BERGEN, Germany: One-up, two-up, echelon left, echelon right and bounding-over-watch. These are fighting formations that the 48th Battalion, Singapore Armored Regiment (48 SAR) has executed with Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) at Exercise Panzer Strike in Germany.
Held on the undulating plains of Bergen-NATO training area – whose live-firing ranges provide three times the maximum firing distance of ranges in Singapore – the armour troopers’ progressive training will conclude with a company live-firing exercise involving 13 Leopard 2SG MBTs operating together and providing fire support for one another.
The fifth in the series since it started in 2009, Exercise Panzer Strike is being held from 8 Apr to 21 May this year. “Panzer” is German for armour.
From this year, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will be able to train in Germany twice a year as part of a recent agreement between Singapore and Germany.
During his introductory visit to Germany from 22 to 24 Apr, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen met with his counterpart Dr Thomas de Maizière in Berlin. Both parties reaffirmed the warm and growing bilateral relations between Singapore and Germany, and expressed commitment to further strengthen and expand bilateral defence cooperation. Dr Ng also conveyed Singapore’s appreciation of the German government’s support for the SAF’s armour training in Germany.
Singapore and Germany signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in September 2005 to formalise their defence interactions. Both countries interact regularly in a range of defence interactions, such as visits, military exchanges, professional courses, policy dialogues and technology collaboration. Dr de Maizière will also be participating in this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, which will be held in June in Singapore.
As part of his visit to Germany, Dr Ng will visit the SAF troops at Exercise Panzer Strike later today.
For 48 SAR’s 2nd Company, this annual exercise is an important milestone in ensuring that they are ready to perform operational duties, said the battalion’s commanding officer Major (MAJ) Lim Han Yong. “In Singapore, 800m is the maximum range at which we can engage the targets. Over here, we can engage targets that are as far as 2,500m away.”
Another benefit of the large training area in Germany is being able to have moving tanks fire at moving targets, a configuration that is not possible in Singapore because of space limitations. “This enhances the realism (of the exercise) and the training competencies of our crewmen,” added MAJ Lim.
Another highlight of training there is the opportunity to fire the 120mm live round from the Leopard 2SG MBT. Lance Corporal (LCP) Chad Augustin, who is in charge of loading these rounds, described his experience as “fantastic”.
Speaking with a newfound confidence after having successfully completed several platoon-level live-firing exercises on the Leopard 2SG MBT as part of a four-man crew, the 19-year-old noted: “Training in Singapore is about honing your drills whereas here, it’s about experiencing the live-firing. If you’d asked me just two weeks ago, I’d probably tell you I’ll never make it (as a loader). But now, I feel like I can do anything.”
Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Lim Siang Yam, Wing Commander of the School of Armour’s Specialist Training Wing, was also at Exercise Panzer Strike with 158 Armour Infantry (AI) instructors and trainees, a large majority of whom had just graduated from the 05/12 Specialist Cadet Course.
This is the first time AI troopers are at Exercise Panzer Strike, and the three-week live-firing exercise in Germany will cap off their training as specialists in the armour formation.
Back home, AI troopers practise their skills on the Armour Gunnery Training Simulator. While the simulator helps the troopers sharpen their gunnery skills, MWO Lim pointed out that it required a lot more to accurately take down both stationary and moving targets during a live-firing exercise.
“The fatigue level and mental stress is very different as they have a lot more preparation prior to the live-firing,” said the 48-year-old.
AI trainee 3SG Jeevan S/O Mahendran said that after his live-firing exercise, he was more confident of the voice procedures when operating the BIONIX Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) as well as of the different roles that being a vehicle commander, a gunner and a trooper entailed. “I feel more confident to take care of and lead my men in the future.”