at its ports - CNA

Source: Channel News Asia, click here
18 February 2014

SINGAPORE: Singapore will not allow the Indonesian warship, named after the MacDonald House bombers, to call at its ports and naval bases.

Nor would the Singapore Armed Forces carry out military exercises with the ship.

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said this in Parliament on Tuesday, in response to questions fielded on the government's response to the naming of the warship.

The period of Konfrontasi, between 1963 and 1965, was a violent chapter in Singapore's history.

This was when Indonesia launched an "undeclared war" to oppose the creation of Malaysia, which included Singapore.

But it was the MacDonald House bombing by two Indonesian Marines in 1965 that sealed the memory of the dark period for Singaporeans.

Three people were killed, and 33 others injured.

The two Marines, Usman Mohamed Ali and Harun Said, were found guilty and hanged in 1968.

Despite pleas for clemency from then Indonesian President Suharto, Singapore went ahead with the hanging.

Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said that was a defining moment for the nation.

"Had we agreed to release them, it would have set the precedent for our relationships with all bigger countries. That we will - or we should - do what a bigger country asks and pressures us to do even when we have been grievously hurt. That is a different concept of sovereignty that is not good for us, which we cannot accept," he said.

Relations between the two countries were tense until then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited Indonesia in 1973, and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines.

Both countries considered the matter closed, so Dr Ng said it came as an "utter surprise" when Indonesia decided to name one of its warships after the two marines, nearly 50 years later.

Dr Ng said: "A ship named "Usman Harun" sailing on the high seas would unearth all the pain and sorrow caused by the MacDonald House bomb blast, which had been buried and put to rest. Singapore will not allow this military ship named "Usman Harun" to call at our ports and naval bases. It would not be possible for the SAF, as protectors of this nation, to sail alongside or exercise with this ship."

Dr Ng said bilateral defence ties between the two countries have grown since 1974.
He cited examples of how Indonesia went all out in search and rescue operations when the SilkAir Flight MI185 crashed in Palembang in 1997. And the Singapore Armed Forces were the first on the ground to help Indonesia during the 2004 Tsunami.

But this incident has set ties back.

Dr Ng said: "We want good bilateral military relations and we have to take it from there - to rebuild the mutual regard, the mutual respect that we've taken 40 years to reach here. It has set us back and I would say that over the next period we will see what we can do to rebuild ties, but it also depends on what both parties do."

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, asked: "How is MFA prepared to deal with such tests of potential provocation from bigger countries willing to test Singapore as a young and small nation?"

Mr Shanmugam said: "As we go forward, we must fully expect that others who progress will indeed seek to move us and our policies towards that direction. It's not just the region but beyond the region. Everyone. And to deal with that, you need to look at it on three levels. At the core, our defence has to be top rate. If we cannot protect ourselves, nothing else matters.

"Beyond that, you need to make sure that your regional relationships both bilaterally as well as multilaterally, through organisations like ASEAN, (are) strong. So that you can deal with issues both diplomatically, both bilaterally, as well as through regional platforms which help move everyone along.

"Thirdly, at the larger level, you do need therefore, a very strong network of international partners beyond the region."

To survive in such a climate, Mr Shanmugam said, it's also about ensuring Singapore is successful economically, socially and in defence.  - Channel News Asia

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) sea security team displays seldom-seen firearms


Interesting choice of firearms brandished by this pair of Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) personnel at yesterday's Total Defence Day exhibition at the National Museum in Singapore. The sailor in the pixelised camouflage carries a Heckler & Koch MP-5K Personal Defence Weapon while the one in the fire retardant nomex suit is armed with a H&K 416 assault rifle (correct?).

The exhibition, which is free, ends on 23 February 2014.

A look at the world's shortest bullpup rifle: The Singapore Technologies Kinetics BMCR


Singapore's defence industry unveiled two new 5.56mm combat rifles at this week's Singapore Airshow 2014, including a weapon billed as the "shortest bullpup design in the world" (above, left).

Developed by the weapons labs of Singapore Technologies Kinetics (STK), the bullpup rifle bears a superficial resemblance to STK's SAR-21 5.56mm assault rifle. However, the firing mechanism and front ejection for spent cartridges suggests that the SAR-21 - the standard infantry weapon fielded by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) - underwent a major engineering redesign to transform it into the new weapon.

An STK statement said:"Giving infantry soldiers maximum lethality in urban operations, ST Kinetics’ new combat rifles are designed for compactness, minimum weight and full ambidextrous operations in a highly configurable multirole package.

"The STK BMCR (Bullpup Multirole Combat Rifle) and STK CMCR (Conventional Multirole Combat Rifle) possess multirole flexibility for assault, marksman/sharpshooter and suppressive roles, putting the infantry section ahead in lethality and in achieving their mission objectives. Both rifles are designed to fire NATO SS109 5.56mm ammunition and ST Kinetics’ Extended Range 5.56mm ammunition, and come standard with MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Rails at the three, six, nine and 12 o’clock positions. 

"The STK BMCR is designed to be the shortest bullpup-design in the world, to afford easy handling by the soldier even in tight spaces. The STK CMCR, meanwhile, is designed with a unique buttstock design that allows the rifle to be folded and adjusted for maximum compactness during use."

The standard SAR-21 measures 805mm in length while the cutdown SAR-21 Modular Mounting System is a more compact 680mm from muzzle to butt. STK literature did not reveal vital statistics for  the BMCR, apart from the unsubstantiated claim that the rifle is the shortest bullpup design in the world.

A major omission on the part of this blog was leaving the tape measure at home. At past shows, measurements done in situ have tended to elicit strange looks from duty personnel and generate conspiratorial whispers. So we decided to behave like normal air show guests and the end result is a half-baked report like this one which leaves us unable to provide greater clarity to ST'K's  news release.[Fear not. At the next show/SAF open house, out comes the measuring tape, vernier callipers etc]

What we can show - thanks to obliging STK duty personnel - is the odd strange finger trap different arrangement to check the BMCR's chamber vis-à-vis the SAR-21 (see below). A catch on the left side of the butt stock is depressed to slide a cover plate back towards the firer. This reveals the rifle bolt and firing mechanism contained within. The gap is somewhat larger than the one on the SAR-21 which the firer checks to ensure the chamber is clear of cartridges. One wonders if this design feature, which resembles the sliding plate on old sewing machines, may end up as a dirt trap should the firer need to slide open the cover plate in the field.

Cover plate slides back to reveal firing mechanism





Forward ejection port

The BMCR ejects spent casings from the right hand side of the weapon. No deflector is needed for left-handed users as the trajectory of the cartridges traces a downward arc to the front aspect of the rifle, which means hot bullet casings are flung well clear of the firer's face.

The BMCR is designed to be fully ambidextrous, with firing selectors on both sides of the weapon and a magazine catch that provides easy accessibility to both left and right-handed users.

Senang Diri understands that forward ejection was preferred over downward ejection (as in the P90) to minimise the fall risk posed by empty cartridges littering the area around the firer's feet during urban firefights.

A possible downside seen from the ops side of the house is the possibility that the firer's position may be betrayed during urban ops by the stream of shiny bullet casings flying out of a window. It is understood that a bag to catch spent cartridge casings can be added to the BMCR to mitigate such risks.

Details on the CMCR are sparse. The weapon on show at SA 2014 was a non-firing 1:1 scale concept model.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Total Defence Day 2014: Remembering the Fall of Singapore


It was a wartime horror years before their time.

And yet the assembled ranks of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) senior leadership, new SAF recruits, their family members and Friends of 3rd Guards from schools linked to the battalion under the SAF-Schools Partnership Programme gathered at the War Memorial this evening to remember victims of the Fall of Singapore on the 72nd anniversary of Singapore's surrender.

SAF Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng, and Recruit Nicodemes Yeo from Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, Singapore Guards (3 GDS) - representing the highest ranking and newest member of the SAF respectively - jointly laid a wreath at the foot of the monument in memory of the Japanese Occupation war victims.

Always remembered: SAF Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng, and Recruit Nicodemes Yeo from B COY 3 Guards, after jointly laying a wreath in memory of victims of the Japanese Occupation in Singapore.

The Guards are heli-borne infantry who are equally at home operating from the air as well as on and from the sea during coastal hook operations. Singapore Army Guards battalions are tempered for tough missions behind enemy lines that put a premium on their ability to read, understand and react rapidly to fast changing battlefield situations in order to grab and exploit fleeting tactical advantages before such moments disappear. The Guards training syllabus is notorious for last minute mission injects and frequent changes to the script that are designed to condition Guardsmen to be always ready and ready to strike, day or night, and to be able to keep their cool and decide quickly in the midst of battlefield chaos.

"This is your rifle!" Lieutenant Chua Yong Kee (handing over SAR-21 assault rifle), Platoon Commander of Support Company at 3rd Guards, arms his men during the rifle presentation ceremony on Total Defence Day 2014.

The solemn ceremony in the heart of Singapore's commercial centre marked the second year running that SAF recruits received their rifles at the War Memorial during a ceremony that formalised the commencement of their military training.

By coincidence, last year's recruits were also from a Guards battalion. But the training cycle for the two active Guards battalions is unlikely to see a repeat of the pattern in 2015, should the SAF hold the ceremony on Total Defence Day again.

The rifle presentation ceremony capped activities done in their camp and at battlefield sites around the island which allowed the Guards recruits to hear accounts of the war from Japanese Occupation survivors and understand and appreciate their part in the defence of Singapore.

The citizen soldiers with 3 GDS join some 900,000 Singaporean men who have served the SAF since full-time National Service was introduced in 1967.

In time to come, the pledge by REC Nicodemes and his fellow recruits to take care of their SAR-21 assault rifles and uphold the SAF Pledge will see their willpower and endurance pushed to the max - and then some - as these boys learn the true meaning of  rite of passage in their journey towards earning the right to wear the coveted Guards tab and beret.

 
 
P.S. I would have kept the wreaths laid during the morning ceremony at the foot of the monument, perhaps arranged nicely on either flank. The wall of floral tributes would show onlookers that the annual commemoration of the Fall of Singapore is an all-of-nation affair, not just an SAF one. Subliminal messaging is as important as direct messaging.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fresh details of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) Littoral Mission Vessel surface

A model of the Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) displayed at ST Marine's stand at the Singapore Airshow 2014 points to the design evolution that this upcoming Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) warship class has undergone since the concept was shown to the public in May last year.

While details are still sparse, the updated model provides telling indications of what we can expect the LMV design to look like when the first of class hits the water.

The hypotheses floated here assume the features on the scale model displayed at SA 2014 are a passable resemblance to the finished product.


Spot the differences: The Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) scale model displayed in February 2014 (above) shows subtle yet noteworthy differences to the first LMV model unveiled to the public in May 2013 (below) at the Republic of Singapore Navy Navy Open House.


Prominent among the changes to her hull form is the addition of hull strengthening strakes either side of the bow. These strakes, which are common on salvage vessels and the ST Marine-built Submarine Support Rescue Vessel, MV Swift Rescue, are unique to this RSN warship class. The strengthened forr'ard hull might contribute to the LMV's robustness during incidents at sea which may involve ramming.

The new model also displays what appears to be air intakes/outlets under the flight deck for the air-breathing engines (of unknown type) and intakes for ship air handling units and machinery.

Topside, subtle yet noteworthy changes have been made to her superstructure and equipment fit.

These include:
* A prominent step of unknown purpose forr'ard of her bridge superstructure

* A pedestal for a fire control radar dish and what appears to be an electro-optic ball on the bridge roof. Placed in that position, both sensors should command a 180-degree coverage, which would be sufficient for the firing arc of the 76mm OTO Breda A-gun.

* As we move aft of the bridge wing, we note a flat faced array which appears to be a long-range acoustic device. These were used with notable success during RSN counter-piracy sweeps in the Gulf of Aden.

* The sensor mast is completed by a pole mast, possibly for hoisting signal halyards and navigation lights.

* The sensor mast has a different side elevation from the May 2013 incarnation.

Still missing are outlets for her air-breathing engines. These are expected to take the form of drowned exhausts and their location on her hull would be closely followed as these contribute to her wake  profile and noise signature. It remains to be seen if bleed air from her engine exhaust would be used to coat her underwater hull with a layer of bubbles, which act as a masking device of sorts to reduce her acoustic signature.

When completed, each LMV should measure 80 metres bow to stern, 12 metres wide and have a displacement of around 1,150 tons.  Max speed has been quoted as >27 knots. She would embark a core crew of 30 personnel and a mission crew of 30 pax.

As the LMV design evolution gathers pace, Singapore watchers should avoid placing too much scrutiny on drawings and models displayed by ST Marine and the RSN. Such open source material are known to have fallen far short of what the actual product looks like when the real thing is unveiled.



The Missile Corvettes (MCVs) designed for the RSN under Project S are a classic example. One of the first  drawings of the warship, published by Pioneer magazine in April 1988, excluded key anti-submarine warfare armament and sensors such as the torpedoes and VDS, along with all electronic warfare lumps and bumps eventually added to the MCVs under Project H, Project J, Project S and Project W.


17 Feb 2014 update: Added images of the ST Marine Offshore Patrol Vessel model as requested by a reader.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Malaysian Armed Forces expected to strengthen stable of 4x4 vehicles



Malaysian defence company DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd (Deftech) is expected to forge a strategic alliance with United States cross-country vehicle manufacturer, AM General - better known as the maker of the Hummer - in a move expected to strengthen the Angkatan Tentera Malaysia's (ATM, Malaysian Armed Forces) stable of 4x4 light wheeled vehicles.

Leading the charge is this High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) or Hummer, which is expected to be resprayed in ATM colours in time for the Defence Services Asia 2014 (DSA) weapons show in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The cost of the makeover is expected to be borne by Deftech. The company is also committed to restoring the vehicle, seen here at the Singapore Airshow 2014, to its original warpaint.

Senang Diri understands an announcement between AM General and Deftech can be expected during DSA. The arms exhibition will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur from 14  to 17 April 2014.

The partnership will be a boost for Malaysia's defence industrial base as it will complement efforts currently underway to build up expertise to manufacture and support  armoured fighting vehicles in the Federation.

The  Hummer seen above in US Army colours recently completed a series of road and cross-country driving trials in Malaysia.

Senang Diri understands that the firsthand look at the Hummer allowed the ATM to compare and contrast the performance of AM General's best seller with the similar looking Urovesa VAMTAC 4x4 which serves the Malaysian Army. The Spanish-built VAMTAC, which is used by some eight countries, is slightly larger and wider than the Hummer.

VAMTACs serve the ATM as weapon carriers.

The order book for VAMTACs is eclipsed by AM General, which has made some 300,000 Hummers for nearly 60 customers worldwide.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

First look at new Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) air defence radar

16 Feb 2014 corrections: The Shikra GM200 radar serves under the RSAF Participation Command and not the Air Defence Operations Command. Corrections made to the original text.
 

Meet the Shikra - a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) gap filler radar that supports Air Defence Operations Command (ADOC) Participation Command (PC) low-level air defence anti-aircraft missile units, taking over the role long-held by Ericsson Basic Giraffe radars.

The new sensor makes its  public debut at the Singapore Airshow 2014, which begins today and will run till Sunday (16 Feb 2014).

The 100-km range Shikra, based on the Thales Ground Master 200 radar, can detect, identify and track a sizeable number of contacts flying in a large volume of airspace from low level up to 25km in altitude. The system is mounted on an 8x8 MAN (Edit: Not Mercedes-Benz) High Mobility Cargo Transporter (HMCT) which allows ADOC PC to transport and deploy the system rapidly. Everything the radar operators need are contained on the HMCT, reducing its footprint in the deployment area.

The Shikra travels with four RSAF personnel, though only two are needed in the radar cabin itself. Ten minutes is all it takes to unfold and erect the radar from march order. Scan and update rate is quoted as 40 rpm.

A built-in IFF interrogator on the 3D radar tightens the sensor-to-shooter cycle as it allows rapid evaluation and prioritisation of contacts and contributes valuable inputs to the RSAF's overall recognised air situation picture.

The Ground Master 200 was customised for the RSAF's specific operational requirements by adapting the European system for a tropical climate. Among the visible mods recommended by ADOC PC warfighters and Singapore's Defence Science & Technology Agency (DSTA) are four prominent outriggers which improve the radar cabin's stability on rough terrain.

The Shikra radar seen here is operated by ADOC's 6 Defence Artillery Brigade PC's 6 Defence Artillery Battalion. The name itself is unique to the RSAF. It is an acronym which stands for System for Hybrid Interceptor Knowledge of Recognised Air (SHIKRA).

The Shikra is also the bird of prey adopted as the basis for the RSAF's F-15SG Strike Eagle unit, 149 Squadron.

The addition of the Shikra to the RSAF's networked air defence shield strengthens radar surveillance of critical sectors by covering blind spots missed by search beams of long-range radars deployed at ground level. Tracks assessed in realtime by Gulfstream G550 airborne early warning aircraft give HQ RSAF a comprehensive air situation picture which extends far from Singapore's shores.

Comprehensive air surveillance coverage serves the dual purpose of  robbing low flying intruders of space to hide in and buys valuable response time for the complex for air warfare missions to automatically swing into strike mode.


You may also like:
Radar-equipped aerostats to perform sentry duty. Click here

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Reply to Media Queries on Indonesian Defence Officials Pulling Out of Singapore Airshow

 


In response to media queries on Indonesian Defence Officials Pulling out of Singapore Airshow, the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) issued the following reply this evening:

"MINDEF has been informed that Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces GEN Moeldoko, Indonesia Deputy Defence Minister LG (Ret) Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, Chief of Staff, Indonesian Army GEN Budiman and Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force ACM Ida Bagus Putu Dunia have decided not to attend the Singapore Airshow. On the Indonesian Air Force's Jupiter Aerobatic Team, the Indonesian Air Force has not informed us of any changes to their participation."
 
Colonel Kenneth Liow
Director Public Affairs
Ministry of Defence
9 February 2014, 2200 hrs

Your chance to fly with the RSAF: eBallot for free flights close at 23:59 hrs tonight!

Eye in the sky: An aircrewman from the Republic of Singapore Air Force's 127 Squadron watches the six from the open ramp of an RSAF CH-47 Chinook as the heavy-lift helicopter banks over Singapore's southern islands on 8 February 2014. Public day visitors to the Singapore Airshow 2014 can join an eBallot for a chance to experience this flight.

Click here to submit your ballot. Entries close at 23:59 Hotel sharp tonight!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

KRI Usman Harun episode sets interesting posers for Indonesia-Singapore bilateral ties

Indonesia's decision to name a new warship KRI Usman Harun, after Indonesian saboteurs executed in Singapore decades ago for the MacDonald House bombing in 1965, sets interesting posers for Indonesia-Singapore defence and foreign relations.

 The 90-metre long warship should not be welcome in Singapore Territorial Waters as the so-named man-of-war would tear open old wounds sustained during a violent time in our bilateral relations.

While ties are presently warm and friendly, the passage of KRI Usman Harun in Singapore’s  waters will inevitably turn the spotlight on the campaign of urban terrorism Indonesia unleashed against our island nation during an undeclared war which history records euphemistically as the Confrontation.

The choice of name would also ignite debate on what constitutes a "hero".

If the March 1965 attack on MacDonald House by the two Indonesian Marines was staged in today's context, it would be clearly and unambiguously defined as urban terror and elicit the same degree of condemnation, odium and disgust civilised peoples feel towards war waged against unarmed civilians by saboteurs who flee once their sinister deed has been triggered. 

In essence, the bombing of MacDonald House by KRI Usman Harun's namesakes was carried out in that unseemly fashion. As soldiers, they obeyed their mission orders faithfully. This defence - that they were merely following orders - is the same smokescreen combatants brought to justice for crimes against humanity have hoisted to explain away or soothe over misdeeds like attacks on civilians. 

As fate decreed, Singapore police caught the duo after an island-wide manhunt. The Indonesian saboteurs, Usman Hj Mohd Ali and Harun Said, were tried and convicted for murder and hung  at Changi prison in October 1968.
 

Executed as murderers in the Lion City, the dead Marines were feted as heroes when their  bodies were returned to Indonesia. News of their deaths angered Indonesian mobs, who sacked the Singapore embassy in Jakarta.
 

Alas, if you thought Singapore could put this regrettable episode in our bilateral ties behind us and move on, the past caught up with us this week.
 

So while the vast majority of Singaporeans - youth and adults - would likely think of the fast food chain upon hearing the word "MacDonald" in spoken form, we all received a refresher on our country's birth pangs when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) shared its thoughts on the matter.
 

In response to media queries on Indonesian press reports on the naming of a warship as KRI Usman Harun, an MFA spokesman said: "The two Indonesian marines were found guilty of the bombing which killed three people and injured 33 others. Singapore had considered this difficult chapter in the bilateral relationship closed in May 1973 when then-PM Lee Kuan Yew visited and scattered flowers on the graves of the two marines.
 

"Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam spoke to Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Marty Natalegawa to register Singapore's concerns over the naming of the navy ship and the impact this would have on the feelings of Singaporeans, especially the families of the victims."

Three Singapore ministers have weighed in on this issue, underscoring the gravity of the matter.
 
On Wednesday, Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam registered his concerns with his Indonesian counterpart. This was followed on Thursday by calls made by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen to their Indonesian counterparts to reinforce the point made by Mr Shanmugam. 

We in Singapore should never forgot the pain, the sorrow and the bloodletting, so senseless and indiscriminate, that the string of urban terror attacks inflicted upon countless Singaporean families during the Confrontation. 

Attacks against civilians are a heinous act of war that no military should be proud of, a dishonourable blemish, a smear on the operational record of any self-respecting armed forces, a cowardly  hit-and-run affair unworthy of hero worship. 

That tainted record will shout out resoundingly at every foreign port of call, reminding foreigners both of the namesake's dark deeds and Singapore's swift and decisive response to terrorism.
 

The KRI Usman Harun episode is a teachable moment for Singaporeans. It is another update to our National Education library from a country which coined the popular catchphrase "little red dot", a reminder of how the sensibilities and sensitivities of our small island nation can be brushed aside by mindsets that see themselves as the strong armed cukong (power broker), the dominant entity in an imagined abang-adik (big brother-small brother) relationship rather than one where neighbouring states are viewed as equal, sovereign entities.
 

Singapore should tag KRI Usman Harun as a contact of interest as the warship is due to enter service later this year. 

Republic of Singapore Navy warships should politely decline any passage exercises with this vessel as joint training with her would be a flirtation with a hull that fetes saboteurs who drew civilian blood on our soil. 

Singapore’s warships should never come alongside that ship, be it for a heaving line transfer or courtesy call on her deck. Imagine the odd and unfortunate picture of RSN officers dining in the wardroom of that ship with portraits of their dead namesakes staring down on the assembled ranks.
 

The RSN should further make clear that name plate will not be welcome within its naval bases, whether as part of the Exercise Eagle war games or naval shows like IMDEX.
 

It is well within the sovereign rights of nations to call their warships anything they want.
 

It is also well within Singapore’s sovereign right to decline the passage of men-of-war whose presence would reopen old wounds, whose show of flag would inflame and provoke anger and stoke memories of a deadly act of terrorism for which the authors paid with their lives.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Poly project: Save Our Children campaign

 



Am helping to publicise a Final Year Project for Republic Polytechnic (RP) School of Technology for the Arts students. The Facebook page they created aims to promote awareness of child labour in the region. Do visit their Facebook page here for more and help "Like" the page. Full infographic here.

The final year students are pursuing the Diploma in New Media at RP.

Over the years, many students have helped this blog understand social media more comprehensively. Am happy to pay it back.

And to the IT industry professionals who have assisted in various ways, thank you. You are our invaluable Help Desk.

New pix of Ford F550 pickups in Singapore


Line up of 13 Ford F550 light trucks, three of which appear to be fitted out with a rear box body. The picture was taken in Singapore in December 2013.

Recent sightings in Singapore of the F550, made by United States-based Ford Motor Company, follow reports that a prototype with a box body was observed at the Singapore Armed Forces' Headquarters Medical Corps (HQMC) at Nee Soon Camp about a year ago.

Senang Diri extends its thanks for the crowd sourced intel.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

First look at new Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Ford F550 ambulance ?

[6 Feb 2014: Please see postscript with comments from an SAF medic.]

The armed forces of a country in Southeast Asia - not Indonesia or Malaysia - is said to have picked the American-built Ford F550 chassis for modification as military ambulances.

A F550 pickup, made by Ford Motor Company, was seen being unloaded from a low loader in Singapore. It is one of several dozen that have arrived here. The rest are stabled in the Benoi area.




Senang Diri understands a cabin will be bolted to the chassis at the rear of the driver's compartment, which has been modified for right-hand drive. This cabin will have sufficient height for medical officers and combat medics to perform their work while standing in the cabin. Up to four litter cases can be carried using the F550 ambulance.

The Ford F550 is thought to be the vehicle of choice to replace Mercedes-Benz ambulances that presently serve the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). While a cost-effective lifesaver, the MB ambulances lack a cross-country capability and are less rugged than the Land Rover ambulances which it replaced partially. The latter still serve the SAF though in dwindling numbers.

The SAF is said to have deployed Ford Everest 4x4s as safety vehicles to accompany troops deployed outfield. These vehicles, dubbed Ops Utility Vehicles (OUVs), carry a medic and the medical equipment he/she needs for first line combat casualty care. The downside, which became apparent to SAF MOs and combat medics, was the inability of the Ford Everest to carry stretcher cases.

If the Ford F550s seen in Singapore are indeed destined for SAF service, the 4x4 offroad capability and strengthened chassis of these vehicles should provide the SAF Headquarters Medical Corps with a rugged workhorse to enhance medical cover for our SAF servicemen and servicewomen, in peace and war.

The F550 is no stranger to the SAF. Small numbers serve the SAF's crack Special Operations Task Force as ladder carriers. These allow SOTF troopers to execute rapid assault breaching of places of interest several storeys above ground.

Senang Diri will keep track of the Ford F550 ambulance project. Confirmation is expected when the first vehicles are fitted with the beloved MID number plates, thus kicking off a new series of MID plates for enthusiasts to collect. Our spreadsheets are ready. We will be watching.



Postscript: 6 Feb 2014
Comments from a reader in bold.

"The Ford F550 is thought to be the vehicle of choice to replace Mercedes-Benz ambulances that presently serve the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). While a cost-effective lifesaver, the MB ambulances lack a cross-country capability and are less rugged than the Land Rover ambulances which it replaced partially. The latter still serve the SAF though in dwindling numbers."

To my knowledge the SAF MB Ambulances (2010)  (also called Taurus) were to replace the older Ford Transit Ambulance (2005) deployed for non outfield cases (around camp compounds, patient transport to hospitals, after hours patient transport to 24hr medical centres etc) 
The SAF MB Ambulances allowed 4 stretcher cases and more seated casualties to be loaded. And allowed the SAF medical corps a more professional image at public/national events.  
The Ford Transit was a partial replacement for Land Rover Ambulances, but did not have cross country capability. 
Most of the LR Ambulances have now only been used for Outfield duties.  

"The SAF is said to have deployed Ford Everest 4x4s as safety vehicles to accompany troops deployed outfield. These vehicles, dubbed Ops Utility Vehicles (OUVs), carry a medic and the medical equipment he/she needs for first line combat casualty care. The downside, which became apparent to SAF MOs and combat medics, was the inability of the Ford Everest to carry stretcher cases."

I often complained how it was impossible to get a stretcher into the Ford Everest, but it is possible, it requires folding down the front seat, and back seat to reveal a metallic stretcher holder. But in reality, it would take too much time and effort, and severely limits the carrying capacity to just the medic, driver and 1 casualty on a stretcher. 



Acknowledgements
Many thanks to the bunch of you who assisted with the hunt. Happened to be at the Ford agent at just the right time. :-)

You may also like:
Guide to SAF MID vehicle number plates. Click here

Sunday, February 2, 2014

An emerging rival to challenge the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) mystique

This is fiction.
You couldn’t hope for better weather for a visit by VIPs. Overhead, a clear sky flecked with light clouds made the wet weather programme redundant as it was evident not a drop of rain would touch the ground - at least for the duration of the visit. A light breeze combined with a cooperative sun that seemed less of a scorcher than usual gave the hosts picture perfect conditions as everyone in the air defence squadron waited anxiously for the Chief of Air Force (CAF) and the Mexican Air Force General to arrive.

The only glitch - if you could call it that - was the inability of the Generals’ entourage to drive all the way to the top of the Hill 286.

“It’s okay. We walk,” said the Mexican General sportingly, gesturing uphill as the glitch sent accompanying junior staff officers into a tizzy. As the entourage fell in line for the hike, the procession of military men and women was a caricature of the levels of command in the air force, with ranks thinning out in seniority the further one was from the head of the procession. Apart from junior staff officers (defined as Majors and below for this secret visit) who flitted about energetically up and down the line with comms sets abuzz, barely able to keep still, darting about like hyperactive pond skaters as they fretted over the itinerary, everyone else seemed to enjoy the impromptu hike. 
 
The Mexican nodded appreciatively as a tour guide shared the history of the missile site, which was first crowned by Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), then Improved Hawks and now, a Spyder SAM fire unit.

Every step up that skinny road that snaked its way up Hill 286 rewarded the VIPs and their retinue of hangers on with an elevated view of the urban sprawl that stretched out like a concrete blight, grey and drab with toy-like buildings jostling for space with the greenery from beyond the fence line of the forested sanctuary which hid the air force SAM site. Hoisted from the humdrum of street level activity and with the entourage maintaining a respectful silence in the presence of the two air force Generals, the tour guide’s narrative and banter between the VIPs seemed unusually amplified.

The missile site was an architectural oddity unlike any other hillocks in the Pasir Laba area. Parts of the hillside had been scalloped out to hold a concrete pad which was recessed partly into the hill and backed by reinforced concrete retaining walls to form a sort of half bowl. With your back to the hill, one had an unobstructed view all the way to the horizon and up to the heavens. Hill 286 was crowned by a ring of these strange pads, such that the  field of view from these half bowls looked out at every compass bearing. These bowls gave an all-round view but were dug far enough from one another that a lucky strike wouldn’t take out all of them at the same time.

As the narrator explained that these structures were launch pads for now extinct Bloodhounds, the entourage filed past the concrete voids like tourists visiting particularly interesting ancient ruins, relying on their imagination to visualise what the place may have looked like when studded with Bloodhound SAMs.     

Part tourist, part nature buff (there were more trees in the vicinity than his entire neighbourhood combined) but a military professional through and through, the Mexican General’s trained eye noted that the British defence planners did a damn good job picking the site for air defence systems.

As the narrator droned on, the General mentally worked out firing arcs (not needed for vertical launched missiles), made a note of the number of concrete pads built at the site and gazed across the thin sliver of water shimmering in the distance that was the Strait to imagine how the site would look like from the other side of the border.

The briefing on the SAM system itself was more a formality.

Formality or not, the host squadron could not simply go through the motions. Some fighter pilots you could smoke. But not today’s audience. Not when you have a CAF who grew up with air surveillance radars and air defence missiles as his tools of the trade and knew the specifications of these war machines more intimately than the birthdays of his own principal staff officers. Not when the visiting CAF was a seasoned pro who likewise knew these systems inside out. One statistic mouthed wrongly or (horrors) forgotten in mid speech, a tactical situation ineptly described could prove a career ending move.

The static display guide stepped up and did his show, well aware CAF and almost his entire air staff was within earshot, listening intently to the facts and figures that dropped from his lips as the static display was explained.

As the Mexican knew the war machine’s specifications by heart, he used the session as an opportunity to observe how familiar his hosts were with the said system and popped the obligatory question or two so that conversation didn’t freeze in awkward silence.
 
The General was a seasoned pro, a consummate soldier-diplomat whose every gesture, carefully calibrated speech and smooth, urbane mannerisms were polished by charm school, seasoned by years of his own observations from the time he was a junior lieutenant serving battle hardened chiefs in his air force who served as role models on how a General should walk the talk. Above all, the General also packed a natural talent that saw him emerge leader of the pack in one of the world’s most respected air forces and one of the most competitive command trees in the military realm.

Constantly self-aware he was on show during such visits, mindful to make polite chit chat with the servicemen and servicewomen who hosted him by making (genuine) enquiries about their National Service vocation and role in the squadron, intuitively watchful for the camera so that his demeanour and body language (smile and make eye contact, no hands in pockets) would be just right when the camera was lifted to capture the moment (arms usually pointing at something or arrayed in a thoughtful pose), the General looked and played the part to perfection.

His audience was awestruck.

Further briefings were in store as the General was whisked through the fantastically named Super Gate to see yet more air force war machines. This country, the distinguished visitor noted, had introduced the same frontline assets as his air force faithfully and (it would appear) unquestioningly - as if the order of battle was the model answer for how a small state’s air power capability should look like.

 

Since the earliest days of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have made a noteworthy and positive influence on the Republic’s defence ecosystem. Phrased simply, there are more than a handful in the SAF who venerate the IDF.

To say the SAF holds the IDF in high regard would be an understatement. Elements of the SAF seem almost awestruck by the Israeli war machine.

The Israel Air Force appears beyond reproach in doctrine, warfighting ability and order of battle composition, all of which have contributed to a combat record few air arms can hold a candle to.

IDF Armour appears to be a powerful and formidable pace-setter, the model answer for all your battlefield problems, the gold standard by which the SAF Armour Family aspires to benchmark itself against, the go-to guys who can help formulate the armour force of the future.

Positive impressions formed during the 1967 Six Day War, when IDF instructors were attached to the fledgling SAF, spawned the stuff of legend years later after Israel’s citizen soldiers, their backs literally to the sea, beat back and defeated the combined might of the Arab armies during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The IDF’s battlefield successes evidently left lasting impressions on the SAF’s earliest batches, so much so that when these junior officers rose to positions of command later in life, the IDF’s stock rose in tandem. It appears that the knowledge and experience of Israeli warfighters is worth paying for and there is a growing IDF alumni who have benefitted from the IDF's vaunted reputation.

The IDF’s star has shone brightly ever since. Its image has been fortified, polished by successive wars that have introduced and enthralled successive generations of Singapore’s citizen soldiers to the IDF standing as battle victors.

Be that as it may, there is another armed force in Israel’s backyard that has successfully challenged the might of the IDF - and lived to tell the tale. These are the military forces of Hizbollah, the Party of God in Lebanon.

Israel has an unbeatable air force? Hizbollah has none.

Powerful IDF armour that are kings of the battlefield? Hizbollah had apparently not bothered matching the IDF’s armoured firepower, track for track, barrel for barrel.

Instead, Hizbollah’s strategists appear to have decided to meet Israel asymmetrically using powerfully-armed infantry fighting with a home ground advantage, trained to swarm around critical contacts of interest at the right place and time before moving like ants to successive lines of fortified defences.

In the two years or so needed to make a new Israel Air Force pilot combat-ready, Hizbollah needs a mere 15 minutes or less to train a novice to launch a MANPADS.

IDF Armour, which commands heavy investments in simulators and training time to induct fresh Israeli full-time national service men and women in armoured warfare, is countered by Hizbollah anti-tank units who need a fraction of the time and resources to learn how to kill AFVs.  

You may view their use of homemade rocket artillery as indiscriminate and amateurish, but the swarms of rockets fired at Israeli populated areas have forced the Jewish state to invest inordinate amounts of resources to deal with this menace.

As Israel’s economy is no powerhouse, the manner in which Hizbollah has built its arsenal has touched many pain points in its arch enemy. As Israel reacts to the Hizbollah threat, Hizbollah strategists must be keenly aware that it has secured the Initiative in the military balance in a way that no conventional Arab armed forces has ever achieved.

Make no mistake: the IDF is still a lethal weapon and a formidable deterrent.
 
But that decades old deterrent that Arab armies failed to crack has apparently inspired a new generation of strategists and tacticians in Hizbollah’s ranks who have rewritten the playbook for meeting the IDF in battle.

They too deserve our attention and respect.


This is also fiction
The tiny cups of aromatic coffee made the home visit worthwhile. And the delicious spread of home cooked dishes coming out of the impossibly small Lebanese kitchen beat the best of the Nasi Arab restaurants along Bukit Bintang hands down.

The discussion between the menfolk had a wonderfully conducive setting and soon, the carpeted sitting room gurgled with conversation that flowed freely and sincerely among new found friends.

"How is Zaina?," asked the GGK Major.

"Zaina, she is recovering well. Alhumdullihah," said her father, a one-time teacher who in recent years had found a new trade, not by choice but by circumstance.

Malaysian officers from MALCON were there to pay a farewell visit to the family to see how the little girl the MALCON medics saved from a road traffic accident was faring. The girl's positive outlook cheered their hearts as the MALCON officers were fathers themselves. It was a perfect way to wind up their tour of duty in Lebanon.

The small talk flowed from one topic to another with no set agenda, as conversations usually do at such social gatherings. As the guests were military men, the spotlight inevitably feel upon their tour of duty in Lebanon and their impressions of the country.

"May I ask...," the GGK Major ventured in between another cup of coffee, "May I ask how your family coped during the war?"

The former teacher knew his trade well. He was was used to summarising key points for a lecture and delivering his thoughts in a logical sequence while keeping his audience engaged. His story riveted the MALCON officers. They were more than engaged. His story enthralled them all.

In two minutes, they learned that he stepped forward to volunteer with Hizbollah as a militiaman, making him a citizen soldier in the fullest sense of the word . Within 10 minutes, they found out he was no rank-and-file man. His exposure to math and physics and innate leadership skills placed him in command of a Hizbollah ATGM unit.

A quarter of an hour after he began recounting his war service, table utensils placed strategically in the make believe battlefield supported by animated hand gestures recreated the Hizbollah versus Israel Defense Forces battles that were fought out in the dusty streets of Lebanese border towns as tank gunfire was answered by ATGM attacks. This was literally a table top battle, an impromptu lecture in anti-tank tactics in urban operations and the arcane subject of points of vulnerability of Israeli armour delivered to an appreciative audience.

The MALCON officers did not need to know how to knock out the vaunted Merkavas. Their Metis M ATGMs would take care of that - as proven by the Hizbollah. They were keenly interested in how Hizbollah managed to fight and survive under a sky seemingly infested with enemy UAVs.

And so, the grateful father, teacher-turned-combatant and now combatant-turned-teacher again obliged the Malaysians. He explained that the idea that UAVs have an all-seeing eye just because they buzzed the sky out of reach of small arms fire had been debunked time and again during the fight towards the Litani River.

The value of battlefield decoys was sketched out, the importance of having a deception plan as integral to one's mission planning was underlined as the experienced MALCON officers soaked in the lessons from the war veteran. The father's wartime experience fighting the IDF was one of many picked up by MALCON during their time in Lebanon. Some stories they gathered up by chance (as in this instance). Others were actively sought out and gathered by seasoned information gatherers and diligently relayed to Kuala Lumpur to help shape and validate MAF CONOPS.

The MAF's tour of duty in Lebanon was truly worthwhile.