SINGAPORE: Enhancements are being made to the Bionix Infantry Fighting vehicle as part of a slew of measures to strengthen the Singapore Army’s safety management in training, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in a ministerial statement to Parliament on Monday (Feb 11).
This come after a Committee of Inquiry’s investigation into Corporal First Class (CFC) Liu Kai’s death in a training accident last November.
Following the COI’s findings and the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) own internal review, several measures will be put into place including conducting safety table top exercises before the start of all high risk non-live firing exercises and having more experienced regular trainers on the ground, Dr Ng said.
CFC Liu, 22, died on Nov 3 last year, after a Bionix vehicle that was moving away from simulated enemy fire reversed into the Land Rover the full-time national serviceman was driving.
READ: Death of NSF Liu Kai: Bionix driver continued reversing despite stop commands, police investigating comms between crew
As part of enhancements to the Bionix vehicles in the SAF’s training fleet, two more e-horn buttons have been installed in the rear of all Bionix vehicles in the training fleet since November 2018, said Dr Ng.
This will allow rear guides in the vehicle to sound the alarm in the event of an intercom failure, he added.
The e-horn produces an audible sound within and outside the vehicle when pressed and its alert mandates the operator to stop the vehicle immediately.
While there is currently an existing e-horn activation button in the front vehicle’s commander’s seat, this enhancement will “augment the overall situational awareness if the crew, and enhance the crew’s reaction to their surroundings,” added the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) in a press release.
Rear-view camera systems will also be progressively installed from March this year said Dr Ng. This is so that the driver will be able to see what is behind them during reversing drills.
“This system will provide a live video feed of the vehicle’s rear, which enhances the operator’s overall situational awareness whilst in the vehicle during training and operations,” added MINDEF.
The system is currently undergoing its final stages of design reviews prior to installation and will be completed by 2020.
In addition to the improvements to the Bionix, all heavy wheeled vehicles, such as five-tonners will also be progressively installed with rear-view cameras and mirrors to reduce blind spots,said Dr Ng.
When vehicles have to reverse such as in extrication drills, the Army has put in new measures such as trainers no longer travelling in Land Rovers but joining exercise troops in the combat vehicles during high risk training, as well as the driver can only move the vehicle backwards with the explicit clearance by the rear guide during all reversing manoeuvres.
“These two measures together with the extra emergency horn buttons will enhance safety and still allow armour units to practice extrication drills,” he added. “Further, Army will ensure that only essential vehicles are allowed into the exercise area to minimise the risk of accidents.”
READ: ‘I am deeply sorry’: Ng Eng Hen on recent NS training deaths, vows accountability for every soldier
TABLE-TOP EXERCISES AND MORE EXPERIENCED TRAINERS
On the ground, more experienced regular servicemen trainers have also been added, said Dr Ng.
As with live firing exercises, the Army will also now conduct safety table top exercises for all high risk non-live firing exercises before the actual execution, Dr Ng said. This includes familiarisation with emergency measures and evacuation plans.
Medics will also be given the chance to improve their resuscitation skills and handling of emergencies, through attachments to hospital emergency departments and ambulances.
“CFC Liu Kai was well-liked and respected soldier,” said Dr Ng. “He served with pride and was remembered by his peers for his dedication and commitment. We mourn the loss of this precious son. And we hope that the measures we have put in place will prevent a similar incident in the future.”