Friday, January 13, 2017

Visit to the NYK Maritime Museum and Hikawa Maru museum in Yokosuka



NYK Hikawa Maru is a ship that caught my eye decades ago when I chanced upon a 1/700 scale model of the passenger ship at a department store. My meagre allowance being what it was, one could only look at but not buy the kit.

When the Internet came along and I learned that she was still afloat, I made it a point to visit Hikawa Maru.... eventually.

That visit was made on a rainy November morning in 2015 when we made our first visit to Japan. We made a stop first at the NYK Maritime Museum before heading to the Hikawa Maru.

During World War 2, five Japanese shipping lines operated in Syonan (昭南, Light of the South). These were located along the Singapore waterfront along Collyer Quay, near the present-day Clifford Pier and the Fullerton Hotel. NYK was here, along with Japanese shipping lines ISK, OSK, KKK and MBK. This WW2-era map of Syonan harbour shows their locations.

The Japanese-administered Syonan was a major port of call not just for Japanese marus. Almost every major surface combatant in the Imperial Fleet made port calls in Singapore, particularly their aircraft carriers and heavy cruisers.



The NYK Maritime Museum lists all NYK marus sunk during WW2 and their last reported locations.

The tally of lost NYK marus shows that submarines were the predominant killer, which indicates the effective of subs in the relatively shallow waters of the South China Sea when ASW assets are lacking or ineffective.

During your visit, do note that there is no souvenir shop aboard Hikawa Maru. The shop pierside of the Hikawa Maru has a much smaller selection of items than what the NYK Museum offers. 

If you're into marus, the info boards and exhibits at the NYK Maritime Museum should claim a few hours of your time. I personally found the exhibits fascinating. Hold on to your wallet while viewing the completed ship models on sale at the souvenir shop.

We spent a couple of hours aboard Hikawa Maru before taking the metro back to Tokyo ahead of the evening rush hour.









Wide selection of completed models of ships and marus on sale at the NYK Museum.

The colouration of wooden decks is a hot topic among the folks who build scale models. Look at the different shades seen in unpolished teak and painted decks (above), and polished teak (below). 


Forecastle, with the green painted deck somewhat worst for wear after exposure to the elements.

Starboard bridge wing.

Hikawa Maru wheelhouse.

Passenger lounge and suite (below) lovingly restored to their 1930s glory.


Portside lifeboat davits looking aft. Note the support columns beneath the lifeboats.


You may also like:
Yushukan Museum: Exhibits on Japan's road to war in WW2. Click here
Yushukan Museum kamikaze suicide weapon exhibits. Click here

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Worth reading about: Perdix UAVs demonstrate swarm capabilities


Look forward to the day when Singapore's defence technology community can share more, possibly at a future Defence Technology Prize event. 😉
Worth reading about

United States Department of Defense Announces Successful Micro-Drone Demonstration

Source: https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1044811/department-of-defense-announces-successful-micro-drone-demonstration
Press Operations
Release No: NR-008-17
Jan. 9, 2017



In one of the most significant tests of autonomous systems under development by the Department of Defense, the Strategic Capabilities Office, partnering with Naval Air Systems Command, successfully demonstrated one of the world’s largest micro-drone swarms at China Lake, California. 

The test, conducted in October 2016 and documented on Sunday’s CBS News program “60 Minutes”, consisted of 103 Perdix drones launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornets. The micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying, and self-healing.  

“I congratulate the Strategic Capabilities Office for this successful demonstration,” said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who created SCO in 2012. “This is the kind of cutting-edge innovation that will keep us a step ahead of our adversaries. This demonstration will advance our development of autonomous systems.”

“Due to the complex nature of combat, Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” said SCO Director William Roper. “Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.”

The demonstration is one of the first examples of the Pentagon using teams of small, inexpensive, autonomous systems to perform missions once achieved only by large, expensive ones. Roper stressed the department’s conception of the future battle network is one where humans will always be in the loop. Machines and the autonomous systems being developed by the DoD, such as the micro-drones, will empower humans to make better decisions faster.

Originally designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineering students, the Perdix drone was modified for military use by the scientists and engineers of MIT Lincoln Laboratory starting in 2013. Drawing inspiration from the commercial smartphone industry, Perdix software and hardware has been continually updated in successive design generations. Now in its sixth generation, October's test confirmed the reliability of the current all-commercial-component design under potential deployment conditions—speeds of Mach 0.6, temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius, and large shocks—encountered during ejection from fighter flare dispensers.

The “60 Minutes” segment also featured other new technology from across the Department of Defense such as the Navy’s unmanned ocean-going vessel, the Sea Hunter, and the Marine Corps’ Unmanned Tactical Control and Collaboration program.

As SCO works with the military Services to transition Perdix into existing programs of record, it is also partnering with the Defense Industrial Unit-Experimental, or DIUx, to find companies capable of accurately replicating Perdix using the MIT Lincoln Laboratory design. Its goal is to produce Perdix at scale in batches of up to 1,000.

END

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Urban legends abound about the SAF's true capabilities. Click here
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On UCAV alternatives to manned a/c (read: F-35B). Click here

Monday, January 2, 2017

Yushukan Museum Japanese kamikaze suicide weapon exhibits at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine


"The Yushukan is a museum that stores and exhibits precious letters of testament and relics that belonged to the deities symbolically enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine, a variety of historical records which tell of the soldiers' faith and hand down their accomplishments to posterity. Over 100,000 items include (sic) drawings, other art works, armor, and weapons are displayed here" - Description of the Yushukan at the Yasukuni Shrine.


Numerous exhibits showcasing the bravery of Japanese sailors, soldiers and airmen can be found at the Yushukan Museum on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine in the heart of Tokyo.

These appear to demonstrate the ultimate sacrifice made by Imperial units in defence of Japan, fighting in the Pacific War that was "forced" upon Japan.

Depicted here are the war machines fielded by the Special Attack Corps (Tokko 特攻 or Special Attack Unit) that are revered by the Yushukan as their enshrine the warrior spirit of self-sacrifice and fearlessness in the face of overwhelming odds (bordering on futility). What's described by museum information placards as "Special Attack" is more usually referred to as Kamikaze suicide weapons in Western military literature.

These images were taken during a visit to Tokyo in November 2015. Exhibits and descriptions are known to change from time to time. Set aside about three to four hours to fully appreciate all the exhibits.
The main exhibition hall of the Yushukan Museum has a heavy leaning towards war machines used by the Tokko Special Attack Units. Visitors to the hall are greeted by the sight of a Kaiten human torpedo (foreground) topped by a Ohka Model 11 glide bomb and a Suisei dive bomber, a type which flew more suicide missions than conventional aerial bombing attacks.

 Kaiten Type 1 (回天; literally "Return to Heaven") one-man suicide torpedo.

Model of a Kairyu-class (海龍; "Sea Dragon") midget submarine. Operated by two sailors, the boat was armed with two torpedoes and carried an 600kg explosive charge for a one-way mission.

Artwork showing Shinyo-class (震洋; "Sea Tremor") speedboats attempting to penetrate an Allied destroyer screen. The boats were designed to be used en masse during night attacks to overwhelm defenders.

Shinyo-class speedboat that formed the maritime arm of Japan's special attack corps.

Fukuryu Tokko Taiinzo ("Crouching Dragon" Special Attack) was intended for use in shallow water. Fukuryu frogmen would aim explosive-tipped bamboo poles at the hulls of invading landing craft, knowing full well they would die in the ensuing blast. According to Yushukan literature, "many Imperial Navy sailors perished as a result of the unsuccessful experiments of this new suicide attack weapon".

Ohka ("Cherry Blossom") Navy Special Attacker (museum's description) used in the defence of Okinawa.

Yokosuka DY4 Suisei ("Comet"), Allied reporting name Judy, was the last of the Imperial Japanese Navy's dive bombers. Many Suisei dive bombers were pressed into service as part of the Special Attack Corps.

Part of a large 3-metre long diorama depicting the Imperial Navy's Jinrai ("Divine Thunderbolt") unit of the Special Attack Corps flying out to meet Allied units at Okinawa.

Copper tooling showing Special Attack Corps pilots bidding a final farewell to their comrades and a picture of actual Special Attack Corps pilots (below).


You may also like:
Yushukan exhibits on Japan's road to war in WW2. Click here

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Singapore Armed Forces SAF ends 2016 with New Year's Eve death

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) ended 2016 with the death of an unnamed full-time National Serviceman (NSF) at Pasir Ris Camp, closing the year with two reported deaths - the same tally reported for 2015.

Yesterday's incident marked the first SAF death on New Year's Eve on this blog's record of SAF training deaths, which date back to July 1968.

The latest fatality was an NSF who was on guard duty at the camp. According to a Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) statement, he was pronounced dead by Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedics at 11:32H. The two paragraph statement was issued at 18:30H the same day.

On 30 November 2016, MINDEF reported that an unnamed SAF regular was found unconscious at the foot of a building at Chong Pang Camp, which is predominantly occupied by Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) air defence units. The regular was rushed to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital where he was pronounced dead after resuscitative efforts failed.

Senang Diri has noted the MINDEF practice of not naming the two SAF personnel who died in 2016. The two individuals who died in 2015 were both named in MINDEF news releases.

Overall, the year for SAF full-time national servicemen, operationally-ready NSmen and regulars was a relatively safe one, despite the high tempo of SAF operations in Singapore and the intensity of war games staged on homeground and abroad.

Even so, every death is one too many. The SAF must continue sustaining the changes in systems, processes and culture that will minimise risks at the workplace, during training and operations.

Stay safe in 2017.



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SAF training deaths in 2015. Click here
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SAF training safety in 2012. Click here
SAF training safety in 2011. Click here

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Yushukan War Memorial Museum: Japan's road to war in WW2

The Yushukan War Memorial Museum, located in Tokyo on the grounds of the Yasukuni Shrine, recounts events leading to Japan's entry into World War Two.

The following story boards were seen during a visit there in November 2015.

The narrative indicates that sanctions against Japan deprived its economy of raw materials, with the oil embargo being the final trigger. The story boards also suggest secret collusion between the United States and Great Britain during the 1941 Atlantic Conference.

Whether or not one agrees with the intellectual basis for the casus belli, one should be aware that this is the account of World War Two portrayed to younger Japanese as the Pacific War.

Would recommend the book by Edward S. Miller, War Plan Orange, for another account of the road to war.

As the old saying goes, "History is written by the victors".


Large map of Southeast Asia dedicated to showing the raw materials needed by the Empire of Japan prior to the outbreak of war in the Pacific.









You may also like:
Yushukan exhibits on Special Attack Units. Click here

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Teachable moments from SAF Terrex ICVs seized in Hong Kong



Without a shot fired, the Singapore Army lost possession of nine Terrex infantry carrier vehicles (ICVs) after Hong Kong customs impounded the armoured vehicles as they were transiting through the port.

This episode has many teachable moments for followers of statecraft and must be played out carefully as the concluding act has yet to take centre stage.

Any diplomatic gaffes, missteps by any party could result in misgivings that linger long after the fate of the SAF war machines has been decided upon. This would have unfortunate consequences for the parties concerned if what could be ascribed to routine/rigorous customs checks is given another spin.

News of this episode - the largest ever seizure of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) war machines - emerged on Thursday (24 Nov), courtesy of  Hong Kong news portal, FactWire. It had reported that up to 12 Terrex ICVs were seized in the container terminal as they were en route from the Taiwanese port of Kaohsiung to Singapore.

Within days, the topic of SAF training in Taiwan has come under the spotlight with many theories postulated.

At one end of the spectrum, some theorised an administrative gaffe as the culprit. More complex interpretations blamed strategic topics du jour such as the South China Sea dispute, the city-state's leanings toward the United States and military training in Taiwan as possible irritants to China-Singapore ties that could have prompted Hong Kong customs officials to impound the Terrex ICVs.

Seen at face value, it may appear that Beijing wants to telegraph its intentions to Singapore by using the Terrex ICVs as a proxy. This theory is not far-fetched, but unlikely. If so, it would indicate that Chinese statecraft has taken on a somewhat dramatic posture when there are other means in the diplomatic toolbox to ensure its messages are transmitted loud and clear.

Whatever the cause, this is not the first time that policy makers in Beijing, Taipei and Singapore have had to confront the matter of SAF activities overseas. Five training incidents that claimed the lives of at least 10 Singaporeans put to test the relationship between China and Singapore, when the Taiwanese venue of SAF war games made the news.

The following incidents were reported by Singapore media and are open source:
In August 1993, two soldiers from 2 SIR who were riding a motorbike skidded and landed in a drain during a night ride. Both were evacuated to Singapore by a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) C-130 aeromedical flight. One of the soldiers died later from severe head injuries.

In April 1994, all four persons on board a RSAF 125 Squadron Super Puma on a predawn flight died after the helicopter crashed into a mountain in Taiwan. The crash was so severe that dental records had to be used as a means of identification. Complicating the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) news release was the presence of a Taiwanese military officer aboard the helicopter.

In June 1995, two full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) from 3 Signals died after their vehicle went off a hill in Taiwan.

In May 2007, two full-time National Servicemen were killed when a twin-seat Republic of China Air Force F-5F jet fighter crashed into storeroom located within a Taiwanese military base. Two other NSFs warded at the Taipei Tri-Service Hospital were repatriated aboard a RSAF KC-135R configured as a flying hospital. One of the NSFs died 17 days later at Singapore General Hospital.

In June 2009, an SAF regular was found motionless in his bunk at a Taiwanese military facility. He was pronounced dead in hospital in Taiwan. The ammo tech was in Taiwan to support the SAF's unilateral training there.

Throughout these dark moments, Beijing maintained a dignified silence. It did so in the era when New Media had yet to be invented. And it maintained this stance this century when New Media outlets amplified the news - up until the Terrex episode.

What's more, the pinnacle command positions in Singapore's fledgling air force and navy were occupied by Taiwanese military personnel who served Singapore in the 1970s. ROCAF Colonel Liu Ching Chuan was once Commander RSAF (renamed as Chief of Air Force) while former ROCN officer Khoo Eng An once held the post of Commander Republic of Singapore Navy (retitled as Chief of Navy).

Beijing could have responded robustly decades ago - but did not do so. Inaction could not have been out of ignorance as these command appointments were widely known in diplomatic circles. The appointments have also been chronicled in SAF coffee table books. So China's reticence was done by choice. Why?

In all the years of SAF activities overseas, Beijing's acquiescence has been reciprocated by the Lion City's delicate handling of the matter out of respect to the Middle Kingdom. This approach extends to the HK Terrex episode, where all MINDEF/SAF statements on the matter have left out the very pertinent point of the origin of the shipment. This approach may explain why journalists hounding the ministry for clarity have found themselves facing a wall of silence whenever "Taiwan" appears in their questions.

Thanks to behind-the-scenes statecraft from all sides, a semblance of implicit understanding has been achieved for years. As a result of this balance, SAF activities in Taiwan became an open secret that is watched closely, yet tolerated so long as no one decided to exploit the matter.

This has been to the benefit of all as foreign relations were allowed to flourish on a win-win trajectory without being bogged down or stymied by the awkward matter of SAF war games overseas.

Diplomacy aside, one important dividend that Beijing has cashed in from this matter comes from inculcating its position to tens of thousands of Singaporeans who have trained in Taiwan. This comes about from stern security briefings to those bound for Taiwan not to talk about SAF training there. For the average Singaporean, who is usually apathetic about regional affairs, a trip to Taiwan downloads the essence of Beijing's strategic narrative: That there is only one China. That Taiwan is viewed as part of the motherland. And that foreign nationals are not to dabble in Chinese affairs.

The dividend China has reaped from such awareness is impossible to quantify. Yet, Chinese officials would probably quietly acknowledge it has been invaluable as Beijing reaps the spinoffs for doing virtually nothing. And as the NSFs grow into adulthood and later in life move into Singapore's high society, Singaporeans are ingrained with the dynamics of China-Taiwan relations long after the war games are over.

Now insert the matter of a customs inspection, during which officials simply had to act as they knew FactWire was watching. Add the multitude of rules and regulations that regulate imports/exports, which have to be followed for compliance reasons. Factor in the media glare - more pervasive now with 24/365 New Media channels - and we begin to understand why officials in Beijing have issued the sound bites that we have heard in recent days.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Mr Geng Shuang, said:“All ships that enter Hong Kong should follow the laws of the Special Administrative Region. We oppose countries that have diplomatic relations with us to have any form of official exchanges with Taiwan, including defence cooperation.”

Yes, this sounds harsh and is in all likelihood directed at Singapore. But what more do you expect China to say when asked pointblank for a response to an issue which three parties danced around delicately for decades?

The sound bites reflect the realpolitik that comes about now that the open secret that officials assiduously avoided mentioning has become a talking point. For Beijing not to make motherhood sound bites would signal a pivot from its long-standing position on what it regards as a renegade province - and that is something Beijing will not do.  

The question now is how the impasse will be concluded.

This brings us back to the teachable moments.

It could conclude with a takeway that shows that SG-Sino relations are far stronger than what the western media makes it out to be and that Beijing isn't throwing a hissy fit with the Terrex ICVs as a convenient proxy. It could be resolved quietly, without fanfare with behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

If the worst-case scenario pans out with the Terrex ICVs ending up in a Chinese military museum, then this could give moves by regional parties (read: Australia) to have Singapore pivot south more momentum in a faster and bigger way.

How this story ends really isn't for Singapore to suggest as it's a matter of red tape, or should we say, Red tape.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Road to Runway, RSAF Exercise Torrent VII: All ready for the AIREX


A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG Strike Eagle overflies Lim Chu Kang Road, which has been converted into an Alternate Runway for Exercise Torrent VII.

RSAF personnel from Tengah Air Base are all set for the air exercise phase of Torrent, with warplanes due to launch and recover on the road tomorrow and on Sunday morning.