Thursday, July 8, 2010

Welcome Home: RSAF Seahawks

First “stealth” fighters. Now “stealth” helos.

Singapore’s S-70B Seahawks have arrived but you won’t catch word of this in the traditional media.

Plane spotters around the city state have already caught one Seahawk in Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) warpaint. As many as three RSAF Seahawks may already be here. Please click here.

Their arrival marked a milestone for Singapore as Seahawks are a new capability for the RSAF. This makes their presence a newsworthy event, to use journalistic parlance.

During operations, each of the RSAF’s six Seahawks will head to sea aboard a Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Formidable-class stealth frigate (a real capability this time, not a poor pun). Armed with Whitehead anti-submarine torpedoes and a sub-hunting dipping sonar, the Seahawks add to the heavy missile armament of the Navy’s stealth frigate squadron. Seahawks allow RSN Principal Warfare Officers to exploit the long reach of the Harpoons by providing these missiles with updates on targets that lurk over the radar horizon.

Between them, the six Formidable-class ships can defend Singapore's maritime trade routes with more than 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles – not counting the embarked Aster SAMs. It is also worth reading up about Penguin anti-ship missiles.  :-)

Alas, not a word has been released by the defence information management system on Seahawks in Singaporean skies. Not a squeak.

This is similar to the arrival of the “stealth” fighters, the F-15SG Strike Eagles. Days passed before the media circus was held. By then, a historic moment had passed and that night’s television news didn’t even carry the F-15SG news item.

One hopes that the publicity plan at my favourite directorate will promote the Seahawks… eventually.

The value of such publicity will address a nagging - albeit largely unspoken - feeling among the RSAF’s rotary-wing community that a career piloting helicopters is somehow less appealing/rewarding than one with fast jets. Chopper pilots are seen as those who did not make the cut for fast jets.

The RSAF Seahawks naval helos and Apache attack helos are game changers. Some pilot trainees will venture into these war machines by choice, not because they were chopped from fast jets.

In all fairness, the RSAF does try to buff up the appeal of the rotary-wing community.

Advertisements in MRT stations and at bus interchanges attest to this effort.

But how many teenage pilot wannabes will notice the RSAF recruitment posters, especially after a long journey aboard an MRT train plastered with ads for the world’s thinnest condoms? Alas, with that image burnt into their retinas, I think many teenage boys will have other things on their minds when they stagger off the trains.

Against such stiff competition, the RSAF should not discount the wow factor and that special moment when prospective pilot trainees spot a new RSAF fighter jet or naval helicopter.

I am sure many of you have read accounts by pilots who shared what made them decide on a career in military aviation.

For some, that special moment may have taken place at an air show or after a riveting air display by the Black Knights or Flying Tigers (F-5E aerobatics team). In many cases, the pilots were young children and the displays they saw left a lasting impression.

Had word gone out in a media statement that Seahawks have arrived, it would have certainly created a buzz among plane spotters and aviation-minded Singaporeans to look out for these birds.

RSAF fans: European plane spotters cram the short finals flight path at a French airbase to welcome RSAF F-16D+ during the recent Exercise Garuda in June 2010. This is a sight you're unlikely to see in Singapore as plane spotting is barely tolerated outside RSAF airbases. 

Among this lot are that handful of pilot candidates the RSAF is looking for.

By failing to do so, the Defence Ministry's Public Affairs (PAFF) directorate has essentially surrendered the initiative in defence information management to netizens and social media.

Plane spotters thus become de facto spokespersons when they relate when and where they saw the Seahawks. They may not always get their observations correct and may not propagate the image that the RSAF/RSN would like Singaporeans to hear. This means PAFF must play catch up when its version of events is released.

By the time PAFF creaks into action, the Seahawk announcement would rank as old news *yawns* and a golden PR opportunity becomes a lost PR event.


Anonymous said...

Is the replacement for your now departed hated figure also doing a bad job?

David Boey said...

Still status quo.

You'll know there's been a regime change after I give my best friend a farewell present. Cheers.

Mike Yeo said...

Can't wait. Things can only get better. Right? :)

Anonymous said...

Where is that departed dude now? Commanding a fighting unit? Mabbee u can give him your lucky blue tights!!!!