Above image: Infographic on Exercise Forging Sabre 2017/ Credit: Ministry of Defence, Singapore

Above image: Infographic on Exercise Forging Sabre 2017/ Credit: Ministry of Defence, Singapore

Singapore Armed Forces conducting high-tech wargames supported by suite of sense and strike assets

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is conducting an integrated strike exercise, named Exercise Forging Sabre 2017 (XFS 17), in Phoenix, Arizona in the US from 28 November to 13 December (Singapore time). Such overseas training and detachments, such as the RSAF’s training in the US, allow the SAF to overcome Singapore’s land and airspace constraints, and build-up its operational capabilities and readiness.

The exercise involves about 800 personnel from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Singapore Army, as well as a suite of sense and strike assets from the RSAF. Working as an integrated and networked force, the SAF will be able to “Out-Sense” the enemy with timely and accurate information, “Out-Smart” with effective decisions enabled by a networked Command Post, and “Out-Shoot” with the ability to destroy multiple targets in various locations simultaneously.

The Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) equipped the SAF with an indigenously developed command and control (C2) system. Acting as the nerve centre of the Command Post, the C2 system gives commanders an integrated battlefield picture, and enables the SAF to shorten the overall sensor-to-shooter cycle – from the time target information is picked up by sensors till the neutralisation of targets. Prior to incorporating this system, information and operations were largely conducted using disparate sources.

DSTA engineers adopted modular and scalable architecture for quicker deployment of the C2 system. The system was designed such that C2 components supporting various exercise entities, like the sense-making tools for commanders, are reconfigurable. For example, simulation components that allow exercise personnel to validate their operational processes can be integrated to enable the SAF to undergo more complex exercise scenarios. 

The set-up time for the C2 system was also reduced from weeks to just days with server virtualisation technology that replaces bulky physical servers with virtual ones that allow space and computing optimisation. Having a smaller system server footprint reduced power, cooling and space requirements, saving costs and resources.

Gathering information on enemy targets

The sensors scan the battlefield, to collect timely and accurate information on the enemy targets. Sensors include the Heron 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), STrike ObserveRs Mission (STORM) teams and Commando detachments.

The Heron 1 UAV can conduct area surveillance with a real-time, bird’s eye view of the battlefield. On the ground, the STORM teams can locate enemy targets, observe enemy movements and have the ability to rapidly direct a wide range of strike assets to engage a target. The Commando detachments, with information from other sensors like the Heron 1 UAV, can close-in to find the precise location of enemy targets, and conduct cooperative lasing for strike assets, like multi-role fighter aircraft, to accurately strike the targets. The Heron 1 UAV, together with the STORM teams and Commando detachments, also supports target acquisition for laser-guided precision munitions.

Making sense of the information

Once SAF’s sensors pick up enemy targets, the information is sent back to the Command Post. The Command Post fuses this information to create a comprehensive real-time situation picture.

The C2 system features real-time updates of the ground situation picture by integrating the Heron 1 video feeds into an augmented reality display. Using advanced graphics rendering technology, static geographical data (e.g. landmarks, road names, building types, vegetation) are overlaid on top of the real-time video captured by the UAV.

Previously, videos captured by the UAV had to be manually correlated and marked out on a separate static map display. The integrated display reduced the cognitive load of operators, and allowed them to quickly orientate to the latest ground situation picture to make timely decisions.

Above image: Technological evolution of the ground situation picture display- from manual correlation to video-on-map to intelligence-on-video/ Credit: DSTA

Video analytics technology is also applied to the UAV live feeds to automatically derive target locations onto the integrated display, further shortening the overall decision-making process and enabling operators to better keep track of multiple targets.

Sense-making tools were introduced to help commanders in making mission-critical decisions. For example, a special dashboard was created to aggregate higher-level information, such as the number of available or functional assets and bases.

Commanders can make more accurate and rapid assessment of the extent of battle damage with the addition of new video analytics technology, a first at XFS.

The coherent picture aids commanders in making informed, prompt and effective decisions. This process allows the Command Post to maintain awareness of the situation in the battlefield and develop comprehensive response plans upon detection of enemy targets. The sensors continue to monitor and track the enemy’s activity, allowing the Command Post to make dynamic adjustments to react swiftly to any change in the situation.

The Co-Exercise Director for XFS 17, Brigadier-General Tommy Tan, shared on the significance of the integrated strike exercise. He said, “This exercise provides an excellent opportunity for the SAF to validate its integrated strike capabilities through the conduct of dynamic strike missions. These missions involve picking up ‘pop-up’ targets that may be moving, tracking them continuously and making dynamic adjustments to ongoing strike plans to destroy the targets. The exercise scenarios also include destroying multiple targets in various locations simultaneously. At XFS 17, these missions are carried out in a realistic and challenging environment which strengthens our operational capabilities.”

Acting on the information

The SAF’s integrated strike capability employs a full range of assets and weapons to effectively destroy different types of enemy forces. Multiple moving enemy targets, such as tanks and multiple launch rocket systems, employing “shoot and scoot” tactics can be destroyed in a single pass by F-15SG and F-16C/D multi-role fighter aircrafts carrying laser-guided bombs, or AH-64D Apache attack helicopters using radar-guided missiles.

Enemy Command Post and buildings can be demolished with heavy calibre bombs, such as the Laser Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) launched by multi-role fighters. Live GBU-31s, a 2000-pound JDAM, will also be launched during the exercise, a first for this series.

Each High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) can fire M31 unitary rockets simultaneously at multiple targets, such as enemy air defence and surveillance systems. The HIMARS, each operated by a three-man crew, comprises the HIMARS carrier, Launcher Module and the Universal Fire Control System (UFCS). The HIMARS has a high level of accuracy, with the capability to hit within 15 m of its target point, thereby reducing collateral damage and allowing the HIMARS to operate efficiently and effectively, especially in urban areas.

With a recent upgrade to the UFCS, each HIMARS can acquire and simultaneously engage multiple targets up to 70km away.

The HIMARS battery fielded its new Battery Command Post which allows for Operations-On-the-Move and enhanced Battlefield monitoring when travelling. The new Battery Command Post has a fully automated deployment of antenna masts that no longer require the crew to operate. The new design also took ergonomics into consideration to increase crew endurance for sustained operations.

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