24 Januari 2011

SAF Troops Thunder On in New Zealand

24 Januari 2011
The SSPH is a tracked self-propelled howitzer which fires 155mm rounds at a maximum rate of six shots per minute. (all photos : Cyberpioneer)

Amidst the unusually chilly summer this year, the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF) artillery troops are certainly keeping warm as their big guns fired hot and true at the Waiouru Training Area, New Zealand.

On 22 Jan, they received a special guest as Minister of State for Defence Associate Professor Koo Tsai Kee visited the SAF troops participating in the exercise, together with the New Zealand Defence Minister Dr Wayne Mapp.

As part of their visit, both ministers observed a battalion live-firing exercise involving the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH), Primus. This marks the second consecutive year they are observing the exercise.

About 350 personnel from the 21st and 24th Battalion, Singapore Artillery, have been in New Zealand since 17 Jan for the annual artillery exercise codenamed Thunder Warrior.

The SSPH, which carries a 155mm artillery gun, is able to hit targets up to 30km away at a maximum firing rate of six rounds per minute.

When cyberpioneer spoke to personnel from the two units on 21 Jan, they had just spent the previous night preparing for the next day's live-firing operations.

"The men were working in low-light conditions, strong winds and nine-degree weather. Yet, they were still able to deliver accurate fire this morning," said Colonel (COL) Steven Seng. He is the Exercise Supervising Officer and Commander 3rd Division Artillery.

The TPQ36 Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) enables artillery units to pinpoint the source of “enemy” fire as well as estimate the final impact area of their firing.

"They have shown that they are able to adapt and improvise, and I'm very proud of their fighting spirit," he added.

Commanders on the ground have also been doing their part to keep morale high by taking extra measures to ensure the safety of the soldiers under their charge.

"The weather is cold and the men might not feel that they are losing water, so we have been constantly reminding everyone to hydrate themselves," said Lieutenant Colonel Chang Pin Chuan, Commanding Officer 24SA.

"SAF medics have also been told to check on the men to look out for signs of cold rash and hypothermia on a daily basis."

This year's exercise also sees the inclusion of the Ammunition Resupply Vehicles (ARV), which is used to ferry artillery rounds to various gun positions around the training area.

Based on the Bronco chassis, the ARV is able to traverse harsh and undulating terrain to deliver ammunition where required.

Previously, fresh ammunition would be ferried by wheeled vehicles such as the five-tonne transport truck, or the SSPHs would return to base in order to pick up new rounds.
An Ammunition Resupply Vehicle (ARV) charges ahead to provide fresh ammunition for the artillery guns.

"Wheeled vehicles are not as mobile as tracked vehicles out in the field. Having the ARV allows the guns to be resupplied faster," explained COL Seng.

The ARV was trialled in 2010 as part of the Thunder Warrior series of exercises. It has since been incorporated into the Singapore Artillery's operations.

Established in 1997, Exercise Thunder Warrior is an annual artillery exercise that has been held for over 10 years. Since then, the exercise has grown in complexity and size. In 1999, it became a battalion-level exercise, with a New Zealand detachment participating alongside SAF troops.

Assoc Prof Koo's visit is part of the regular ministerial exchanges between Singapore and New Zealand. The SAF and the New Zealand Defence Force interact through a wide range of bilateral and multilateral training exercises, professional exchanges and courses. The two countries are also part of the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

Exercise Thunder Warrior 2011 will conclude on 1 Feb.

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