Saturday, 16 August 2014

SAF launches World-Class Urban Live Firing Facility

More live firing to boost SAF soldiers' urban combat skills
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2014

FOOT soldiers will get 50 to 60 per cent more hands-on experience with firing live rounds during combat training, as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) increasingly equips soldiers with the skills to fight in urban areas.

Chief Infantry Officer Chiang Hock Woon said yesterday that with modern battles more likely to be fought in such places, soldiers need to face realistic conditions that require them to be adept at firing live rounds in close-quarters combat.

Speaking at the launch of a new urban live-firing area in Lim Chu Kang, Brigadier-General Chiang said: "You can do a lot of training but live firing is the most important part because that is as realistic as it can get before you submit and subject the soldiers to an operation."

Dubbed the Murai Urban Live-Firing Facility (MULFAC), the mock urban combat zone will put soldiers through their paces at firing live rounds in enclosed rooms housed within five single- and double-storey buildings.

Some 120 soldiers in an infantry company, for instance, will be able to mount an attack on buildings and learn how to discern between friendly and hostile targets before taking them down.

Previous urban firing ranges could involve only up to a seven-man team in a shoot-out.

The size of about two to three football fields, MULFAC will also feature a "grenade house".

Due to be completed by the end of this year, the first-of-its-kind facility will give soldiers more opportunities to lob live grenades to get a keener sense of the impact of the blast.

For instance, national servicemen in an infantry unit will now get to do this up to five times during their full-time national service and reservist stints.

Previously, they were able to throw live grenades only once or twice.

Soldiers will get to know what they did right or wrong in their battle manoeuvres in a post-mortem by playing back footage or images captured by 30 cameras in the buildings.

The army has been running tests on the urban live-firing area since it was completed last October by putting soldiers through numerous training drills.

As part of their drills, soldiers learn how to avoid being caught in crossfire, said BG Chiang, who is also the commander of the 9th Division.

"Friendly fire" situations have been a growing concern among militaries, with five American soldiers reportedly killed by coalition forces in June, making it one of the deadliest friendly-fire incidents in the nearly 13-year United States-led war in Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who witnessed a mock live-fire battle in the training area yesterday, said soldiers must be "instinctively trained" to have the confidence to survive in the heat of an urban battle.

He said: "This kind of facility gives them the kind of repetitive training so that it is not a new environment (to soldiers)."

Guardsman Dinesh Rajendran, 24, who trained in the older urban operation ranges, said he experienced more realistic combat training in the new one. "It was more action-packed," he said. "The blast was louder and the effects felt more real."

SAF set for first volunteer corps in March 2015
About 100 to 150 members expected, including women, PRs, new citizens
By Lee Jian Xuan, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2014

THE Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will take in its first volunteer corps next March, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

It is expected to be made up of about 100 to 150 people, including women, first-generation permanent residents and new citizens.

But Dr Ng insisted that the ministry is "not aiming for mass numbers", and added: "I am confident that these members will provide sterling service, like many here, in due course."

He was speaking at a dinner event at the Marina Mandarin hotel to honour about 300 volunteers who serve on the Ministry of Defence's (MINDEF) 41 boards, panels and committees.

The volunteer corps will take part in a four-week basic military course, and serve up to two weeks a year for a minimum of three years.

The volunteer corps was one of 30 recommendations made by the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) which were accepted earlier this year.

Dr Ng said: "Volunteers help us in areas where MINDEF and the SAF lack expertise or where we may not be in the best position to perform the task... and they help us maintain support for NS."

He noted how many of these experts, who come from the public and private sectors, play a "significant role" by contributing medical, safety, financial and legal knowledge.

One such volunteer is Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, head and senior consultant of general surgery at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, who has been serving on the SAF Emergency Medicine Specialist Advisory Board since 2011.

"He gives us professional advice and checks that we have adopted the best medical practices," said Dr Ng.

Dr Mak told reporters that a key measure that the board has worked on is allowing civilian ambulances to enter deeper into certain parts of training areas to extract casualties.

"We wanted to shorten the process by which injured servicemen can get medical attention," said Dr Mak, adding that parts of the system will be implemented over the next few years.

Other volunteers recognised include civil servant Mulyadi Ahmad, 38, who served in a CSNS working group to gather feedback on benefits for national servicemen.

"We spent many nights at meetings and town-hall sessions, met many groups and visited NS units... we saw the need for NS and we wanted to help improve it," he said.

Thanking the volunteers, Dr Ng said: "You act as catalysts for the system. Without you, our reactions would not be as vibrant or vigorous."

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