The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will conduct military exercises in Seletar, Marsiling, Jalan Bahar, Neo Tiew, Lim Chu Kang, Jalan Kwok Min, Tuas, Upper Jurong, Hong Kah, Ama Keng, Bedok Jetty, Kranji, Lentor, Simpang, Sembawang, Mandai from 08:00am on Mon, 10 Mar 2014 to 08:00am on Mon, 17 Mar 2014.
The changing of Istana Guards Ceremony by the Singapore Armed Forces Military Police Command at the Istana main gate will be held on Sunday, 2 March 2014, at 6:00 pm. The new Guards will march along Orchard Road towards the Istana to take over from the old Guards.
Even as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) continues to hone its fighting edge by upgrading weapons systems and acquiring more sophisticated war fighting technologies, National Servicemen remain at the forefront of a credible defence force.
Said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen: Whether we can deter would-be aggressors for another 50 years and achieve peace depends not on advance systems or weaponry, no matter how sophisticated, but our people and their resolve to defend our island home.
At last year's budget debate, Dr Ng announced that he would chair the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) and that it would be supported by two working groups chaired by 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing and Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman.
The three men gave updates on issues ranging from CSNS efforts, which engaged nearly 40,000 people from all walks of life over several months last year - to improved training technologies during the budget debate. Here are some of the key highlights from their speeches.
Better training, better soldiers
The SAF will increase the number of regular trainers, said Dr Ng. Arising from the CSNS, the SAF has decided to employ more regulars as full-time trainers, as a career path. This is a move that could potentially see the SAF employing an additional 1,100 regulars as full-time trainers.
This is not a totally new practice in the SAF. Some units, such as the Commandos, have been doing this for years. Compared to the current system where Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) receive their training mostly from their seniors, a Regular training cadre would reap benefits of efficiency and effectiveness.
Explaining this point, Dr Ng said: There is a limit to what a 22-year-old NSF can transmit to a 21-year-old NSF. Some of them do it very well and I am very proud of them but we have to accept that there are limits.
There may also be slight time savings of a few weeks at most, said Dr Ng. I am not making any promises here because the Army has to study many details to ensure that we can continue to generate operationally ready units. But if there are time savings in terms of weeks, we will pass it on.
Operationally Ready National Servicemen will continue to serve the existing 10 In-Camp Training (ICT) stints, which typically spans 10 years. Explained Dr Ng: We need these 10 ICTs and those in MINDEF reserves to maintain the strength in our standing force. This will meet our defence needs, even with falling birth rates, until 2040.
Mr Chan added that the current ICT system has been refined over the years.
The SAF continually invests in training infrastructure so that its troops can train more efficiently. Last year, the SAF unveiled the Multi-Mission Range Complex (MMRC) which houses seven firing ranges into one building.
No longer at the mercy of the elements, soldiers can even do their night shooting training in the day with the flick of a switch. Putting into context the benefits of having the MMRC as a training tool, Mr Chan said: What used to take almost two days and two nights for a 500-man unit can now be done in just slightly under a day.
Another innovation, the Murai Urban Live Firing Facility will be launched soon. This facility bumps up the capacity from a seven-man section doing their urban live-firing training, to being able to train a company-sized force of more than 100 men.
Shorter wait time
Following public feedback gathered through CSNS, the SAF will also work on reducing the transition time before enlistment for full-time NS. Currently, those bound for NS could spend months waiting for enlistment after leaving school as different institutions end their curricula at differing times.
The goal is for enlistees to begin NS training within a fixed time frame, possibly between four to five months. Again, any policy changes have to be weighed against the SAF's operational needs. Remember that we are dealing with nearly 20,000 enlistees every year, so the logistics are very challenging.
But the Army is studying this seriously and expects to complete its detailed studies on the issues raised by the CSNS in the second half of this year.
The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) is also working on setting up the SAF Volunteer Corps to allow more Singaporeans and Permanent Residents an avenue to contribute to Singapore's continued success.
Said Mr Chan: The proposed SAF Volunteer Corps should harness the different skills of the volunteers to complement our defence capabilities.
For example, volunteers who have specific specialist skills such as health care, communications or technology can be tapped upon to serve in their domain of expertise.
Also on the increase: leadership opportunities for NSFs. With better technology and decentralised operations, the SAF requires stronger small unit leadership skills. These are opportunities for us to better match each serviceman's background, potential and interests with the operational needs of the SAF, said Mr Chan.
In June 2013, the Safety and Systems Review Directorate was set up to review MINDEF and the SAF's safety systems. The Directorate has since set up an External Review Panel for SAF Safety comprising experts from outside the SAF.
After visits to the Basic Military Training Centre, Officer Cadet School and Specialist Cadet school, they have found the SAF safety system to be robust, said Mr Chan.
Come mid-year, construction will begin on the new SAFRA clubhouse in Punggol. Announced Dr Maliki: We will also be redeveloping SAFRA Tampines to include new sports and other exciting facilities, and also study the feasibility of a new SAFRA clubhouse in the north-western part of Singapore, to expand further the variety of offerings to more than 540,000 NSmen and their families who are SAFRA members today.
To boost commitment to defence, MINDEF and SAF have been actively reaching out to the community.
In February this year, MINDEF arranged for more than 260 stakeholders and their family members, and more than 10,000 students to visit the Singapore Airshow.
On the social media front, the cyberpioneerTV YouTube channel, and the Army, Navy and Airforce Facebook pages have attracted strong followings. It is heart-warming to read some of the personal reflections on these pages, said Dr Maliki.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 2030 will be a connected force, with all its parts speaking to each other to defend Singapore as a single unit. The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF will also continue its steady-hand policy when it comes to defence spending. It will also not let up on diplomacy efforts to ensure that Singapore has a voice on the international stage.
These were some of the key points brought up by Minster for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen on 6 Mar at the Committee of Supply or Budget debate, during which he updated Parliament on defence-related issues and MINDEF's long-term plans.
Dr Ng noted that we have Singapore's pioneer generation to thank for the strong SAF of today. We have done well and this transformation of the SAF speaks volumes of past efforts, and of the sterling and defining contributions of our Pioneers. We salute the Pioneers who laid the foundations of the strong SAF today.
And now, it is up to a new generation to form the SAF as the protectors of the nation.
With China's rise as an economic and military power, dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region are shifting. Asian military spending is also on the rise - surpassing that of Europe and projected to surpass the United States sometime within the next decade. These mean a militarisation of many Asian countries at a never-before-seen magnitude and this is the larger strategic backdrop against which territorial disputes and incidents amid rising nationalism should be viewed.
We... must adopt a more robust and resilient approach by building an SAF that can deter would-be aggressors and meet a wide range of security threats so that we would not be caught off- guard or flat-footed, said Dr Ng, in view of the uncertain regional security environment.
He added: Our planning horizons are intentionally long term and we spend prudently and steadily. This allows the SAF to acquire good buys, such as the Leopard tank, when the opportunity arises. This approach also provides the SAF with a long lead-time to train the troops adequately and to develop platforms, such as the Singapore Light Weight Howitzer Pegasus, that meet its specific operational needs.
Force of the future
The goal is to achieve an SAF which is even more highly connected than today by 2030, said Dr Ng. Be it the fighter pilots in the air, the sailor on the seas or the soldier on land, each will be a node in a larger network. They will be able to talk to each other, jointly target threats and coordinate responses like never before.
By 2030, the SAF also expects that future systems that are currently prototyped or thought about will be part of our day-to-day use, said Dr Ng. Soldiers could be equipped with multiple micro-Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and autonomous robotic mules could be used to help soldiers carry heavy loads.
Already, the building blocks are in place. By 2030, the F-16 fighter aircraft will have upgraded radar systems and be armed with even more precise air-to-ground munitions. They will be deployed alongside their F-15SG brethren to defend Singapore's skies.
More robust ground-based air defences will also be in place, with the deployment of the Surface-to-Air PYthon-5 and DERby (SPYDER) and Aster-30 Surface-to-Air missile systems. While the SPYDER system is currently operational, the Aster-30 Missile System will soon replace the ageing i-Hawk system.
The current aerial tankers operated by the SAF - the KC-135Rs - will also have been replaced by the Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft. These new utility aircraft can hold 20 percent more fuel and will further extend the range of the Air Force's fighter aircraft.
The Navy will also see additions in its seaward arsenal, with the addition of two Type-218SG submarines and the new Littoral Mission Vessels. On the back of the successes of the Sikorsky S-70B Naval Helicopters - which have proven themselves adept at counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden - the Navy will be acquiring two more such helicopters.
The SAF is also studying the need for larger Landing Ships Tank (LSTs) than the ones currently in operation. While effective during relief efforts following the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the current LSTs were limited by their carrying capacity - said Dr Ng.
We are therefore studying carefully the need for larger LSTs that can carry more helicopters as well as more cargo.
By 2030, the number of Army units operating vehicular platforms will almost double. This will make Singapore's land forces more mobile. Expect to see more Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicles being fielded by the SAF, replete with UAVs to enable troops to see further and act more decisively.
In his speech, Dr Ng also gave an overview of efforts towards building defence ties with other countries. Singapore cooperates with its most immediate neighbour - Malaysia - in frequent bilateral exercises and joint exercises. The two navies recently commemorated the 30th anniversary of Exercise Malapura.
Speaking on the spat with Indonesia over the naming of its warship, Dr Ng said that while the episode had impacted relations with Indonesia, both countries continue to share many common interests in maintaining regional peace and security.
We want good defence ties with Indonesia and I hope that we can rebuild this important bilateral relationship, based on mutual trust and respect, said Dr Ng.
Relations with US and China remain strong, with both forces exercising regularly with Singapore's. Our close relations with US have provided us with many benefits such as access to high-end defence systems which contribute to the SAF's fighting edge, said Dr Ng.
With China, the SAF and the People's Liberation Army share many opportunities for professional exchanges, from courses to port calls.
In the region and further afield, Singapore continues to strengthen defence relations. Our ties with partners such as Brunei, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, India, France and Germany also remain strong.
Concluding his speech, Dr Ng said: We build the SAF for an uncertain future with unknown risks and new challenges. But MINDEF is confident that as long as we have the strong support of members of this House and Singaporeans, who are resolved to defend ourselves and willing to invest in building these capabilities, the SAF will be able to preserve our peace and protect our sovereignty.
It takes more than just weapons to defend a country - it also takes great foresight, careful planning and proactive engagement. Here's a look at the happenings in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) over the past year that kept Singapore's defences sharp.
What is a small country to do in defending itself? With no hinterland and little natural resources to buffer against exigencies, its best bet lies in being prepared and investing in its people.
Some say Singapore suffers from a perpetual crisis state of mind and that it can afford to cut loose a little, but the facts tell us otherwise.
The nation has enjoyed almost 50 years of peace, so clearly, its defence plans have been effective. In addition, defence spending in the region rose 13 percent to US$24.5 billion (S$31.1 billion) in 2011 alone. This figure is projected to rise to US$40 billion by 2016.
In short, military modernisation programmes across South-East Asia are ongoing and geopolitics underpinning regional security continue to evolve, cementing the case for continued and steady investments in defence.
The Officers, Warrant Officers (WOs), and Military Experts in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) don different rank insignias, but they belong to the same family. When all three Corps work together, they are an unstoppable force.
In the 16 days of Exercise Forging Sabre, about 700 SAF servicemen orchestrated and executed a complex integrated live-firing exercise across an expansive training area in Phoenix, Arizona, United States, as they lit up the desert from 2 to 17 Dec last year.
On the ground, it took members of the WO Corps like 1st Sergeant (1SG) Jess Ong Sze Hwee to work the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). And there were airmen like Air Force Engineer (AFE) Military Expert (ME) 4-3 Yogesh Mehta and pilots like Lieutenant (LTA) Lim Zheng Ee - both of whom work on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter - to keep the aerial dance going.
To LTA Lim, the exercise would have been impossible, if not for AFEs like ME4-3 Yogesh and the aircrew who are WOs and Specialists. The MEs make sure that the aircraft are serviceable and ready while members of the WO Corps assist the pilots to make sure that each operation goes smoothly.
Air Crew Specialist (ACS) Leaders take care of the rest of the crew and help the pilots to make sure that everything is going well in the back of the aircraft. They usually have been serving for a longer time and have vast experience and knowledge, said LTA Lim, 25.
As a pilot, I find their experience very valuable in helping me understand the intricacies and considerations of helicopter operations in different situations.
He recalled landing in the Arizona desert: During several of our night missions, we needed to insert our forces at objectives where brownouts were very likely.
Brownout is an aviation term used to describe landing in severely dusty conditions, such as in deserts, where visibility is reduced due to dust clouds. The closest thing to a brownout on land is probably trying to park a car with your eyes closed.
That's when the three Corps have to work closely together, said LTA Lim. During the landing approach, the ACS Leader and Air Crew Specialists assist the pilots by closely observing the landing from the windows and talking to the pilots. Once on the ground, the AFEs (who are MEs) quickly open the ramp for troops to exit the plane.
This is to ensure that the helicopter spends as little time as possible on the ground because that's when it is most vulnerable, explained LTA Lim.
After that, it is time for pre-flight checks conducted by the AFEs to make sure that the aircraft is good for a return flight.
So, would their missions have been possible without all three Corps? To this question, LTA Lim's reply came quick and fast - No.
It was a similar scene on the ground for the HIMARS crew, as personnel from the three Corps worked together to deliver precision fire on targets.
While 1SG Ong is well trained in operating the HIMARS, certain technical aspects of the system require the deeper knowledge of the MEs. The WO Corps are adept at using weapon systems - having trained extensively to fight using those systems -while the MEs concentrate on gaining intimate systems knowledge. Think James Bond and Q.
With their knowledge and expertise in planning and technical aspects, the guidance of the MEs and Officers really value-added to the training, said 1SG Ong.
Asked to describe how the WO Corps help the SAF achieve its mission objectives, she replied: Our expertise is in the operation portion. We are the ones who make things happen and translate plans into reality.
Exercise Forging Sabre 2013 was the most complex training exercise the SAF had conducted to date, manoeuvring against a thinking enemy (directed by two senior SAF commanders) and striking fast-moving targets. To operate at this level, a military force must be able to sense-make quickly and launch the right response at the right time.
It involved SAF assets such as the F-15SG and F-16C/D fighter aircraft, AH-64D Apache and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), and the HIMARS from the Army.
With so many moving parts, one mis-step is all it takes for the battle to be lost. For example, it is not enough that the HIMARS crew are good at operating the advanced weapon system. They have to be able to integrate with the rest of the SAF. Likewise for the airmen, who have to keep their aircraft primed and ready to deal with the next target.
I think the three Corps are different functioning parts of the same body, they assist each other to get the mission done, said 1SG Ong.
After all, no one person or Corps can do all the work.
When he was Commander of Air Defence and Operations Command (ADOC), then known as Air Defence Systems Division, Brigadier-General (BG) (Retired) Jimmy Tan led a team in formulating and implementing the air defence plans for Singapore, following the 9/11 incident. That was when he was a serving as a regular officer in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
As an Operationally Ready National Serviceman (NSman) after 29 years of regular service, the 52-year-old later saw how the RSAF transformed itself into a stronger force with the adoption of technology. But what made him happiest was to see the smooth integration among all three Services - the Army, Navy and Air Force - and how they were able to fight as one Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
These were the things that inspired BG (Ret) Tan to volunteer his services even after he had reached his statutory age ceiling of 50 years. And he has never once regretted his decision.
I firmly believe that the defence of Singapore is important and we need to have capable people to do it, explained BG (Ret) Tan, whose last appointment as a volunteer was Deputy Commander ADOC.
I have a lot of experience which is valuable, and sharing my experience with the next generation is just my way of contributing to building up that capability to defend Singapore.
BG (Ret) Tan was among the 173 outgoing Key Appointment Holders, ROVERS and Volunteers whose contributions towards NS were recognised at an appreciation dinner held at the Flower Field Hall at Gardens by the Bay on 27 Feb.
ROVERS are NSmen who serve beyond their NS training cycle, but are still within their statutory age ceilings (40 years of age for NS Warrant Officers and Specialists, and 50, for Officers).
Volunteers are NSmen who serve beyond their statutory age ceilings, like BG (Ret) Tan.
Paying tribute to these servicemen who had shown great dedication towards defending the nation, Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Ravinder Singh said: NSmen make great sacrifices to fulfil their NS responsibilities. As citizen soldiers, they often have to balance the demands of NS responsibilities with their families and careers.
As he thanked the wives and families for their support for the NSmen, he also reminded the audience that Singapore's peace and security was hard-earned by every able bodied young man who has served National Service.
For 1st Warrant Officer (1WO) (NS) Ong Chee Ming, volunteering his services was a way to pass on his knowledge to the younger generation. It was also a way for him to engage the younger generation and understand some of the issues they faced, particularly in NS-related matters.
With him being called away often for his NS duties, the 42-year-old has his wife to thank for taking care of the family in his absence. He said: She is able to understand that it is the passion in me wanting to be involved in NS, in whatever small way I can… she is very accommodating, so we work around our schedules whenever there’s a need for me to be away from my daily obligations at home.
To businessman Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) (NS) Soon Fook Soon, safety for his sailors was always his top priority. The 47-year-old shared that one of the reasons he went back for his In-Camp Training (ICT) was to make sure that his men worked safely, and knew that they were needed and doing a good job.
If you're genuinely concerned about every man in your team, they can feel it. They also know that they are part of a larger team and the team depends on them, said the Group Commander of 191 Squadron.
He said this would reinforce a culture of working together and trigger good memories such that the NSmen would be motivated to come back for their ICT.
Having been a regular for 12 years and an NSman for another 17, LTC (NS) Dyason Ian Patrick felt proud of the readiness of the SAF.
Some people tell us that we are a 'paper army', said the Deputy Head Manpower Operations from Joint Manpower Division.
But I'm very happy to tell people that, if the button does ever get pressed, we have everything ready. It's just that I can't tell them what is ready!
To see how the SAF progressed and developed over time was also what drew him to volunteer his services. And as the time to relinquish his duties drew near, the 48-year-old felt rather reluctant, but knew that this was something he had to do.
If I don't move on, then new blood cannot come in to grow and continue to contribute, he said.
The dinner was also attended by senior SAF commanders, and families of the NSmen.
The Home of the Officer Corps has opened its doors to a new housemate.
On 25 Feb, the command of the Specialist and Warrant Officer Institute (SWI) was transferred from HQ 9th Division/Infantry to the SAFTI Military Institute (SAFTI MI).
The ceremony at Pasir Laba Camp was witnessed by Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Ng Chee Meng, who also unveiled the Commemorative Plaque.
In his speech, LG Ng explained that the aim of the command transfer was to strengthen the Warrant Officer (WO) Corps as well as consolidate leadership development in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
He said: The designation of SAFTI MI as the key driver to design, implement and promulgate various leadership initiatives for the three Officer Corps across the SAF will ensure that we are able to reap synergies in leadership training and develop a holistic and robust leadership framework in support of the three Officer Corps in the SAF.
While the WOs would be able to benefit from SAFTI MI's leadership development programmes, LG Ng also recognised that, in turn, our Officers and Military Experts will gain from our Warrant Officers' wealth of proactive experiences in last-mile leadership.
During the ceremony, held in the Leaders Hall, Chief Infantry Officer/Commander 9th Division Colonel (COL) Chiang Hock Woon handed the SWI flag over to Commandant SAFTI MI Brigadier-General (BG) Benedict Lim.
BG Lim presented the SAFTI MI formation patch to Commander SWI COL Lee Yong Heng and Chief Master Trainer SWI Senior WO (SWO) Tamizh Kannan.
The ceremony included a parade by two contingents from SWI and SAFTI MI, each comprising 33 soldiers, sailors and airmen. As a symbolic gesture to show the new oneness of the two institutes, the SWI contingent affixed their new formation patches before both contingents marched towards each other and merged to form a single unified body. The number 66 symbolised the year 1966, when SAFTI was first formed to train Officers and Non-commissioned Officers (predecessors of the WO and Specialist Corps).
On the plans for the WO Corps under SAFTI MI's command, BG Lim said: Looking ahead, what we will do is make sure that we chart out a development roadmap that focuses on three pillars: the first pillar is professional military education and training; the second pillar is leadership development; and the third pillar is continuing education. These three pillars are very important. We have done that for the Officer Corps, and we believe firmly that, with this transfer of command of SWI to SAFTI MI, we will be able to tighten and refine this development roadmap for the Warrant Officer Corps.
He also noted that the young Military Expert (ME) Corps, which attends courses at SAFTI MI, would also benefit from the merger: SAFTI MI can value-add specifically in the area of leadership development. We can certainly look at the leadership development packages, (as well as) programmes and practices. He added that, after attending these courses, the MEs would not only be good in their domains or areas of expertise, but their leadership competencies would also be enhanced.