10 Oktober 2012

SAF's Motorised Infantry Battalion Debuts at Exercise Wallaby

10 Oktober 2012

The vast expanse of land at SWBTA allows the Terrex ICV to travel long distances, to test its mobility and system reliability. (photo : Cyberpioneer)

Over five days and four nights in vast tracts of unfamiliar terrain, the infantry soldiers from the 5th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (5 SIR), executed dismounted attacks, performed a helicopter insertion and fought opposition forces in a built-up area.

Taking the troops through long stretches of uneven ground in an area several times the size of Singapore were the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles (ICVs), the latest infantry asset of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

These operations were part of the battalion's Army Training Evaluation Centre (ATEC) evaluation, held from 2 to 6 Oct at Exercise Wallaby 2012 in Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA), Queensland, Australia. An ATEC evaluation tests the combat proficiency and operational standards of a unit to ensure that its operational readiness is maintained, and fighting capabilities are kept sharp to deal with potential threats.

The 700-strong battalion is the SAF's first motorised infantry battalion to take part in the 22nd edition of the annual exercise, which features the networked air-land capabilities of the 3rd Generation SAF.

The battalion's training will culminate in an integrated live-firing exercise on 10 Oct, which will see the Terrex ICVs operating for the first time together with other armoured and air assets at SWBTA.

Explaining the value of conducting motorised infantry battalion training at Exercise Wallaby, Exercise Frame 1 Commander and Commander 3rd Singapore Infantry Brigade, Colonel (COL) Seet Uei Lim, said: "The vast training space allows the Terrex ICVs to manoeuvre long distances and conduct live-firing at the battalion level with various land and air platforms. This is something that we're unable to do back home due to space limitation.

"The involvement in the exercise tests the combat proficiency of the soldiers at both the individual and battalion levels. It raises the unit's proficiency and readiness."

On the debut of the motorised infantry battalion at Exercise Wallaby, COL Seet explained that the training cycle of 5 SIR coincided with this year's exercise and was therefore timely for the battalion to participate in the integrated live-firing to validate its networked fighting capabilities.

The ground crew from the Republic of Singapore Air Force's 120 Sqn arming the AH-64D with rockets. The attack helicopter will be firing on the "enemy forces" during the integrated live firing exercise tomorrow. (photo : Cyberpioneer)

Since taking delivery of the Terrex ICVs in 2010, 5 SIR is the second operationalised motorised infantry battalion, following 2 SIR. The latter attained its operational status in May last year.

At the integrated live-firing exercise, the Terrex ICVs, which equip the infantry troops with more mobility, firepower, protection and networked capabilities, will operate alongside land and air platforms, including the Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), Skyblade III Mini-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and AH-64D Apache attack helicopters.

The Leopard 2SG MBT is the upgraded version of the Leopard 2A4 MBT. The upgrades, particularly in the communications aspect, allow the Leopard 2SG MBT to be compatible with other 3rd Generation SAF platforms. Other upgrades in firepower, protection and mobility raise the capability of the Leopard 2SG MBT to meet the demands of the modern battlefield.

For Commanding Officer 5 SIR Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Peter Chee, the live-firing exercise will allow his troops to appreciate and understand better the capabilities of the other platforms, as it provides a good opportunity for the different units to put plans into action in a realistic environment, and come together as an integrated force to fulfil a common mission.

The air-land integration is augmented by the employment of the Battlefield Management System (BMS) which connects the soldiers, who are equipped with the Advanced Combat Man System (ACMS), to the Terrex ICVs and Battalion Headquarters (HQ). It also links the Terrex ICVs to the AH-64Ds through the Battalion HQ and the STrike ObserveRs Mission (STORM) team.

The STORM team comprises six soldiers who specialise in the search and destruction of targets. Mounted on mobile platforms such as the Terrex ICVs, the team can locate a target via surveillance information provided by the scout team, and activate artillery and air assets, including the AH-64Ds, to engage the target.

The ACMS, which is carried by two team leaders and a section commander in a seven-man section, enables soldiers on the ground to relay information on the locations of friendly and hostile forces, thereby enhancing battlefield coordination. In addition, section commanders are empowered to call for support fire.

Together, the BMS and ACMS provide commanders with a common operating picture at the battalion level. On the benefits of such a networked system, LTC Chee said: "Given the BMS and the ACMS, I'm able to see where all my Terrex ICVs and my soldiers are. This advances my situational awareness and allows me to command, control and coordinate movement of the forces more easily over a vast space."

On the air-land integration in this year's live-firing exercise, Exercise Air Director and Commander of the Tactical Air Support Group, COL Jonathan Tan, noted that the incorporation of the motorised infantry operations increases the complexity and dynamism of the exercise scenario.

"The Terrex ICVs are motorised vehicles, which means there are now more land assets on the move. To avoid fratricide (accidental killing of friendly forces), we have to make sure that there is tight coordination between the land and air assets. This underscores the importance of the BMS and ALTaCC (Air-Land Tactical Control Centre) because they provide a comprehensive land and air picture for the attack helicopters to fire with precision."

ALTaCC is the command and control agency that coordinates the deployment of air assets and management of airspace to facilitate target engagement.

Exercise Wallaby 2012 takes place over 65 days and spans across three frames, with motorised infantry battalion training, air-land integration training and armour battalion training as the highlights of each frame. This year's exercise, held from 22 Sep to 24 Nov, involves more than 4,300 SAF personnel and over 350 SAF platforms.

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