SAF's laser target, rocket systems go on show at US exercise


New and upgraded systems enhance striking and sensing capabilities of armed forces

In the heart of the Arizona shrub-lands, a crack team of scouts from the SAF's Artillery unit has received an order to detect and designate a target for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) fighter jets to eliminate by dropping laser-guided bombs.

Using the Target Acquisition Designator System (Tads) equipment, the STrike ObserveRs Mission (Storm) team successfully marks out the target using laser technology and the target is destroyed soon after.

The Tads equipment is making its debut in Forging Sabre, a 16-day live-firing exercise which started on Nov 28 near Phoenix.

Weighing 10kg, the Tads equipment is almost 40 per cent lighter than the Laser Target Marker (LTM 91) that Storm teams have been using, which is being phased out.

Developed late last year, the Tads - which comprises a high-definition Day Night Range-finding System and a Portable Laser Designator Rangefinder - has a maximum range of 10km, double that of the 5km maximum range for the LTM 91.

Lieutenant Jason Kavinesh Joshua, 23, a Storm team commander from the 24th Battalion Singapore Artillery (SA), told reporters yesterday after a demonstration of the new equipment that its lighter weight and longer range would mean troops can stay farther away from potential targets and move off faster after their mission.

There was also a demonstration of the upgraded High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars) yesterday, held near the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field. The new system allows a quicker response time to orders as it can now make tactical decision on the go, if necessary, and is also now able to fire at multiple targets, making it more nimble and lethal.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jackson Tong, commanding officer of 23rd Battalion Singapore Artillery (SA), said the upgraded system will shorten deployment time for the Himars Command Post and the rocket launchers.

The Tads and the upgraded Himars are among the highlights in this year's exercise which will end on Dec 13. Held once every two years, the exercise first started in 2005 and is now into its sixth iteration.

The SAF will also demonstrate its increased ability to integrate the sense and strike assets from the RSAF and the Singapore Army at the exercise.

For instance, the Heron 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles will be in operation with the Himars for the first time to provide footage of enemy targets for the rocket system to fire at.

Commando detachments will also demonstrate their ability to move deep into enemy territory and locate targets before marking them with laser technology for strike assets like fighter jets to destroy.

An increase in the SAF's sensing ability and striking firepower has expanded the options available to commanders in deciding the best suite of actions to take in eliminating targets.

For F-15 fighter pilot David Ong, working with assets from the RSAF and the other services may require him to swing quickly from playing an air-defence role to an offensive strike role. The 25-year-old told reporters: "We have had to learn to speak the same language to achieve the desired effects."

But working across services has its challenges and has presented some teething issues, like vague instructions which have led to uncertainty during missions, said LTC Tong.

"But it is better for these issues to surface now and for us to iron them out," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2017, with the headline 'SAF's laser target, rocket systems go on show at US exercise'. Print Edition | Subscribe