Mission accomplished at Exercise Wallaby 2021

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20 Oct 2021 | OPS & TRAINING

Mission accomplished at Exercise Wallaby 2021

The SAF returns to Queensland, Australia for Exercise Wallaby 2021 after a pause in the exercise series last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

// Story by Koh Eng Beng, from Queensland, Australia

// Photos by Tedd Jong & courtesy of SAF Film Unit & Singapore Army

Exercise finale: Seven fast craft carrying Army vehicles and simulated troops make their way to the shore, as a CH-47F Chinook helicopter hovers over Landing Ship Tank (LST) RSS Endeavour.

Exercise Wallaby – the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) largest overseas exercise – was called off last year for the first time since it started in 1990. As countries around the world adapt to the new normal amid the pandemic, the SAF resumed the exercise from 13 Sep to 21 Oct this year.

About 580 personnel as well as platforms from the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) successfully conducted large-scale missions to hone their capabilities and strengthen their integration.

Here's a look at how the SAF made full use of the sprawling Shoalwater Bay Training Area – nearly four times the size of Singapore – to conduct complex training drills that cannot be carried out back home.

An Air Force Engineer prepares munition for loading as an AH-64D Apache helicopter begins its descent outfield in Shoalwater Bay Training Area.
Crew refueling the AH-64D Apache for its next mission.
An Air Force Engineer loading a rocket onto the AH-64D Apache helicopter.
An Apache helicopter taking off for a live-firing mission.
Tracking the RSAF aircraft in the vast airspace are the control crew of the Air-Land Tactical Control Centre (ALTaCC). The ALTaCC is a mobile command and control cabin, integrated with radars deployed around the training area.
One of the radars deployed during the exercise is the SHIKRA, or System for Hybrid Interceptor Knowledge of Recognised Air Radar System. With a detection range of up to 100km, it provides low-level radar coverage to detect air threats.
Airdrop mission underway: Riggers from Air Terminal Company (ATC), 3rd SAF Transport Battalion (3 TPT Bn) and loadmasters from 122 Squadron (SQN) moving re-supply loads into a C-130 transport aircraft. The loads hold ammunition, medication, rations and water to be airdropped to the ground troops.
Section Commander 2SG Doran Yeo, 24, (right) from 3 TPT and 2SG Ang Ee Lin, 27, from 122 SQN inspecting the loads together. The loads have to be rigged properly in order to "survive" the 1,000-foot (305m) drop by parachute.
A C-130 transport aircraft takes off and heads for the drop zone in the "battlefield".
The loadmasters conduct a final check before opening the aircraft ramp for the airdrop. They must move around the cargo compartment carefully as the aircraft is making sharp turns and steep climbs to evade simulated enemy fire.
A load being deployed from the back of the C-130 transport aircraft.
Right on target: Two loads descending safely onto the intended drop zone.
A CH-47F Chinook helicopter flying across the Shoalwater Bay Training Area towards the sea. This is the first time the CH-47F is taking part in Exercise Wallaby – the RSAF started taking delivery of the new heavy-lift helicopters in May this year.
Inbound: The CH-47F Chinook helicopter flying towards RSS Endeavour. The CH-47F has a fully integrated, digital cockpit management system, and advanced cargo-handling capabilities.
CPT Lau Kar Yin, 28, Officer Commanding, Sea Terminal Company (STC), 3 TPT Bn, briefing the STC operators on RSS Endeavour before a vertical replenishment operation (transferring cargo to or from ship using helicopters). They are to secure a land rover to the belly of a CH-47F Chinook.
Weapons Chief Military Expert 2 Prabhu S/O Murugesvaran (far right) coordinating with teams on the flight deck and well dock, from the ship's bridge, to ensure that the helicopter and ship-to-shore operations go smoothly and safely.
The STC operators move steadily towards the land rover. They are holding onto one another to resist the strong rotor downwash from the CH-47F Chinook helicopter.
STC operators hooking the land rover to the belly of the CH-47F Chinook helicopter.
The CH-47F Chinook helicopter airlifts the land rover from RSS Endeavour into the "battlefield".
Another CH-47F Chinook helicopter flies in to land on the flight deck of RSS Endeavour. Its role is to airlift simulated Army troops from the LST into the "battlefield".
In the well dock of RSS Endeavour, Army and Navy personnel work together to load 5-ton trucks onto fast craft for the ship-to-shore operation.
Seven fast craft are deployed from RSS Endeavour. Their mission is to ferry the Army vehicles and simulated troops to shore.
On board two of the fast craft (centre and right) are five-ton trucks from the Army.
COL Ong notes that the SAF's continued participation in Exercise Wallaby in Australia reflects the close and long-standing bilateral relations between both countries.

Sharing his thoughts after the exercise, Air Director Colonel (COL) Sherman Ong said the successful conduct of this year's Exercise Wallaby showed that the SAF remains operationally ready amid the COVID-19 pandemic to defend Singapore.

"Despite the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we were able to achieve our exercise objectives, along with our Army and Navy counterparts, and carried out high-quality training in Australia, which is testament to our resolve and our capability."

All exercise participants were fully vaccinated and were quarantined before the exercise. They also took swab tests and followed a controlled itinerary in Australia to minimise interaction with the locals.

As part of the risk mitigation measures, the scale of this year's exercise was smaller – with about 580 participants – compared to over 3,000 personnel in recent years.

While this year's exercise had been scaled down, the training had not been compromised, said COL Ong.

"The complexity and challenges at Shoalwater Bay here allowed the SAF to hone our operational competencies and to conduct essential integrated training across the Army, Navy and the Air Force," he explained.

COL Ong added that it was important that the SAF avoids a prolonged absence from Exercise Wallaby so that servicemen and women would remain familiar with and get to experience training at Shoalwater Bay.

"Having conducted the exercise this year, we are better positioned to maximise our training when the COVID-19 situation improves, and when we are able to train at full capacity," he said.

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