The Army open house was on this weekend at the Formula one pit building, just off Marina bay by the Singapore Flyer. The event coincides with NS50, a celebration of the 50 years of National service since it was introduced as a mandatory rite of passage for all Singapore males since 1967 across multiple service arms. The Army open house is usually organized on an ad-hoc basis, with the last one similarly held at the F1 pit-building in 2012. Usually, we will see a rotation of open houses across all the services in Singapore, with the Singapore Navy (RSN) running theirs a couple years back and the Airforce (RSAF) having their just last year at Paya Lebar airbase (in-conjunction with RSAF 50 too). The Open house runs from the 26- 29th May on public days.
The Army, being the largest service in the Singapore armed forces (SAF) comprises of multiple active divisions made up of constituents of the Army formation, as such, the Army open house had always been a public favorite given its extensive reach to most Singaporeans. Entry to the open house is located across the youth Olympic park (Floating platform), with Promenade station being the closest MRT stop about a 5 minute walk away from the event. A quick security check will bring you along the road (F1 track) encircling the Singapore flyer towards the pit building.
The Dynamic display stage sits at the entrance passageway into the event before leading into the Pit building where bulk of the exhibits and static display reside. The Dynamic display is a twice-daily live performance comprising of performances and capability demonstrations of the SAF as well as parachute landings. You get a variety of mostly land-based Army platforms on display parked along the starting grid of the F1 pit building. This includes offensive vehicles such as the Leopard 2SG main battle tank, Bionix 2 the new AFV, armored wheeled vehicles (Terrex, Peacekeeper), indirect fire vehicles such as our self-propelled 155mm howitzers to engineering support, mine-clearing, radar and bridging equipment. You also get Air and Naval elements such as the Apache attack helicopter and VSV (Very slender vessel) on display too. Fancy a ride on some of the vehicles? The open space behind the pit building is a small driving area where visitors can load up and go for short experience rides on a Terrex.
Indoor exhibitions occupy the entire level 1 pit workshop areas of the Formula 1 building. This includes the NS50 display, showcasing the historical journey of compulsory national service in Singapore as well as the variety of equipment and memorabilia on display through the years. This is done through a combination of videos and static exhibits. Visitors can pen words of encouragement to their service of choice at the end of the exhibition displays.
The formation exhibitions, also on Pit building level 1 follows on the NS50 one spanning across 3 exhibition rooms, each home to each of the Army formations and manned by their respective Army unit and divisions. Fancy having a go at trying out infantry weapons such as the SAR21, Matador and Section Automatic Weapon (SAW) machine gun? Helpful personnel there are there to guide and showcase the equipment to you. There is even a blanks firing area just across the pit building.
Some of the formation exhibits are interactive as well. The commandos are there with their parachute free fall photo booth, the Guards with their kiddy- rappelling stand, and armor with their remote controlled battle-tanks arena course. The upper floor of the pit building is home to the children-activity areas, such as the night vision course, drone flying area, as well as kiddy-rides and tank driving simulators. There is also an technology innovation showcase area housing several recent SAF initiatives and those by local company ST Electronics. I found it pleasant to have these carnival events in the comfort of air-conditioned comfort which can often become packed and crowded on peak public days.
Having the event at the F1 pit building is definitely a lot more localized, visitor accessible and family-friendly. I found the open house adequate in terms of educating the public and showcasing what the SAF have to offer, but greatly lacked the vastness, ruggedness and sense of adventure you get with the older Army open houses held at SAFTI Military institute and Area D (live-firing areas). Previously, you can witness canon live-firings, go on off-road “battle tours” or even have a go at firing live-rounds at the 100m range. All while experiencing the open house right in a military institute- which completes the experience.
The open house now feels rather commercialized and dumbed-down, which softens the entire Army experience. Arguably, organizing an open-house in SAFTI back then was definitely much more resource intensive, but it shows how much far capable the organizers were back then in executing large events across multiple concurrent venues to the events these days.
The city format at the Pit building and the heartland travelling tour thereafter does have its benefit too, allowing the organizers to actually chalk up visitor count really quickly, also fueled by more accidental visitors such as tourists who are around the marina bay area. You are good for about half a day at the Army open house if you are there to try out everything and factoring queuing time. All the exhibitions and static displays, less activities are good for at least 2 hours.
View more photos of the 2017 Army Open House here.