FOOT soldiers will get 50 to 60 per cent more hands-on experience with firing live rounds during combat training, as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) increasingly equips soldiers with the skills to fight in urban areas.
Chief Infantry Officer Chiang Hock Woon said yesterday that with modern battles more likely to be fought in such places, soldiers need to face realistic conditions that require them to be adept at firing live rounds in close-quarters combat.
Speaking at the launch of a new urban live-firing area in Lim Chu Kang, Brigadier-General Chiang said: "You can do a lot of training but live firing is the most important part because that is as realistic as it can get before you submit and subject the soldiers to an operation."
Dubbed the Murai Urban Live-Firing Facility (Mulfac), the mock urban combat zone will put soldiers through their paces at firing live rounds in enclosed rooms housed within five single- and double-storey buildings.
Some 120 soldiers in an infantry company, for instance, will be able to mount an attack on buildings and learn how to discern between friendly and hostile targets before taking them down.
Previous urban firing ranges could involve only up to a seven- man team in a shoot-out.
The size of about two to three football fields, Mulfac will also feature a "grenade house". Due to be completed by the end of this year, the first-of-its-kind facility will give soldiers more opportunities to lob live grenades to get a keener sense of the impact of the blast.
For instance, national servicemen in an infantry unit will now get to do this up to five times during their full-time national service and reservist stints.
Previously, they were able to throw live grenades only once or twice.
Soldiers will get to know what they did right or wrong in their battle manoeuvres in a post-mortem by playing back footage or images captured by 30 cameras in the buildings. The army has been running tests on the urban live-firing area since it was completed last October by putting soldiers through numerous training drills.
As part of their drills, soldiers learn how to avoid being caught in crossfire, said BG Chiang, who is also the commander of the 9th Division.
"Friendly fire" situations have been a growing concern among militaries, with five American soldiers reportedly killed by coalition forces in June, making it one of the deadliest friendly-fire incidents in the nearly 13-year United States-led war in Afghanistan.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who witnessed a mock live-fire battle in the training area yesterday, said soldiers must be "instinctively trained" to have the confidence to survive in the heat of an urban battle.
He said: "This kind of facility gives them the kind of repetitive training so that it is not a new environment (to soldiers)."
Guardsman Dinesh Rajendran, 24, who trained in the older urban operation ranges, said he experienced more realistic combat training in the new one. "It was more action-packed," he said. "The blast was louder and the effects felt more real."
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