Faster deployment for Storm troopers and Himars rocket launchers

HIMARS vehicles launching their rockets during Exercise Forging Sabre.
HIMARS vehicles launching their rockets during Exercise Forging Sabre.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
A STrike ObserveR mission (Storm) trooper using the Target Acquisition Designator System to mark a target during Exercise Forging Sabre.
A STrike ObserveR mission (Storm) trooper using the Target Acquisition Designator System to mark a target during Exercise Forging Sabre. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

PHOENIX - 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 ObserveR 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 are being phased out.

Developed in late 2016, 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 on Wednesday (Dec 6) after a demonstration of the new equipment that its lighter weight and longer range would make it safer for Storm teams.

He said troops can stay farther away from potential targets and move off faster after their mission.

Also on display was the upgraded High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars).

Himars commanders previously operated in a tight window. Once given the instructions to fire rockets at enemy targets, they had to do it quickly or the opportunity would be lost.

But the upgraded Himars allows a quicker response time to orders as it can now make tactical decision on the go if necessary. The new system is now able to fire at multiple targets, making it more nimble and lethal.

The demonstration was held near the Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field on Wednesday, with the Himars firing three dummy rockets simultaneously. They pierced the skies and hit targets up to 70km away.

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.

For instance, the Himars mobile battery command post needs four minutes to be deployed, down from the previous seven minutes, while firing missions have been cut from seven to five minutes.

He said Himars is a high-value target and its location may be exposed if it has to stop each time to make battle decisions.

 

"Though being on the move may also make it easier for us to be spotted, it's still good to have the extra option," he told reporters after the demonstration.

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.