Looking out my backdoor – Singapore

2012-09-16 15.50.37This is the normal view looking out my backdoor. OK, looking out the lounge room window. The view is out over Chinatown and in the middle distance the new Park Royal Hotel is still under construction.

The area is normally alive with bustle and cooking smells from the many Chinese, Korean and Japanese restaurants in the area.

2013-06-21 08.09.32This morning, however, the view looked like this.

Normally Singapore’s air is as clean as any European, American or Australian citizen (and better than many I would wager). However, during the period of the Southwest Monsoon, the end of the peninsula (Malaysia, Singapore etc) experience dry conditions and prevailing winds from the south-east to south-west. Sumatra is also dry at this time of the year.

So, during the dry spells here and in Sumatra during the Southwest Monsoon, the number of hotspots on Sumatra may increase. The hotspots have two main causes. One is natural fires as that area of Sumatra is apparently rich in peat which will burn and burn under the surface if ignited, much like coal seams can. Burning Mountain in New South Wales is a good example of that and it has been burning for some 6,000 years. Peat, however, is closer to the surface and therefore will give off more smoke to the atmosphere.

The other cause is illegal land clearing to clear natural vegetation to make way for the planting of palm oil trees. This is probably the single main cause of the haze. Interestingly, Indonesia has not signed the S.E. Asia Haze reduction agreement, the only country in the area not to. In fact, today, one of the Indonesian ministers noted that Sumatra sent Singapore oxygen all year so Singaporeans should stop being cry babies about a little smoke. I note that he was in Jakarta when he said that.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) here publishes a 3-hour rolling average of the PSI – the pollution index. The chart below shows yesterdays readings. Note that I have back-calculated the raw hour-by-hour data as well.

image

The red line is the official published figure. As I am used to from fires in Australia, I note that the smoke level is lowest overnight when fire activity is dampened a little then increases towards the middle of the day. Around 2pm yesterday there was a brief wind shift and an increase in wind strength for a while which caused a drop. As the day progresses, so the levels eventually diminish as well. The NEA also publishes a guideline to public Safety with regards to the haze and notes various warning levels.

As the haze has increased, so has the use of masks by the population and today it seems that it is impossible to buy an N95 surgical mask anywhere in the city-state.

I can only imagine that this is not that far off the London’s Great Smog of 1952 – at least it is drier here and less of the smoke is seeping indoors. Added to that, indoors there are in many cases air-conditioners which have a chance to clean some of the particulates out of the air. Today is shaping up as bad or worse than yesterday.

I hope tomorrow is better.

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Victory-class corvette

RSS Vigilence at at the dock awaiting visitors
RSS Vigilance at at the dock awaiting visitors

There were at least three Victory-class corvettes on show at the Changi Naval Base Open House – RSS Vigilance (90), RSS Valiant (91) and RSS Vengeance (93). These are neat little corvettes with extremely impressive masts. I remarked to madam as we wandered around that from a distance it almost looked like battleships with such big masts ((and no, I had not had any beer at that point, this was during my beer free period but it was hot)).

The Victory-class missile corvettes are multi-purpose ships based on the MGB 62 design by Germany’s Lürssen shipyard for the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). The six ships were commissioned between 1990 and 1991 and form the 188 Squadron of the Republic of Singapore Navy.

Towards the end of the 1970s Singapore was looking to take more of a regional role, in particular as by this stage its economy was being based more and more on sea trade – containers in and containers out. It was necessary to be able to extend protection over a greater area than in the past.

RSS Valiant at dock
RSS Valiant at dock

This resulted in an expansion program and as part of that expansion programme, the Republic of Singapore Navy ordered a squadron of missile corvettes from Fredrich Lürssen Werft in 1983. The first of the corvettes, RSS Victory (88), was built and launched in Germany while the remaining five were built locally by Singapore Shipbuilding & Engineering. The corvettes were initially equipped with sonar and torpedoes and were therefore the first class of ships in the RSN to have anti-submarine capabilities.

Two sets of 8-cell Barak I launchers were fitted to the vessels in 1996 with a second fire control radar on the platform aft of the mast and an optronic director on the bridge roof. Rudder roll stabilisation was also retrofitted to improve sea-keeping qualities.

Like battleship masts of old - well, they looked like that at a quick glance - RSS Vigilance and RSS Vengance
Like battleship masts of old – well, they looked like that at a quick glance – RSS Vigilance and RSS Vengeance

As the vessels left the teenager years and approached 20, the RSN announced that the corvettes would undergo a Life Extension Programme. On 23 August 2011, the upgraded RSS Valiant conducted a live-firing exercise of its Barak missile, while on Exercise CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) with the United States Pacific Fleet and several other member nations of ASEAN in South-east Asia. From the ASEAN side, the navies of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand participated in CARAT 2011

In 2012 RSS Valiant was the first of the Victory-class corvettes to be upgraded with a single ScanEagle UAV.

Service life for these vessels has been extended and I must admit, they are neat looking vessels (and from a painter and modeller’s perspective, definitely a darker grey than the Formidable-class frigates).

Name Pennant
number
Launched Commissioned
RSS Victory 88 8 June 1988 18 August 1990
RSS Valour 89 10 December 1988 18 August 1990
RSS Vigilance 90 27 April 1989 18 August 1990
RSS Valiant 91 22 July 1989 25 May 1991
RSS Vigour 92 1 December 1989 25 May 1991
RSS Vengeance 93 23 December 1990 25 May 1991

The general characteristics of the vessels are outlined below.

Type: Corvette
Displacement: 595 t (586 long tons; 656 short tons)
Length: 62 m (203 ft 5 in)
Beam: 8.5 m (27 ft 11 in)
Draught: 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in)
Propulsion: 4× Maybach MTU 16 V 538 TB93 high speed diesels coupled to 4× shafts
Total output: 16,900 hp (12,600 kW)
Speed: Maximum: 37 kn (69 km/h; 43 mph)
Cruising: 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 4,000 nmi (7,400 km) at 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Complement: 49 with 8 officers
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
ESM: Elisra SEWS
ECM: RAFAEL RAN 1101 Jammer
Decoys: 2× Plessey Shield 9-barrelled chaff launchers, 2× twin RAFAEL long range chaff launchers fitted below the bridge wings
Armament: Anti-ship: 8× Boeing Harpoon
Anti-air: 2× 8-cell VLS for IAI/RAFAEL Barak
Anti-submarine: EuroTorp A244/S Mod 1 torpedoes launched from 2 × triple-tubes
Main gun: Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid gun
Machine guns: 4× CIS 50MG 12.7 mm (0.50 in) HMGs
Aircraft carried: 1× Boeing ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)

 

 

Formidable-class multi-role stealth frigates

DSC01714
RSS Steadfast at berth at Changi Naval Base

The open house at Changi Naval Base gave me a chance to see a some of the Republic of Singapore’s stealth frigates – the Formidable-class vessels. They really are a good looking vessel. At berth were RSSs Steadfast, Intrepid and Tenacious.

Singapore has six of these vessels overall and they are the most modern frigates in the South East Asian area.

The vessels are multi-mission derivatives of the French Navy’s La Fayette class frigate. The frigates serve as key information nodes as well as fighting units, and the six ships form the 185 Squadron of the Republic of Singapore Navy.

DSC01730
RSS Intrepid at Changi Naval Base from under the bow of MV Swift Rescue

The class leader, RSS Formidable was launched on 7 January 2004 and commissioned into the Republic’s Navy on 5 May 2007. The rest of the vessels followed over the period February 2008 through to January 2009, being commissioned in two groups.

The main armament of the frigates is Boeing’s Harpoon missiles with the almost ubiquitous OTO Melara 76 mm gun for surface defence.

A S-70B Seahawk multi-mission capable naval helicopter completes the main offensive armament of the vessels in the class. These provide an anti-submarine capability along with an active low frequency towed sonar enabling long range submarine detection and classification. Lightweight torpedoes fired from two B515 triple-tube launchers hidden behind the bulwark along with the same model torpedo carried by the helicopters enable the frigates to engage submarines.

RSS <em>Tenacious</em> at berth at Changi Naval Base, SIngaporeThe full armament is, for anti-ship, 8× RGM-84C Harpoon SSM. Anti-air is MBDA Aster 15/30 launched from 4× Sylver A50 8-cell VLS. The torpedoes are EuroTorp A244/S Mod 3 torpedoes launched from both the 2× B515 triple tubes with reloads as well as from the S-70B Seahawk. As mentioned, the main gun is the Oto Melara 76mm Super Rapid gun (mounted in a stealth cupola). Also carred are 4× CIS 50MG 12.7 mm (0.50 in) HMG, 2x 25mm Mk38 Mod2 Typhoon Weapon Station Stabilised Gun.

Electronic warfare and decoys include RAFAEL C-PEARL-M with decoys Sagem Défense Sécurité New Generation Dagaie System, 2× forward & 1× aft.

The vessels are capable of 27 knots and have a range of 4,300 nautical miles cruising at 18 knots.

The vessels on the class are:

Name Pennant
Number
Launched Commissioned
RSS Formidable 68 7 January 2004 5 May 2007
RSS Intrepid 69 3 July 2004 5 February 2008
RSS Steadfast 70 28 January 2005 5 February 2008
RSS Tenacious 71 15 July 2005 5 February 2008
RSS Stalwart 72 9 December 2005 16 January 2009
RSS Supreme 73 9 May 2006 16 January 2009

MV Swift Rescue

The Swift Rescue - submarine rescue ship
The Swift Rescue – submarine rescue ship

If you are going to have some submarines and you are new to them, then really, you need a good submarine rescue vessel. The Singapore Navy has the MV Swift Rescue.

The Swift Rescue is a submarine support vessel. It was launched in 2008 and is the first vessel of its type in the South-East Asian region. As a submarine escape and rescue (SMER) vessel, the Swift Rescue is equipped with a submersible rescue vehicle, Deep Search and Rescue 6 (DSAR 6). The submersible and the Swift Rescue permit the escape of sailors from a distressed and submerged submarine.

The vessel has a helipad for emergency evacuations of wounded and a medical centre with an 8-bed High Dependency Ward and 10-bed Sick Bay. The vessels also has a re-compression chamber that can hold 40 personnel at a time – and as the Republic of Singapore submarines are crewed by 23 crew, there is space for expansion or the future purchase of larger submarines.

One of the life-boats
One of the life-boats

The MV Swift Rescue was launched on 29 November 2008. She is 85 metres long with a beam of 18 metres and displaces 4,000t. She has a crew of 27 and a speed of 12 knots. She is unarmed.

 

Singapore Submarines

RSS Chieftain - a Challenger class (formerly known as Sjöormen class) submarine
RSS Chieftain – a Challenger class (formerly known as Sjöormen class) submarine

While visiting the Changi Naval Base last Sunday I had the chance to look at a number of units of the Republic of Singapore navy. It was an excellent day out and organised really well.

Both submarine classes in the navy were on display, although the RSS Swordsman was only really seen at a distance.

One thing that strikes you immediately when standing next to them is how small the Challenger-class vessels actually are. Both the Challenger class and the Archer class were designed originally for service in the limited area of the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Sweden.

The Archer class submarines are the newer vessels with the addition of an Air Independent Propulsion system. The Challenger class are older vessels.

Whilst the Challenger class vessels are old (the first hulls are over 40 years old now) their modernisation and use in the Republic of Singapore Navy did give the Singapore Navy an underwater capability in local waters and more importantly, allowed the navy to develop experience in underwater warfare.

The Challenger class vessels are about 50 metres long, have a complement of 23 and are armed with 4× 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes, 2× 400 mm (16 in) torpedo tubes and mines. The sensors and processing systems are FAS.

RSS Swordsman - an Archer class submarine (was the Swedish Navy Västergötland class)
RSS Swordsman – an Archer class (formerly known as Västergötland class) submarine

Given that the vessels are about 50 metres long (compare this to, say, the Collins class vessels of the Royal Australian Navy which are 77 metres long and it becomes apparent that long cruising periods may be quite uncomfortable for the 23 crew). The vessels were designed for coastal work and small sea areas.

The Archer Class is an upgrade of the Västergötland Class diesel-electric submarines which were originally developed for the Swedish Navy. In the Swedish Navy the upgraded Västergötland Class was known as the Södermanland class. The same upgrades made to the Swedish Navy vessels were made to the vessels delivered to Singapore.

The addition to the upgraded propulsion system with the Stirling Air Independent Propulsion system required the submarines be lengthened from their original 48m to around 60m. The submarines (both classes) were modified for tropical use. Tropical waters are considerably warmer than the Baltic so newer air refrigeration units were needed to cool the internal vessel. At the same time, the warmer tropical water with a higher salt concentration than the Baltic has two effects – metalwork corrodes faster and little marine animals and vegetables are more likely to attach to and grow on the hulls.

The two Västergötland Class submarines, HMS Hälsingland and HMS Västergötland, were commissioned into the Swedish Navy during 1987-1988. It was in November 2005 that the Singapore Ministry of Defence placed a contract with Kockums for the supply of two Archer Class (Ex-Västergötland Class) submarines under the Northern Lights programme. The contract also included crew training and logistics support.

The Challenger class vessels were originally commissioned into the Swedish Navy in 1968-69. They were retired from service in the early 1990s and later purchased by Singapore in 1997-2001.

The C4I systems of the Archer class vessels are fitted with command and weapon control system, active and passive sonar, radar, electronic counter measures and an integrated navigation system. The modern sonar system aboard the Archer Class submarines allows the detection of long range objects on or below the surface of the water. I am guessing the C4I systems on the Challenger class have been upgraded to the same standard.

Singapore Navy Open Home

Looking impressive - the masts of the Victory-class missile-armed corvettes
Looking impressive – the masts of the Victory-class missile-armed corvettes

It was a fine sunny Sunday in Singapore so we headed across the road for a bowl of Japanese noodle soup and then took the MRT to Expo. We wandered down to Expo Hall 3 and after queuing for around 45 minutes or so, boarded a bus bound for the Changi Naval Base – home base for the Republic of Singapore’s Navy.

It was a great, although hot, afternoon walking around looking at submarines and ships, both from the Singapore and some foreign navies.

There were ships present from the navies of Indonesia, the USA, Australia, India and France as well as a major part of the Singapore Navy fleet.

There were also many displays and the whole day was designed to be a fun day out for families with plenty for the kids to do as well as many of the ships open for inspection.

I will be posting entries later this week about specific ships I saw. What was great for me as well was seeing two ships that I currently have on my painting table – more about that later this week thought.

Like a whale's maw - RSS Endurance (207) was popular with visitors
Like a whale’s maw – RSS Endurance (207) was popular with visitors

One of the largest ships present was the RSS Endurance (207), classified internationally as a Landing Ship Tank (LST). An idea of the size of this vessel can be seen by the number of visitors exiting via the bow

.Included with the ships was a submarine. Seeing a submarine next to some ships really emphasises how small the submarines actually are. On display too was the Submarine Rescue Mother-ship Swift Rescue.

Also present were elements of the Singaporean army with displays of Infantry carrier vehicles, light tanks and the Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank. A reconnaissance drone was also on display.

One of the more popular displays was where kids got a chance to use some of the Navy’s training simulators. Also popular were the landing craft and DUKW rides – the former departing from the RSS Endurance stern and the later from dry land.

Indonesia? No, still in Singapore
Indonesia? No, still in Singapore

Of interest to me as well was the note that I received from Telkomsel, the Indonesian mobile phone provider, welcoming me to Indonesia and telling me how to collect my voice mail. The only problem was that I was not in Indonesia at the time but still in Singapore. I guess this is one of the problems with having three countries located so closely together. Definitely something to keep an eye on when around the edges of Singapore where a foreign carrier signal may be stronger than the local SingTel signal, especially if like me you travel a lot and have your phone enabled for roaming.

Leaving the display was another interesting logistics exercise and we queued for around 45 minutes or so to catch a bus from the navy base back to Expo MTR station. Free bottles of water were distributed to all people leaving because it was hot and there was a fair wait to endure before catching a bus. Most everybody was in good spirits however so the wait was not stressful at all.

An incredibly nice touch was the local naval personnel manning the exit route with blue glow tubes to both mark the route to the buses as well as to stand over any obstructions on the ground that could trip people up. The fact that these personnel all wished us well with a cheery goodbye and thanks for coming as we left was a very nice touch.

The logistics for the whole event were super and even though the queues for buses at both ends of the event were long, things still ran smoothly. Even the drinks and ice creams being sold in the event were not really overpriced but rather were priced at food court or Kopitiam level – S$1.20 for a can of soft-drink is not expensive for drinking out.

I am already looking forward to the next Open House – and for this one we will leave early in the morning to give us time to tour over some of the ships. We spent 3.5 hours there and walked from one end of the docks to the other and back in that time. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and cannot speak highly enough about the organisation of the event and the attitude of the sailors of both the Singapore Navy and the foreign navies present.

Sunset from the Changi Naval Base - a perfect finish to a perfect day
Sunset from the Changi Naval Base – a perfect finish to a perfect day

Washing

Monday is washing day, is everybody happy? You bet your life we are!
Monday is washing day, is everybody happy? You bet your life we are!

One of the joys of living in an HDB ((Housing Development Board built apartment)) in Singapore is being able to hang your washing outside to dry in the sunshine, even when you are living on the 17th floor.

I do, however, refuse to hang my underwear out there … just in case it excites the locals too much or in case there is a Singapore Government regulation about too sexy underwear!

Flags of Convenience

Belize Registered Vessels at Harbourfront - between Vivo City and Sentosa
Belize Registered Vessels at Harbourfront – between Vivo City and Sentosa

Last weekend we went across to Harbourfront. My partner’s HTC Windows 8 phone had not started since Jakarta and the HTC service centre is at Harbourfront. Two minutes with HTC and we had a functioning phone again. The problem was the charger not the phone.  We then decided to stroll through the Cruise Ship terminal and Vivo City. A cool glass of something felt in order so we ended up sitting at the pub overlooking the water.

Belize Registered Vessels at Harbourfront - the Sea Heron and the Sea Robin
Belize Registered Vessels at Harbourfront – the Sea Heron and the Sea Robin

As I was watching I saw two vessels dancing around. I also noted that on the stern was emblazoned the location “Belize”. Seems both these small boats as well as at least one other were registered in Belize.

The vessels were called the Sea Robin and the Sea Heron.

Of course, if you are really curious about vessels you can check their details very easily these days. I know the following now about the Sea Heron:

Ship Type: Crew boat
Year Built: 1978
Length x Breadth: 29 m X 9 m
Gross Tonnage: 135, DeadWeight: 1 t
Draught: 5.5 m
Speed recorded (Max / Average): 8.1 / 7.1 knots
Flag: Belize
Call Sign: V3NN
IMO: 8827090, MMSI: 312018000
Last Position Received
Latitude / Longitude: 1.2575° / 103.7714° (Map)
Speed/Course 8.1 knots / 0˚
Last Known Port: SINGAPORE
Name Change History:

  • PELICAN 33 1 October 2009
  • PENGUIN 33 1 March 2007
  • TRIDAYA BARUNA IV 1 July 1997

Details for the Sea Robin:

Ship Type: Tug
Length x Breadth: 26 m X 8 m
Speed recorded (Max / Average): 10.4 / 9.8 knots
Flag: Belize
Call Sign: V3QF
IMO: 0, MMSI: 312721000
Last Position Received
Area: Singapore Area
Latitude / Longitude: 1.2349° / 103.8495° (Map)
Speed/Course 10.4 knots / 0˚
Last Known Port: SINGAPORE

It seems that she has only ever had the one name as no other names are registered for her. What is really neat is that her last position is shown on the map here.

There is so much information available at the fingertips these days.

Flames of War in Singapore

Flames of War in Singapore
Flames of War in Singapore

The Flames of War wargamers were out and about yesterday with a large Late War Word War 2 Russians versus the Germans game outside the Paradigm Infinitum store at Fusionopolis in Singapore.

As you can see, it was a large table and at the far end were two large tank forces. The near end of the table was an infantry on infantry area.

From what we can see the boys were enjoying themselves.

This game was also on the weekend that the Paradigm Infinitum folks were having their warehouse sale. I trust the sale was successful for them as I certainly enjoyed rummaging around in the warehouse looking for a special or two.

Wargaming in Singapore is looking up.

SP Services Singapore – So Primitive

You would think in a place like Singapore that most things are handled quickly and efficiently. Wrong! SP Services, the supplier of electricity, water and gas, whilst having a reasonable looking website, is still far behind many third world developing countries when it comes to simple things such as moving from one property to another.

In every other country I have lived in, when I change address, I let the power/water company know and they transfer my service. Not so here in Singapore. Here I must cancel the service at the place I left and apply for a new connection at the new address, including sending all my identification information again!

Hello fools! I have just spent 18 months paying bills to you. You know me. You have a deposit from me. But now because I move you want to pretend you don’t know me any more. Sigh. I suppose it worked here in 1850 so why change it?

Of course, what is even worse is that Singapore’s SP Services forces me to use the most dangerous web browser at the moment if I want to do anything on line. Yes, their forms are written on an ASP framework and use Microsoft’s Visual Basic. When I try and run this on Chrome, I get to see:

imageWell done. So now to do your work for you, type all my details up and such, I have to use Microsoft Explorer. Not happening. I think I’ll send you a fax and you can type it all up instead!