Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tomahawk

The Tomahawk is a wonderfully versatile weapon.

It comes in a number of variants, as its striking edge can be adapted for different roles.

Lightweight, durable and easy to handle, the Tomahawk is deadly at close range.

In the hands of a skilled operator, a Tomahawk can also project its killing potential beyond targets close at hand. Train well with the Tomahawk and one can disarm an opponent with precise, well-placed hits.

Fast, accurate strikes by a Tomahawk can swiftly and decisively defeat an opponent - even better armoured ones.

You may lose a Tomahawk in water. But on dry land, a Tomahawk is optimised for agile strikes that can hit the enemy from different threat vectors, by day or by night.

Combining a Tomahawk with other weapons in one's armoury accentuates its combat potential, with each weapon making up for the other's shortcomings.

Tomahawks have been known to be multi purpose. Peace pipe or weapon of war, depending on the situation.

The more one learns about the Tomahawk, the greater one's respect for this weapon.

I 💗 Tomahawk.

Do you?


You may also like:
Urban legends about the SAF's true combat capabilities. Click here

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Commentary on MINDEF/SAF Defence Cyber Organisation: Bytes are bullets for SAF's cyber defenders


The establishment of the Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO) by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) aims to strengthen Singapore's defences against current and anticipated threats in cyberspace.
The move is timely, given the recent incident in which the Mindef network was hacked by perpetrators of unknown origin.
While no sensitive military information was lost apart from the theft of personal data on some 850 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Mindef staff, the February attack is a sign of things to come.
New cyber defence vocations have also been created, and soldiers are expected to be deployed in these roles from August this year. Both full-time national servicemen and operationally ready national servicemen with the requisite academic or work backgrounds can be tapped to join these vocations.
Among all the SAF vocations, SAF cyber defenders can expect to come under "attack" more often and more intensely during peacetime than any other SAF personnel, with their battles waged in cyberspace. Their mettle will be tested against state and non-state actors, who will continuously probe and test our cyber defences for weaknesses that can be exploited.
They will have to be on their toes as Singapore is one of the world's most digitally connected nations in the world. This means that DCO's cyber defenders need to be made of sterner stuff than your average keyboard warrior and be equipped with the professional know-how and warfighting techniques, tactics and procedures to fight and prevail in cyber warfare.
The high stakes and likelihood of future attacks make it imperative that our cyber defenders operate under clear and well-defined rules of engagement for cyber engagements.
The Cyber Security Strategy that Singapore released last year sketched out the high stakes. The document forecast that cyber attacks on the Republic's critical information infrastructure (CII) "may have spillover effects regionally and globally".
It added: "As an international financial, shipping and aviation hub, Singapore also houses critical systems that transcend national borders, such as global payment systems, port operations systems and air traffic control systems. Successful attacks on these supra-national CIIs can have disproportionate effects on the trade and banking systems beyond Singapore's shores."
The recent attack drives home the clear and present danger posed by cyber warfare and why vigilance must be backed by a round-the- clock capability to act against such threats.
But when does a cyber attack become an act of war - if at all - especially if it targets mission-critical infrastructure?
All over the world, governments are grappling with defining the threshold above which a cyber attack would justify the use of military force. Singapore, too, will have to figure this out and develop new rules of engagement for such attacks.
Britain's National Cyber Security Strategy indicates that the "full spectrum of our capabilities will be used to deter adversaries and to deny them opportunities to attack us".
The Cyber Strategy articulated by the United States Department of Defence (DoD) mentions the "full range of tools" and added: "To ensure unity of effort, DoD will enable combatant commands to plan and synchronise cyber operations with kinetic operations across all domains of military operations."
While cyber attacks don't involve firepower in the traditional sense of bullets, bombs, rockets or guided munitions, their impact can be just as devastating.
Attacks on, say, computer networks that control infrastructure such as ports, power or water supply, or a country's banking system, can disrupt or destroy such infrastructure as effectively as a conventional military attack - perhaps even more so.
Cyber warfare is a relatively new battlespace, so new that international agreement on what constitutes proportionate response or jus ad bellum (right to war) in a cyberwar has not been mapped out definitively.
International law and military experts consulted for the Tallinn Manual 2.0 were divided on the level of military force that a country could exert in response to, or in anticipation of, a cyber attack. The manual, released last month, is said to be the most comprehensive analysis of how international law applies to cyber operations.
In the US military, the information battlespace is regarded as the fifth dimension of war. The other four dimensions are land, sea, air and space. The Tallinn Manual 2.0 attempts to harmonise international law and military tactics, techniques and procedures with threats in the fifth dimension.
Singapore is well aware that much work is needed on this front. Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen told Parliament last Friday: "In the steady state, the DCO will have about 2,600 soldiers, supported by scientists and engineers in Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and DSO, and this is a significant build-up from the current numbers and reflects the importance of this new battlefront."
To put things in perspective, the headcount of 2,600 soldiers that will serve DCO in about 10 years' time is roughly four battalions strong. This is almost half the number of soldiers in the Singapore Army's nine active infantry battalions. Amid the birth dearth that has led to smaller cohorts of full-time national servicemen, the commitment of such a sizeable number of cyber defenders underscores the severity of fifth-dimension threats envisaged by our defence planners.
Apart from clarifying rules of engagement in a cyber attack, DCO needs to reassure our citizen soldiers that computer networks fielded by the tech-heavy new-generation SAF will be protected in peacetime and during operations by astute cyber defenders fighting in the fifth domain.
Mindef/SAF defence planners also need to be vigilant to tell when a cyber attack, say, on a telco system, crosses the threshold from an inconvenience to the public to one with a more sinister endgame aimed at knocking out vital infrastructure as a prelude to a conventional attack.
Like other defence forces, those in Singapore will have to think through the end-state of cyber warfare. Once cyber defenders swing into action by wielding bytes as "bullets" in a cyberwar, when and how would one achieve conflict termination? What are the success factors for achieving victory? Would a cyberwar presage a period of tension that could spiral into the use of real-world military firepower?
Just as Total Defence enlisted the whole nation to underpin the SAF's approach to conventional defence, there's a part for everyone as Mindef/SAF takes on cyberthreats from state or non-state players.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Singapore's DSO National Laboratories releases new books on defence science and engineering capabilities: Download here


Two new books commemorating 50 years of Singapore's defence R&D in aviation engineering and weapon systems projects were released by DSO National Laboratories this week. Download your copy from the DSO website here.

These books complete the four-volume series written for the Defence Technology Community's 50th anniversary, which was celebrated in November 2016.

DTC50 Aviation Engineering and DTC50 System of Systems profiles lesser-known projects, such as Singapore's evaluation of the Russian Mil-26 heavy-lift helicopter as a rival to the Boeing CH-47D Chinook from the United States and having the American Stinger MANPADS square off against the Swedish RBS-70.

Enjoy the stories in these ebooks.

You may also like:
Defence Technology Community 50th anniversary book. Click here

Saturday, February 11, 2017

An albatross we need to nix: History weighs down appreciation of Singapore's naval forces


The loss of British capital ships to airpower during the Battle for Malaya is the proverbial albatross round the neck of anyone tasked to discuss the value of naval forces in the defence of Singapore.

One cannot ignore naval history but one should examine the loss of the Royal Navy battleship, HMS Prince of Wales, and battlecruiser, HMS Repulse, which formed the heart of Force Z from a broader perspective.

Royal Navy strategists had long recognised the need for, and importance of, a balanced navy operating from and supported by Sembawang Naval Base.




In Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) parlance, this full spectrum force comprised submarines from its 4th Flotilla, the aircraft carriers HMS Eagle and HMS Hermes and specialised vessels such as the 15-inch gun monitor, HMS Terror - in her time a sort of littoral mission vessel tailored for operations close to shore.

Naval units were to be supported by fighter aircraft from RAF Sembawang. with 453 Squadron the designated Fleet Defence Squadron. Squadron CO Tim Vigors wrote about how he had worked out a plan to keep at least six Buffalos over the fleet during all daylight hours as long as they stayed within 60 miles of the Malayan coast.[POW and Repulse were sunk about 50 miles off Kuantan]

In the 1930s, Singapore's defences were not short of accolades:
  • Sembawang Naval Base was Britain's largest and best-protected naval base in the Far East.
  • RAF Seletar was described as one of the empire's finest seaplane bases, from which Sunderland and Catalina flying boats - the eyes of the fleet - flew long-range maritime reconnaissance missions.
  • The coastal defences that guarded the Singapore Strait could deny the strait to shipping and the 15-inch guns of the Buona Vista and Johor batteries were the largest of their kind outside Britain.
So what went wrong?

Before dismissing the value of naval forces, one must remember that war had raged in Europe for two years before the Pacific War erupted.


As Britain fought for her survival, naval units based in Singapore were retasked to serve in the Mediterranean theatre. This strategic pivot - to use contemporary language -  saw the deployment of Singapore's submarines, HMS Eagle and HMS Terror westward to the Mediterranean. All served with distinction there. Sunderland seaplanes also left Singapore for new operational taskings in the Med.

While the RN's bench strength in Singapore was diluted, there were ample reasons for strategists to feel that the forces at hand were adequate to deal with the Japanese threat. Consider these points:
  • The Brewster Buffalo fighters, then the mainstay of RAF fighters squadrons based in Singapore, had acquitted itself well in Finland's Winter War against Soviet fighters. Many Finnish pilots emerged as aces flying Buffalos, a fighter type that was the United States Navy's first monoplane carrier fighter.
  • The Vildebeest biplane torpedo bombers were an anachronism. But Swordfish biplanes - similarly as slow and antiquated - had earned distinction during the Bismarck hunt and more recently during the attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto.
  • The Blenheim bombers operating from Malaya were some of the fastest twin-engined light bombers. When introduced in the 1930s, Blenheims could fly faster than pursuing fighters.
  • British warships deployed in the South China Sea would be fighting with the advantage of friendly coastlines in Peninsular Malaya and Borneo. Britain could also count on support from American, Dutch and Australian warships under a sort of coalition operation.
  • In the two years prior to the sinking of Force Z on 10 December 1941, no British capital ship had been lost to air attack launched by Germany's Luftwaffe and Italy's Regia Aeronautica in the Med. In that theatre, British ships had to run the gauntlet of shipping lanes with hostile coastlines in southern Europe and North Africa. The fact that capital ships survived against the combined might of two European air arms gave Royal Navy officers confidence that such warships could prevail against Japanese warplanes - then prejudiced as being inferior to European models.

Deployed in the SCS without a submarine screen, no aircraft carrier for fleet air defence, no air cover from shore-based units, the odds were stacked against Force Z.

Force Z sailed in defiance of the principle of Mass. American, British, Dutch and Australian warships sunk later during the Battle of the Java Sea, could have turned the tide in December 1941 had they been deployed with Hermes (then in the Indian Ocean theatre. She was also in Cape Town as POW made a port visit en route to Singapore) as part of an upsized Force Z.


In addition, the Prince of Wales and Repulse encountered unfortunate stoppages when QF 2-pounder pom-pom gun crews (the 8-barrelled guns were the CIWS of their day) discovered (belatedly) that the ammunition was defective. As a result, shell and cartridge would separate, causing a stoppage. The lack of tracer for pom-poms weakened their value for warding off air attacks compared to the Bofors 40mm and Oerlikon 20mms that did fire tracer.

Add to Force Z a weak destroyer screen with poor anti-aircraft armament and one would realise why the naval operation gave British Prime Minister his greatest shock during WW2.

Churchill wrote in his memoirs: "In all the war I never received a more direct shock. The reader of these pages will realise how many efforts, hopes, and plans foundered with these two ships. As I turned over and twisted in bed the full horror of the news sank in upon me. There were no British or American capital ships in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific except the American survivors of Pearl Harbour, who were hastening back to California. Over all this vast expanse of waters Japan was supreme, and we everywhere were weak and naked."

In the Malayan theatre, the Royal Navy proved that ably-led warships properly equipped for duty in the tropics could engage and sink hostile units of superior strength. 



In May 1945, the RN scored its last victory by destroyers against a capital ship when the Japanese heavy cruiser, Haguro, was sunk during a night attack off Penang. The British victory, which was the last major naval gun and torpedo engagement during WW2, owed its success to close coordination between maritime air surveillance and the use of radar to track and target the Haguro. It's a success often overshadowed by the tragic loss of POW and Repulse.

Fast forward from WW2 to the SAF's formative years. With the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) regarded as the defence advisor nonpareil, it is perhaps clear why the SAF's force development loci has (and still is?) anchored upon the use of airpower and the development of Armour as the arm of decision.

Alas, the WW2 albatross had extended its wings. 

The IDF's experience with warfare at sea has been marginalised by the application of airpower during the 1967 Six Day War (the same year National Service began in Singapore) and the success of the IDF's armoured manoeuvre forces in saving Israel from Arab armies during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Furthermore, the loss of the IDF warship Eilat to Egyptian missile boats in 1967 may have contributed to a poor appreciation of the value of naval forces vis-a-vis airpower, which could be one reason why Singapore's early defence planners placed less emphasis on naval forces as defence dollars were lean.

In subsequent decades, the IDF's use of naval forces has been less than illuminating. The damage inflicted upon the Saar V corvette, Hanit, by a shore-based missile in 2006 off Lebanon is a painful relearning of the value of sensors that can warn of impending attack by guided munitions.[That Hanit survived is a tribute to the importance of fire-fighting & damage control and the robustness of naval construction. Till today, however, not one picture of the damage inflicted has been released by the IDF.] 

In this jubilee year, as the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) gears up to mark its 50th year, it would be a mistake to let the albatross from the past blinker one's assessment of the role and importance of the Navy.

Thanks to a better appreciation of the need to defend our access to SLOCs, the RSN successfully fielded MCVs in the 1980s - a project that represented a springboard for the RSN to uplift its operational capabilities to include ASW and point defence missiles for the first time.  

A balanced Fleet, accurate, relevant and timely intelligence, the ability to plan and deploy naval units for joint operations, the superior application of defence technology are just some of the critical elements one needs to bear in mind for the future fighting fleet.

Never make the mistake of discounting the fleet.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Thoughts on the Royal Malaysian Navy's RMN 15 to 5 transformation effort


A pledge to streamline naval procurements, crackdown on corruption and "ill practices" while tightening fiscal management under an innovative approach to transform the way warfighters go about their business.

Sound bites from Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) speech writers?

No, it's the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN's) modernisation effort under its "15 to 5" transformation programme.

If you've not heard of it, sit up and take notice because it marks the most high-profile, ambitious and most importantly, achievable, renewal effort pursued by Malaysian naval forces in decades.

If successfully pushed through, Malaysia's "15 to 5" programme will streamline Fleet RMN from 15 classes warship types from seven countries to just five main hull types, viz:
1. Kedah-class New Generation Patrol Vessels
2. Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) based on the French Gowind-class
3. A Chinese-made Littoral Mission Ship (LMS), a sort of LCS-lite able to do 80% of its missions but at 20% of its cost
4. A New Multirole Support Ship (MRSS)
5. Scorpene-class SSKs

More importantly, it would allow the slim-fit RMN to maximise defence funds allocated to the Service even as the number, scope and geographical reach of operational taskings increase. 


Many people overlook the reality that while the RMN has to secure the SLOCs between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak, the RMN has also been active in faraway seas like the Gulf of Aden, protecting Malaysian and international merchant shipping under Ops Fajar (Dawn). The training and coordination required to raise and sustain the RMN for long and distant service is likely to reward its surface fleet, naval aviation and PASKAL commandos with precisely the mindset and experience needed to push through efforts like "15 to 5". These Fajar operatives are no paper warriors.

Hatched by Malaysian Chief of Navy, Admiral (ADM) Dato' Seri Panglima Ahmad Kamarulzaman bin Haji Ahmad Badaruddin, the programme marks a sea change in the way the RMN will reshape, rearm and renew itself for the future.

The "15 to 5" programme is a moniker that is ideally suited for the internet age. It even has its own hashtag. Easy to remember, its brevity belies its ability to capture the strategic essence for moving from 15 decades-old hull types to five platforms. Even if RMN officers cannot remember the specific reasons for doing so, the call for the Fleet to be prepared to do more with less is crystal clear.

Not quite Mahan or Roskill in its strategic depth, "15 to 5" sounds more like vintage Goh Keng Swee by making a clarion call for maximising bang for buck while pushing the frontier tenaciously and innovatively to stay ahead of current and projected maritime threats.

There's nothing like it this south of the causeway and perhaps the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) needs a catchy tagline to highlight the inroads it is making to raise, train and sustain naval forces for the 21st century.

To be fair, the RSN is not short of cutting edge defence projects that pack the ability to transform the RSN.

At the current state of play, the RSN appears likely to be the first ASEAN navy to deploy unmanned surface vessels in sizeable numbers as MCMVs. Tasked to clear shipping lanes in Singapore Roads, these unmanned (actually optionally-manned as they will have wheelhouses for people on board to steer the craft to satisfy MPA requirements) MCMVs look set to replace the Swedish-made Bedok-class MCMVs and SAM mine-hunting platforms, both now long in the tooth.

The Joint Multi-Mission Ship (JMMS), destined to be the largest RSN hull, is another project that could be used to show how MINDEF and the RSN can set the bar high. 

Little has been shared on this project ever since Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen revealed that the Endurance-class LSTs (more accurately, LPDs, but we'll save that for another time) will be superceded by the JMMS.

Naval observers have (correctly) surmised how the longer flight deck on the JMMS will raise the ability of the RSN to support naval operations from the sea. Some have speculated if and when the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters will grace the deck of the JMMS. 

The more interesting and overlooked potential of the JMMS rests with how the compact flat top could potentially support future UAV operations, particularly small, armed UAVs optimised to fly and fight together in substantial numbers.

At the current developmental trajectory, one should not write off the likelihood of the JMMS mixed deck air group comprising manned and unmanned platforms.

With the RSN set to mark its 50th year this year, it is perhaps timely for Singapore to reflect how best to articulate the Navy's roadmap for the future.

We may be late in the game in coining a tagline similar to Malaysia's "15 to 5".

But what we lack in marketing pizzaz, we should make up in a convincing and credible articulation that the RSN of the future will have what it takes to get the job done.

You may also like:
Thoughts on RMAF Airpower. Click here
Innovations in defence: Malaysia Boleh. Click here
ATM 80th Anniversary Parade: A finely calibrated show of force. Click here
RMAF displays new Russian missiles. Click here
Malaysia's Operasi Piramid: Civil resources in reaction. Click here
Malaysia's defence information ecosystem. Click here

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Takeaways from the visit to the RSAF Flaming Arrow Challenge 2017


Some observations from yesterday's interaction at the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) Flaming Arrow Challenge, an annual inter-unit competition for RSAF air defence units.

Same but different
Missiles used by the RBS-70 very short range air defence system have a better performance compared to the variant fielded in the 1980s by the Singapore Air Defence Artillery (SADA, the forerunner to today's Air Defence & Operations Command Group).

Able to reach out and touch enemy fliers with more deadly effect, the one enduring constraint is the skill of the operator in slewing the missile to the threat axis and controlling the missile in flight with a thumb joy stick. This is done from launch till warhead detonation.

At maximum effective range, it is not possible to see the insignia on the aircraft even with optical aids such as binoculars. During operations, the RBS-70 fire unit's mission in defending Singapore is made more challenging by the fact that war machines flown by the RSAF such as the Apache, Chinook and Super Puma family are not unique to this island.

How best to deploy the improved RBS-70 missile when it is difficult to establish whether a contact seen at a distance is friend or foe? Instantaneous and error-free IFF is vital.

Better technology, tigher coordination between sensors and shooters and superior tactical planning by Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) manoeuvre units to create firing lanes are essential for maximising the reach of the RBS-70.

Such factors, especially better defence technology, need funding from somewhere.


Ground visits help one develop a deeper understanding of the value of defence technology in keeping our combat forces ahead of the threats.

In addition, seeing how RBS-70 units have sharpened their combat edge allows one to appreciate the results of investments by MINDEF/SAF to increase the survivability of our fighting forces.

Above all, it is the professionalism of the men and women assigned such weaponry that will ultimately decide if the missile finds its mark.

So while in-camp training continues to be vital in keeping the RBS-70 operator's skill sharp, one must always remember the burdens borne not just by NSmen but also their families and employers during their absence from civvie street. Such observations are best discerned firsthand.


Sensors and shooters
No emitters were seen during the ground visit to the RSAF Flaming Arrow Challenge 2017 deployment site.

And yet, the RBS-70 VSHORAD, I-HAWK and Spyder SAMs were fully capable of detecting, identifying, tracking and engaging aerial threats within their respective range rings. The radars associated with these SAMs are located elsewhere to reduce the vulnerability of the RSAF multi-ring integrated air defence network to adversary tactics.

Spyder is relatively new. The RBS-70 and I-HAWK have been listed as part of the RSAF's orbat for decades. The discerning observer will, however, realise a world of difference in hitting power before and after the RBS-70 and I-HAWK SAMs were upgraded.

For example, there was a paradigm shift made when I-HAWK fire units shifted from the American or Swedish IAFU configuration to a uniquely Singaporean model that dispersed sensors and shooters and used infrastructure like fibre optic cables to reduce the electromagnetic signature of SAM batteries.

Ground visits are useful as one cannot pick up such nuggets from books or internet sites.

Should the need arise, one would be better placed to inform and update stakeholders on the need for steady yet properly paced investments in defence.

From time to time, warfighters from all SAF Services too may need convincing of continued efforts to give every serviceman and servicewoman that special edge in combat.

Once again, the value that Singapore's defence eco-system brings to the SAF can be inferred from what one sees during ground visits. This underlines the value of such engagements.


Closed units
It was noted that not every air defence squadron in the RSAF is represented in the Flaming Arrow Challenge 2017. That much was clear from the powerpoint slide that listed this year's participants.

While we trumpet the camaraderie fostered by the annual RSAF Command Challenges, there is a certain unit who will sit this out. The men and women who serve this unit are more than bench warmers. Their squadron's capabilities and their professional competencies represent the secret edge needed for the SAF to prevail in battle.

Briefings during ground visits allow one to join the dots and infer from what's not mentioned. You won't learn this from reading cyberPioneer or AF News. Oftentimes, what's not said can be quite telling.

Such inferences, in turn, serve as timely reminders that the well-being of units kept below the radar should never be neglected nor taken for granted. Their efforts must be appreciated too, albeit in non-public and suitably low-key engagements that will not make the news.


Maximising training time
Defence buffs would probably know what a tactical flight profile entails.

With Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Dr Maliki Osman, aboard the Super Puma VIP flight, one did not think the RSAF would carry out helicopter evasive manoeuvres at high speed and at low level.


But the trio of Super Pumas tasked to ferry ACCORD members from Sembawang Air Base (SBAB) to the SAFTI Live Firing Area did just that, skimming the hills and reservoirs at the Western Catchment Area in an attempt to use terrain masking to deny simulated adversary VSHORAD teams their "kill".

The experience drove home the point that with activity-based budgeting where every minute of flight time must be properly justified, the flight maximised the training value of that sortie by allowing helicopter crews to practice evasive manoeuvres. At the same time, National Servicemen practised engaging fleeting targets and had the session recorded to hone their combat proficiency in using the RBS-70 missile system.

The realisation that RSAF helicopter pilots and aircrew specialists train periodically to execute evasive manoeuvres at night drove home the point of the rigors of such training and the risks taken by our regulars and National Servicemen during peacetime training.

It also highlighted the extensive efforts the RSAF has made in tightening safety at all levels.

I was a full-time National Serviceman in PAFF when a Super P lost a tail rotor and crashed in SBAB, killing all aboard. I hand delivered the missive to The New Paper editor that indicated the newspaper had breached the OSA. Some 26 years later, I recall that trip from Gombak to Kim Seng Road like it took place yesterday. I mourned their loss decades ago eventhough I did not know them personally.

Before the overwater flight aboard Super Puma 268, the two ACS who escorted us aboard 268 were observed with HEED bottles. I was still in PAFF serving my NS when we lost a Super P in Poyan reservoir after it was thought to have made a controlled flight into terrain.

I typed the news release on the deaths of the two pilots and read the incident report that recounted how the ACS was found on the belly of the upturned chopper. It was the second Super P lost in that same year.

Over the years, I have followed RSAF helicopter training as an interested observer. Am acutely aware of improvements in chopper training, which has included a HUET segment for many years.

Strangely, the incidents sprang to mind yesterday during the preflight brief at SBAB. I did not realise till yesterday how much the memory of those incidents had been etched in my mind.

These episodes were uppermost in my mind when I boarded Super Puma 268 yesterday morning for my first flight in such a helicopter (have flown on a US Navy Seahawk, Sea Knight and Sea King, a Russian Hip in East Timor and RSAF Chinooks but never in a Super P).

When I flew aboard 268, I did so with confidence, reassured that the RSAF has done much over the past decades to keep its men and women safe.

Alas, such confidence is best engendered firsthand.


You may also like:
Visit to the RSN Naval Logistics Command. Click here
RSAF I-HAWKs mark 30 years of operations. Click here

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