Sunday, October 18, 2015

Singapore Armed Forces and defence eco-system deploy for Exercise Wallaby 2015: Hopping into action soon!

Hornets nest: Six Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16D+ warplanes from 145 Squadron taxi at Rockhampton Airport on Friday 16 October 2015 after deploying across the Australian from Darwin Airport. Picture by Kayanne Hardsman from the Central Queensland Plane Spotting blog. Click here for more.

Ever heard of Budyonnovsk? We haven't either.

When Russia deployed warplanes from the airbase at Budyonnovsk to Syria, defence analysts worldwide were wowed by Russia's ability to marshal and deploy airpower at long-range. The distance covered: 1,800+ km.

As you read this, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has sent warplanes and combat helicopters from Singapore to the Australian town of Rockhampton in Queensland for tri-Service war games, codenamed Wallaby. The distance covered: 5,700+ km.

So just what constitutes "long-range" is relative.

We take Exercise Wallaby for granted because it has been staged so often that even journalists find it hard squeezing a newspoint for this annual test of the SAF's ability to fight and manoeuvre as an integrated force across a distance several times the size of Singapore island.

But just getting there is a feat of arms for the SAF.

While in Rockhampton, the land, air and naval elements involved in the various Frames of the exercise and component exercises under the Wallaby umbrella must put the mantra "raise, train and sustain" into action.

Many SAF units will be closely watched not just by safety officers. The ability of the battle staff to plan, deploy, manoeuvre and fight by day and by night - sometimes using live ordnance in close proximity with ground and air elements - will be closely watched by Army Training Evaluation Centre (ATEC) assessors who will use Wallaby as a test of their combat readiness.

To have the war game compromised by forgetting a vital spare part or decision-making tool so far from home would bring the show to an abrupt and embarrassing halt. To fly or sail to Shoalwater Bay Training Area with a gypsy caravan of all your barang(2) would make your unit a laughing stock among more seasoned warfighters who arrive in-theatre with what they need, a bit extra for stretch missions and nothing more.

With big shots from Level 5 due to visit the exercise in the coming weeks, it is crucial that this year's Frames learn from past deployments. Wallaby virgins need to learn fast about the value of, and discipline needed, to put into effect what other armies would call an "expeditionary force".

Contrary to what most observers see, Wallaby is more than an SAF show.

The SAF's experience during Wallaby will be shared by defence scientists and engineers from Singapore's defence eco-system. They will use the opportunity to see, firsthand, how modifications to various weapon platforms and systems stand up to rough handling by our soldiers under harsh conditions in the Australian outback.

Many homegrown weapons, such as the Bionix 2, owe their design refinements to the mileage clocked while on long and distant service during Ex Wallaby.

Full-time National Service, Operationally Ready NSmen and Regulars who took part in Wallaby Frames from yesteryear have collectively laid the foundation from which the present-day SAF can learn from.

Uniquely Singapore
Singapore's Wallaby experience is unique. We are forced to commit to this long-range deployment due to the shortage of training space in Singapore.

Thanks to defence diplomacy, we have made friends beyond our immediate neighbourhood who are willing to allow a foreign country to conduct what amounts to a unilateral exercise involving live ammunition on home ground. That Singapore has been allowed to do so beyond the ASEAN 10 in far-flung places such as Australia, France, India, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and the United States is testimony to the strength and extent of strong ties between our respective armed forces.

At a more tactical level, the Wallaby experience will be remembered by newbies who have never trained there before. No Singaporean son or daughter who has ever travelled by convoy during Wallaby will forget the dust stirred up by SAF vehicle columns or the stark temperature difference from pre-dawn to noon in the outback.

For some of our NSFs, getting to Wallaby will mark their first aeroplane flight.

At night, stars will crown the Australian sky.

May the Exercise Wallaby 2015 team make full and proper use of time granted by our Australian friends to train realistically and come home safely. And should push come to shove, to put in practice what we've practised during land warfare manoeuvres like Bold Conqueror to deal the knock-out blow swiftly and decisively and make stars dance in front of their eyes.

1 comment:

Edwardchua said...

Your article brings exercise wallaby in good perspective. I was there in? 2002 as a medic and got to witness the kinda of exercise we do as a cohesive armed forces. Thanks for bringing memories back again.