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Monday, November 19, 2007

Nov 19, 2007
Masters of the sea
Combat divers of navy's crack unit show how they train to tackle the enemy
By David Boey, Defence Correspondent

IN THE Republic of Singapore Navy's training facility at Sembawang Camp is a four-storey structure that looks like a mini-oil rig.
It is not called the HMS Terror for nothing. HMS stands for Hull Mock-up System.

Combat divers from the elite Naval Diving Unit (NDU) in training are expected to clamber up it, with full diving gear on, keep their eyes peeled for the 'enemy' while doing it and, with weapons at the ready, 'take over' the structure.

The crack divers of the unit can do this in seconds.

They put on a show recently for visiting union leaders and members of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence, who were touring Sembawang Camp for a first-hand look at NDU's capabilities and hardware.

The visit, hosted by Minister of State for Defence Koo Tsai Kee, gave the visitors a rare glimpse into how the NDU trains for assault and takeovers of ships or structures at sea, how it

disposes of underwater mines or scouts enemy-held beaches after landing undetected by sea.

NDU commander Sean Lee, 42, told The Straits Times that the unit is now putting several camera-equipped robots through their paces.

These can assist in, for example, inspecting objects suspected to be rigged with hidden explosives.

Colonel Lee said technology that allows for experimentation and simulation enables his men to hone specific skills, and learn and recover safely from mistakes before they are exposed to real-life operations.

He added, however, that high-tech robots cannot replace the human being.

'We can never take the man out of the loop, but having the right technology helps us to do the work faster, better and safer as well.'

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