Monday, May 22, 2017

Malaysian Army and Australian Defence Force wind up war games in Shoalwater Bay

The Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) in Australia, at which the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) conducts war games such as Bold Conqueror and Orion, has just hosted another army from our neighbourhood.

Malaysian mechanised infantry completed a joint exercise with Australian Army troops today, according to online reports from Tentera Darat Malaysia (Malaysian Army).

The five-day exercise (18 to 22 May 2017) at Rockhampton involved soldiers from Malaysia's 12 Rejimen Askar Melayu DiRaja (Mekanise) and the 7 Rejimen Renjer DiRaja (Mekanise) and the 8/9 Royal Australian Regiment, which is based in Brisbane.

The 12 RAMD (Mek) and 7 RRD (Mek) come under the command of the Kuantan-based Briged ke-4 Infantri Mekanise (4 Bgd Mek), which in turn reports to Markas 3 Divisyen (HQ 3rd Combined Arms Division).

The exercise is designed to raise the level of interoperability between the two armies and provides exposure to staff officers from both sides to plan and execute conventional warfare manoeuvres. Such interaction contributes to fostering closer defence relations between personnel from both sides - who also train together under the auspices of the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

The exercise involved map planning and tactical marches across unfamiliar terrain (for the Malaysians) and included a segment that saw troops from both sides assault a built-up area.

The deployment to Queensland state exposes Malaysian soldiers to pretty much the same map grid references and terrain used by the SAF for Exercise Wallaby. However, staging war games in the month of May - which is autumn in Australia - provides a cooler climate to operate in compared to the exercise window allocated for the SAF (which is during the Australian summer).

Astute Malaysian staff officers who have trained in SWBTA and on home ground would probably be able to compare and contrast differences in terrain in Australia and Malaysia. This could lead to a better appreciation of the limitations in realism for land warfare manoeuvres and the battle cycle practised at both locations.

The time and effort deploying to SWBTA would also give the Malaysian Army a firsthand understanding of the logistics involved in making such a move, as well as the ability of SWBTA to host large-scale manoeuvres.

The Malaysian Army's 4 Bgd Mek has had a packed war game schedule recently. Last week, mechanised infantry from the brigade conducted war games in Kuantan in Pahang State and in Dungun, Terengganu, to test, assess, validate and refine its concept of operations for Network Centric Operations (NCO).

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The militarisation of Indonesia's Riau islands and its impact on the Singapore Armed Forces SAF

There are many Singaporeans who are so familiar with Peninsular Malaysia that they can find their way around the country without a map. Perhaps you are one of them.

But ask them to look south, towards Indonesia's Riau archipelago, and that's where most Singaporeans will be flummoxed.

Many will be hard-pressed to name any island beyond Batam and Bintan. This is terra incognita for the average Singaporean.

In time to come, it may be worth paying closer attention to the geography south of Singapore because the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) is expected to scale up its presence in the Riau islands.

It is already happening, albeit at a slow pace that has nonetheless seen the number of TNI defence assets and tempo of their activity creep up over the years.

For example, the Tutuka air defence exercise has seen TNI warplanes make their presence felt whenever they operate from Batam's Hang Nadim airport.

In October 2014, the TNI warplanes that intercepted a Singapore-registered propellor-plane on a training flight off Borneo were scrambled from Batam.

During the Tutuka exercise in 2015, military flights originating from Hang Nadim once again caught Singapore's interest.

Last October, the TNI's war games in the Natunas, codenamed Angkasa Yudha, were supported by Indonesia Sukhoi Su-27/30 and Lockheed-Martin F-16 warplanes - its most advanced fighter aircraft - operating from Batam. The war games were widely publicised in the Indonesian media.

Alas, with Singaporeans generally ignorant of the Riau neighbourhood, firepower demonstrations like these tend to go unnoticed by an apathetic Singaporean public.

Mind you, this includes a vast number of citizen soldiers.

We ought to take note because ties between the TNI and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are longstanding, multifaceted and mutually beneficial for military personnel from both countries.

Among the many war games that the SAF conducts with foreign armed forces, it is the bilateral naval exercise, Eagle Indopura, that holds the record as the long-running bilateral military exercise (it started in 1974).

Both armed forces have also established a practice of sending their more promising officers for each other's courses. Apart from the professional knowhow gained, scores of TNI and SAF officers have also deepened their understanding of their neighbour. Such personal experience contributes immeasurably to fostering better bilateral ties between ASEAN's largest and smallest members - and not just in the defence arena.

When Indonesia raises its defence posture in the Riau chain, the strategic narrative for doing so could point out the strategic location of these islands. These sit astride some of the busiest sea lanes in the world, which are used by about 1,000 ships daily (Malacca Strait and Singapore Strait) and through which about a third of the world's trade and about half its oil passes.

Basing fighter jets in Batam will also enable the TNI to respond more quickly and effectively to situations in the South China Sea.

Indonesia need not justify to anyone where and when it will deploy the TNI. For a archipelagic nation whose length is as is vast as the continental United States, and where the uptick in economic activity will eventually see the TNI better funded than the SAF, we should expect the TNI to take on a higher profile as its arsenal expands.

Any move by Indonesia to upsize its military presence south of the border will present the SAF with yet more opportunities to interact with the TNI.

However, a permanent presence of TNI war machines will also pose a different dynamic to Singapore's deterrence posture, force readiness and response plans.

As the so-called Growth Triangle has fallen off the radar of investors in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, the economic wherewithal of the Riau islands has likewise not featured prominently (if at all) in recent investment efforts staged by the Lion City to court foreign investors. The fading of the Growth Triangle idea should not mean that the Riau islands should similarly fall of the radar for defence planners.

And if Singapore falls within range of land-based war machines on Batam, say for example, rocket artillery, we ought to leverage on ties with the TNI to better understand the rationale for moving such firepower to the island.

We  need to keep a close eye on the winds of change that may herald a cooling of Indon-Singapore relations. The 2014 spate that arose after Indonesia announced that one of its warships would be named after two TNI Marines, who were convicted of bombing MacDonald House in Singapore during the Confrontation, prompted both countries to reassess the tenor of their friendship.

From time to time, factors outside the defence orbit have unsettled even the best intentions from the TNI and SAF to bring bilateral exchanges to a new level.

The stalled Defence Cooperation Agreement is one example. Signed by defence ministers from both countries in 2007, it awaits ratification by the Indonesian parliament. As a result, training facilities such as the Siabu Air Weapons Range - once the most advanced instrumented area in Southeast Asia for war games involving war planes and helicopters - has been kept in suspended animation after a promising start in the 1990s.

We have to be cognizant of future unknown-unknowns - to borrow terminology famously used by former United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - that could strain TNI-SAF ties.

Forward-looking policy makers should recognise and think through scenarios involving this patch of Indonesian territory, if TNI assets in the Riau chain are someday enlisted for political shadow boxing.

Look south; know thy neighbour.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

For long and distant service: JMSDF Admiral explains JS Izumo's Singapore stopover and deployment to regional sea lanes

Flying the flag for Japan: Rear Admiral Yoshihiro Goka, Commander, Escort Flotilla One, flanked on his left by Captain Yoshihiro Kai, Izumo's commanding officer, and Commander Hirotaka Okumura, commanding officer Sazanami, aboard Izumo at Changi Naval Base, Singapore, 13 May 2017. 

When Japan's largest warship, the Izumo, left its home port on 1 May 2017 for distant seas, her departure was described by some reports as a show of force.

The warship and the destroyer assigned to escort her, carrying some 700 sailors in total, arrived at Changi Naval Base on Friday afternoon (12 May'17). Singapore is the first port call on her 100-day journey, which is the largest deployment of Japanese naval power to the region since the Second World War.

Analysts have been abuzz over the intended audience for this demonstration of naval power. The timing of the deployment also fuelled speculation as maritime security in the Sea of Japan and the debate over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea have been hot topics recently.

Some thought the deployment was directed at the North Koreans. But after early reports on Izumo's role in escorting an American naval supply ship and speculation she might team up with the United States Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, the Izumo is long past the Korean peninsula.

As she ventured south, others thought the Izumo's journey through the South China Sea was meant to send a signal to China.

At 248 metres long (almost five Olympic-length swimming pools) and displacing 27,000 tonnes when fully loaded, the Izumo is more than just a big ship.

With a flight deck and an island superstructure offset to the right side of the warship, Izumo has the form and function one would expect from an aircraft carrier. This class of warship is operated by a handful of Asian navies - Australia, China, India and Thailand - and is viewed as a symbol of naval power, prestige and influence.

The Japanese are keenly aware of the signature Izumo could inadvertently project and the brochure on the ship is devoid of any suggestion it is an aircraft carrier. Izumo is described officially as the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force's (JMSDF) - itself a navy in all but name - "largest and most sophisticated destroyer".

In his first interview since arriving in Singapore, the JMSDF admiral leading the Izumo and her escorting destroyer, the Sazanami, downplayed speculation over her deployment. The interview was conducted aboard JS Izumo, berthed at Changi Naval Base, on Saturday 13 May 2017.

Rear-Admiral Yoshihiro Goka, Commander of Escort Flotilla One, outlined these reasons for the deployment.

First, the Izumo's visit to ASEAN countries is meaningful from a Japanese perspective and timed with the 50th anniversary of the regional grouping, which was formed in August 1967. Describing her deployment as a "great honour and opportunity" to reach out to friends in the region in this milestone year, the admiral said ASEAN members are among Japan's closest trading partners.

"The ASEAN people are a great partner for Japan. We provide great support for each other." the admiral said.

Second, RADM Goka's 25-year career at sea has impressed upon him why "the ocean should be free for everyone to use". Choosing his words carefully and without naming any maritime state, the admiral described the seas as a "public area". As such, he contends that "everybody has the right to use the public area".

He  noted that maritime links are vital to Japan as about a third of the world's trade transits regional sea lanes. Furthermore, almost all the oil and gas that Japan imports is delivered by tankers who use the region's maritime highways.

"One third of the world’s maritime trade passes through the South China Sea. Japan and many of countries benefit from freedom of the seas and maritime trade in the South China Sea. Japan Defence Minister Inada has expressed the 'Vientiane Vision' as a guideline for ASEAN-Japan defence cooperation last November.In accordance withVientiane Vision, open and stable seas based on rule of lows is important for peace and stability in the region. We look forward to contributing to regional peace and stability with all-ASEAN Navies by participating this fleet review and defence exchanges with port visit nations," said RADM Goka

"This is a very important area where mutual support is needed," he added.

The Izumo's role in naval diplomacy ties in with her port visit here.

On Monday, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) will stage the International Maritime Review as part of celebrations commemorating its 50th year. The JMSDF warships are among 30 warships from 20 countries taking part in Singapore's first ever maritime review at Changi Naval Base. Interactions with officers and men from different countries will allow the JMSDF to share more about its role even as the Japanese learn about foreign naval forces.

The third reason underlines the pragmatic nature of the Japanese. Being far from home takes the 700 JMSDF personnel aboard Izumo and Sazanami out of their comfort zone. Sending the Izumo away for about 100 days, with air and naval operations taking place in unfamiliar sea lanes, exposes the crew to fresh challenges and is a valuable training opportunity

"When we train around Japan, it is easy to get support," said RADM Goka. "However, deploying for a long time and long distance overseas will allow us to test how to train our people and maintain the equipment. That is a challenge."

So there you have it: The deployment is calibrated to demonstrate Japan's support for the 50th anniversary of ASEAN and will also test the mettle of sailors and airmen as Izumo embarks on her furthest and longest voyage from Japan.

With more than two months to go before Izumo returns home, the Izumo's journey to regional destinations, all the way to the Indian Ocean is likely to be closely-tracked by analysts.

All will be eager to see if the Izumo was sent by Tokyo to project its hand of friendship, or whether it is indeed a show of naval power projection.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Royal Thai Navy aircraft carrier HTMS Chakri Naruebet arrives in Singapore for RSN International Maritime Review

The Royal Thai Navy's flagship, HTMS Chakri Nareubet (911), arrived in Singapore waters off Changi this afternoon around 1430 Hotel.

In doing so, the RTN and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force made history: The occasion marked the first time that two aircraft carriers from Asian countries are in Singapore at the same time.

Alongside Berth 4 at the Republic of Singapore Navy's Changi Naval Base, the JMSDF ship Izumo (DDH183) arrived on Friday afternoon around 1500H.

Both carriers are here for the RSN's 50th anniversary celebrations and the International Maritime Review.

HTMS Chakri Nareubet is seen below framed by Izumo's bow. The Thai navy's flagship was smartly presented as she sailed into CNB. Her crew manned the rails in their dress whites and part of her helicopter air group was visible on deck.

HTMS Chakri Nareubet (911) meets RSS Endurance (207) off Changi Naval Base.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What happens if the Singapore Armed Forces SAF deterrent value is diminished

If you are asked to choose between a fighting force equipped with armour, warplanes and attack helicopters and one that is numerically inferior and made up predominantly of light infantry, which side do you think would prevail in combat?

Might is right?

Not always.

Look at recent encounters around the globe (particularly the Middle East and Afghanistan) and you will find bands of resolute combatants - who do not fear death and in some cases seek it - who have bested better-armed, professional armies.

On paper, the table of organisation and equipment for these professional armies eclipses that of their opponents, often little more than foot soldiers who drive into battle in civilian 4x4s or captured vehicles.

Small unit action in places like Syria and Yemen has shown that superior firepower alone will not determine the outcome of battle. And looking pretty on parade is no indication of one's prowess in battle (or lack thereof).

These tactical successes are forcing a rethink of the concept of deterrence.

For us in Singapore, the firefights that resulted in battlefield reversals for professional armies are worth a look on two counts.

First, because it forces us to rethink what constitutes a credible military deterrent.

Second, when war machines rendered inoperable in foreign battles are similar to the types fielded by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the successful weapons and tactics deserve close scrutiny.

Deterrence is the linchpin of Singapore's defence strategy. The mission of the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the 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".

When professional armies are whalloped by irregulars whose offensive power rests with what they manpack or mount on light vehicles, this puts to test the idea of deterrence built around professional armed forces trained, organised, equipped and supported for high intensity warfare.

The irregulars know this. 

They actively share their tactical successes on social media to reach eyeballs far from the scene of combat. This explains the profusion of videos and images on the internet that show combat footage of war machines being put out of action.

In 21st century warfare, a weapon strike becomes a Hollywood moment with video or camera lenses focused on target to capture the moment of impact. This makes claims of a kill more credible and raises the propaganda value of a successful engagement. It also sustains the shock effect of the kill long after the smoke has cleared. Information is thus wielded as a "weapon" to fortify homeground morale or to unsettle one's opponents. Even in foreign language videos overlaid with folksy Arabic tunes, one does not need subtitles to figure out the key messages being propagated.

This tussle for hearts and minds exerts an impact on deterrence that can be played out on several fronts.
a) Misreading victories trumpeted by irregular combatants as indications that the conventionally-structured armed forces of one's neighbour can be similarly beaten with meagre resources. This diminishes the value of deterrence because the other side does not fear the military power ranged against it or underestimates its potential.

b) Manipulating tactical successes by irregular combatants to convince one's countrymen that one's own armed forces are more combat capable and effective than they actually are. Perpetuating this point of view could embolden a country with a smaller and less advanced armed forces, giving it the moral fibre needed to weather a prolonged period of tension. Doing so blunts the deterrent value of a strong and combat ready armed forces.

c) Specific to Singapore's context, there is a possibility that foreign defence observers who watch the Lion City may disregard the deterrent value of the SAF. This could lead to them downplaying capability demonstrations staged at critical junctures. In doing so, they may miss key signals from MINDEF/SAF that coincide with shifts in the strategic landscape. During the Malindo Darsasa 3AB war games staged by the combined armies of Malaysia and Indonesia in Johor in August 1991, the airdrop by MAF and TNI paratroopers some 20km from Woodlands on National Day saw the open mobilisation of SAF armour units publicised by Singapore's TV and newspapers. There was no Facebook or Twitter in those days, and no online editions of newspapers. So the evening television news and newspaper coverage were the main channels for publicising that it was not business as usual for the SAF, having stepped up its force readiness posture.

The cognitive dissonance arising from the situations outlined above underlines the importance of a proper Info Ops plan to assess how others may perceive the SAF. This is especially important as developments in warfare in far flung areas of the world may inadvertently prompt others to relook Singapore's military potential.

For situations (a) and (b), simply rolling out new or hitherto unknown SAF capabilities would not suffice as foreign observers may shrug off the deterrent value of such platforms or systems. 

Even the Israel Defense Forces is grappling with this dilemma. For example, their once-vaunted armoured forces face an uphill task reclaiming their reputation as a weapon of war after various marques of the Merkava were destroyed by Hezbollah in Lebanon. One does not think that Hezbollah anti-tank teams are losing any sleep over the possibility they may some day face Merk 4s in combat.

A more effective approach would involve building one's credibility in Info Ops in peacetime, and to invest efforts to inform and educate stakeholders to help them understand and appreciate what the SAF is all about. Open houses for the public, exchanges of military personnel, joint dialogues and exercises, as well as visits between armed forces personnel contribute to confidence building and also to deterrence - assuming the takeway from foreign observers is that the SAF is a force to be reckoned with.

One should not treat this takeaway as a given.  

When one reads accounts of how Turkish Leopard 2 main battle tanks were wrecked in Syria, of how Apache attack helicopters from Saudi Arabia were shot down over the Arabian peninsula and accounts of how naval forces have been on the receiving end of asymmetric attacks involving fast craft rigged with explosives or massed attacks by small boats, it is clear that advanced war machines are not regarded as threats, but targets.

Precisely why the sons of the Ottoman Empire fought less resolutely is open to debate. One could argue that they were not fighting for their homeland and felt the mission was not worth dying for. Ditto for Saudi forces who seemed to have abandoned their war machines on several occasions, many almost intact, rather than fighting it out.

Tactical dispositions of Turkish and Saudi units were also not complemented by overwatch of surrounding areas with near and far fire bases. As a result, Saudi bivouacs on hill crests ended up as the beaten zone for automatic fire or ATGWs in one-sided encounters. Turkish armour operating with closed hatches seem to have missed seeing incoming guided munitions on many occasions.

Turkish AH-1 Cobras and Saudi AH-64 Apache attack helicopters have also been filmed being brought down by MANPADS. 

There are tactical lessons that can be distilled from such encounters. 

When one considers that the weapons of choice - ATGMs and MANPADS - are also found in this region, there's all the more reason why we need to sit up and take note.

There is another dimension to the concept of deterrence. 

This lies with the importance of being aware how we are perceived by others, and being self-aware never to overstate our own capabilities.

Just as we fret over the possibility that foreign observers could bookmark case studies to show why the SAF is not to be feared, there is a danger we may fall prey to our own propaganda.

We walked that road in pre-war days before the outbreak of the Pacific War drummed home the lesson about hubris and complacency.

That is a hard lesson we would do well to remember.

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Republic of Singapore Navy RSN Littoral Mission Vessel LMV RSS Independence to make show debut at IMDEX Asia 2017

One distinguishing feature of the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) Victory-class Missile Corvettes is the enclosed mast that stacks the EW suite with surveillance radars.

The 28-metre tall mast achieved a tricky balance between giving sensors maximum height (to extend their surveillance horizon) while managing the complexities of electromagnetic interference.

While the design worked fine from an engineering/technical standpoint, it made the MCV top heavy.

When a pair of MCVs encountered heavy weather in the South China Sea, one MCV lost her Sea Giraffe radar after it toppled off the swaying mast in rough seas. Had this occurred during operations, the MCV would have been out of the fight.

From an operational standpoint, the Project S design could do better. Experience with S taught us to be cognizant of compromises and shortcomings that may arise, no matter how good an idea may sound on paper.

When the RSN's latest fighting ship, RSS Independence, goes on show later this month at IMDEX Asia 2017, the Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) design is likely to stoke the interest of many discerning eyes.

Among the unique features aboard the Independence is the Integrated Command Centre which places key staff for steering, fighting and managing the warship, in a common workspace in the superstructure. This design philosophy goes against the grain of conventional warship design, where the warship's armament and sensors are usually managed from an enclosed room within the hull to minimise vulnerability to enemy action.

Foreigners touring the Independence for the first time may walk away with the feeling that the LMV has traded efficiency in command and control for combat survivability. Instead of a windowless, watertight and darkened workspace tucked below the main deck where command centres for most warships are found, the workspace aboard the Independence is quite the opposite.

It is surrounded by windows, is not compartmentalised and sits on the 02 Deck of a superstructure made of composite material. And as the LMV name implies, this is a warship expected to fight in littoral waters. In the RSN's context, close to shore - quite possibly a hostile one during operations.

As demonstrated in naval engagements elsewhere, warships that stray within the range rings of guided munitions such as anti-tank missiles cannot expect the enemy to hold back. It is quite clear that a warhead designed to penetrate armour can inflict a hefty amount of damage to warships, which in this day and age, are not armoured to the same extent as surface combatants were during WW2.

The LMV's innovative (RSN's choice of words) design has triggered many interesting discussions over the wisdom of this approach. From seeing the demonstration in the simulated battlespace simlab at Depot Road, to Indy's launch at Benoi Basin and the briefing at the wooden mockup, right up to the visit to Indy at Changi Naval Base in April ahead of her commissioning, plus the unattributable background chitchats, all have contributed to a deeper understanding of why the LMV will not prove a pushover in combat.

This is because the LMV is designed to embark mission modules - containerised equipment that can be added/removed from the ship - to upsize the warship's armament and sensors should the need arise. Space and weight has also been reserved at other parts of the ship for key functions to be replicated there, should the need arise.

The LMV is also designed to fight as a networked system. Enough said.

One thing about RSN warships: Singaporeans are not in the habit of "showing hand".

When I was assigned to sail aboard the tank landing ship, RSS Endurance, during her first mission off Iraq, my berth was in the sick bay as the ship was "full". Apart from her usual complement, she carried a ship protection team and additional personnel for VBSS for Operation Blue Orchid 1. All in, more than 120 pax.

A year later, when I was again assigned to sail with Endurance for the Boxing Day relief mission, I was told the ship would sail with more than twice the OBO complement. If the ship was so full that the embedded media team was shoved to the sick bay, then where would all the additional personnel sleep? I had visions of sleeping bags on deck.

Those who know the Endurance-class would know the ship is built to embark a sizeable number of troops and the triple-decker bunks in a certain part of the ship were a feature shown to us for the first time.

Be that as it may, the Endurance has other tricks up her sleeve which, till today have not been publicised. A notable one being the number of waterjet-propelled fast landing craft each LST can actually carry.

Long story short: Look beyond the obvious when thinking about the LMV Independence.

The capabilities of this new class of warship should become clear some day.

Then again, perhaps not?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Flight of the intruder: Q&A with pilot who beat Singapore's RSAF air defence network in April 1975

If you were to choose an aircraft to penetrate Singapore's air defence network, a lumbering C-130 Hercules would probably not top that list.

But 42 years ago this month, a C-130 from South Vietnam (serial HCF 460) did just that.

Then Defence Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee told MINDEF and HQ RSAF that this would not happen again. It led to a review of CONOPS for air surveillance and interceptions. The incident also seeded awareness of the need to detect aerial intruders as early as possible to give RSAF the early warning required to scramble fighters.

At the time of the intrusion, the subsonic Hawker Hunter was the main RSAF interceptor. It wasn't till 1979 that the RSAF could fly supersonic. This followed the delivery of the first F-5s acquired under Project Peace O.

Incidentally, the C-130 intrusion took place just two days after the RSAF was formed. From a public relations standpoint, the incident was not good for the RSAF's image. The unfortunate timing is an example of how von Moltke's advice, No plan survives first contact with the enemy, applies to info ops.

Here is Senang Diri's interview with former Vietnam Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Pham Quang Khiem. He described the flight that beat our air defence system. We hope you find the Q&A interesting.

1. How many passengers did you have aboard? How many were military personnel?
There were 56 total on board. All the civilians were family. Six of us were in the air force consisting of four crew members and my two brothers who were VNAF officers.  Two were Army Officers.

2. Describe the flight profile en route to Singapore.
From the time we took off from Long-Thanh Airfield , we kept at our low level for about two hours. We then climbed to 15 thousand feet until we got to Singapore. 

The altitude we maintained was extremely low - only about 5 to 10 feet above sea level (ground effect).  It was so low that the passenger compartment had fog so thick that my family members told me they couldn’t see each other. 

I plotted the chart to Singapore using onboard radar doppler. Our speed was around 250 knots.

3. What model of C-130 was 460? What happened to the aircraft in Singapore?It was C-130A Model. The US Embassy at Singapore claimed it. The aircraft then flew to Korea for service with US Air Force for a while then flew back to US for service with the National Guard. In 1987 this aircraft was selected by Smithsonian in Washington DC to be put on display at the Smithsonian Air Museum. The aircraft now is in storage there. It’s future is unknown.  I am hoping that it gets moved to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum here in Dayton, OH (where I am at) however the cost of transporting it is too much.

4. Did you have weapons onboard?
 Yes we did carry our personal revolver as part of our uniform when on duty.  Total revolvers were 4.

5. Why didn't you try landing in Kuantan, Malaysia, or Butterworth, near Penang? Did you make up your mind on destination Singapore before you took off?
I did make up my mind for Singapore well before we took off.  For me, there was no other alternative. I heard Singapore was in need of pilots and thought they may need to use us.

6. What was your approach to Singapore like?We had an approach chart to Singapore. We flew directly southeast from Vietnam, to the south west of the airport was runway 02. 

We were at 15 thousand feet when we contacted Singapore.

Approaching from about 80 Miles out I called Singapore. However, the radio had a lot of static so I skipped approach control and directly contacted the Singapore Tower. It was never a thought of mine that I may be intercepted by Singapore Air Force.

7. What happened after you landed at Paya Lebar Airport?
We arrived in Singapore around 7 PM. It was dark and raining when I called Approach Control for instructions. I couldn't understand their reply, so I just changed to Tower Frequency, and called, "Singapore Tower, Herky 460. Request landing instruction." They replied, "Herky 460, cleared to land Runway 02.” They gave me the wind and altimeter setting, but didn't ask, "Who are you?" or "What the hell are you doing here?" So we just went in and landed on 02!

This was the civilian international airport and I thought that they would get excited when a military aircraft landed there. But when we parked on the ramp, the ground personnel came and hooked up an auxiliary power cart when the engines were shut down, then left. I told my people that they were now in a free country, but that no one was allowed to leave the aircraft until we had surrendered to the proper authorities.

My friend, my brother and I all changed into our civilian clothes, got off the airplane, and headed for the terminal building. It took us a half hour to find the airport office. When I explained to the guard on duty that we were a group of Vietnamese who had just gotten out of the country, and that we wanted to talk to his boss, he said, "Well, the airport office closes at 5 PM. Why don't you guys come back at eight tomorrow morning?" We finally convinced him that we had entered his country illegally, and that he had to do something about it. Well, he couldn't find his boss, who was out partying somewhere. We wandered around the airport until midnight, then went back out to the airplane. I found that my people were well taken care of. Some of the ground crew from the airlines had become curious, and had come over to our airplane. When they found 56 refugees from the war, they brought food and drink from the airline service area.

Finally, at about 1 AM, twenty trucks filled with police surrounded our airplane, and we surrendered to the Chief of Police. We explained that we would like political asylum in Singapore, but that if they could not take us, we would like the gas to get to Australia or New Zealand. They called the Vietnamese counsel, and he came down to the airport. We told him that we did not want to go back to Vietnam, and that we wanted asylum. He left without commenting, and we never heard from him again. The local officials could not make up their minds what to do with us. It was obvious that we had created a problem that they did not want to deal with. (It was a problem they had not had before.) 

As I first stepped off the aircraft onto Singapore land, I warned them to stay on the aircraft since we were entering Singapore illegally.  We were all full of mix emotions since we had no idea what would happen next.  As you well know, we are safe and happy we found freedom.

8. Describe your family please. How old were your children or siblings when you did your escape?

The oldest member was the mother in law of my oldest sister who was 86.  My son was the youngest at five months.  My son now has three kids and my daughter, who was two when we left, has two children.  In 1976, we had another daughter born in Dayton, OH. She now is also married with one child. Our family has been very blessed. Our perseverance, strength and trust in the Lord made us strong. (All onboard were Christian protestant)