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, 02 Mar 2015 to 08:00am on Mon, 09 Mar 2015.
It comes as no surprise that this year's National Day Parade (NDP), marking the golden jubilee of Singapore's independence, will be groundbreaking in many ways.
For the first time, every Singaporean household will receive its own funpack. This was announced by Minster for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the 2015 Committee of Supply Debate on 5 Mar. About 1.2 million funpacks - featuring over 50 unique designs - will be distributed.
This is part of the NDP 2015 committee's effort to allow as many Singaporeans as possible to be a part of the celebrations. As Dr Ng elaborated: This will allow everyone, at home watching their TVs or out, to wave the same banner, slap the same clappers all over the island.
Themed Majulah Singapura (Onward Singapore), this year's NDP calls on Singaporeans to reflect on what we have achieved over the past 50 years and also to anticipate our bright future ahead together as one nation.
Majulah Singapura was the rallying cry to all of us (during Singapore's early years) to move forward as one people to overcome our challenges and more, noted Dr Ng. And we have succeeded. NDP will tell this story...to remind us whence we came, and to recognise the contributions of our pioneer generation and leaders in nation-building.
Singapore's 50th birthday bash will feature many firsts while incorporating aspects seen in Parades of yesteryear.
Not only will the Parade will return to the Padang - where the first NDP was held - there will be an additional ticketed venue at The Float @ Marina Bay. For the preview show on 1 Aug and the actual Parade on 9 Aug, the entire Marina Bay area will be transformed into a large celebration of our nation's 50th year of independence.
Celebrations will be extended to various sites around the Marina Bay area. This includes Marina Bay Sands Event Plaza, The Promontory, Merlion Park, Marina Barrage, and Gardens by the Bay, allowing an estimated total of over 150,000 spectators to take part in the NDP celebrations.
LED screens will be placed at these secondary locations for them to watch a live streaming of the Parade.
NDP 2015 will also feature an integrated Show, combining traditional crowd favourites like the Parade and Ceremony along with Aerial and Naval Displays to bring together a spectacular mass display with song and dance.
A key highlight of this year's Show is the Vintage Parade, which will feature items that re-enact segments of street parades that took place in the early '70s. For example, audiences can look out for Singapore Girls on trishaws and People’s Association members with streamers. The Vintage Parade aims to recognise the contributions of our pioneers in nation building.
For the first time ever, the Republic of Singapore Air Force will put up an aerial display comprising 50 aircraft in a 50 formation flypast. Its aerobatic team, the Black Knights, will also perform a bomb burst in salute to the nation.
The Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force will showcase their strength in a mobile column consisting of over 160 vehicles. Spectators in the bay area will also witness a display of eight naval crafts from the Republic of Singapore Navy.
And if you love fireworks, this year promises to be bigger and better than ever - NDP 2015 will feature two fireworks sites.
For those interested in attending NDP 2015, tickets will be allocated based upon a ballot. For the first time, individuals will be presented with a choice between the two ticketed venues - the Padang and The Float @ Marina Bay - during the balloting process.
The Singapore of today did not come easy. Through bitter periods during the Japanese occupation and the Konfrontasi episode, our founding generation realised that only with a strong defence could Singapore safeguard its sovereignty and chart its own destiny.
Now, Singaporeans can have the quiet confidence that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is a strong and capable military, able to protect our interests and borders. This is because of steady investments over the last five decades, as well as the efforts and sacrifices of national servicemen.
This was the point Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen made at the Committee of Supply or Budget Debate on 5 Mar, where he updated Parliament on defence-related issues and MINDEF’s long-term plans.
Combating hybrid warfare
In an ever-changing landscape of new security threats, the SAF will have to re-make itself to deal with cyber threats and the growing use of dis-information in warfare.
Dr Ng noted that there were numerous discussions on hybrid warfare at the recent Munich Security Conference. The opposite of the Total Defence concept, hybrid warfare is an orchestrated campaign to fracture the solidarity of the target nation by undermining its defences in civil, economic, social, psychological and military spheres.
Citing examples such as the recent unrest in Ukraine and the radicalising effect of ISIS, he said: The concept of hybrid warfare is as old as war itself… What is new is the amplification of dis-information due to social media.
No country, including Singapore, is immune to this dis-information war. The SAF will have to raise capabilities to detect and counteract such threats in the cyber and info domains.
He also urged Singaporeans to never take our peace for granted and said that peace could only be purchased through the collective commitment of our NSmen (Operationally-Ready National Servicemen) and all Singaporeans.
Emphasising the importance of having a strong military, Dr Ng added that Singapore should learn from the experiences of Europe, where many countries had reduced defence spending and some had even scrapped or suspended military conscription only to suffer from fears of a potential threat to their sovereignty when they least expected it.
Lithuania, for instance, had suspended their form of National Service (NS) in 2009. Now the small Baltic state, one of the closest to Russia, is in a frantic bid to raise an army again.
Noting that Singapore is also a small country, Dr Ng highlighted that we would do well to heed these cautionary tales. When danger is upon us, as it is precipitously for the Baltic states, it will be too little and too late to build up a defence.
Never weaken the strong defence that we have built up over the years through neglect or complacency. The time to build up a strong defence is during peace.
In his speech, Dr Ng also gave an overview on Singapore's defence ties with other countries.
Our defence relations with (Malaysia and Indonesia) are strong through frequent interactions, military to military, said Dr Ng.
The SAF spared no time in offering its assistance in the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and AirAsia flight QZ8501.
He added that Singapore is stepping up its coordinated naval patrols with Indonesia, Malaysia and other littoral states to combat piracy and sea robbery in regional waters.
Relations with the United States (US) and China also remain strong, with military forces from both nations exercising regularly with the SAF.
Dr Ng noted that the US' presence in Asia has promoted regional stability, and Singapore recently facilitated the deployment of a US Navy Littoral Combat Ship to the region.
Our close relationship with the US also affords us access to high-end defence systems as well as training space in the US, he said.
And during his visit to China in last November, Dr Ng and Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan jointly issued a press release to further enhance defence interactions and commemorate the 25th anniversary of Singapore-China diplomatic ties this year.
To promote practical cooperation between regional militaries, Singapore will continue to host conferences such as the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM), ADMM-Plus and Shangri-La Dialogue. The setup of the Information Fusion Centre and the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR)Coordination Centre will also allow Singapore to do more and play a constructive role in regional security.
Keeping abreast with technology
To maintain the SAF's edge as a respected, capable and professional force, technological upgrades are a must.
Starting from next year, the Navy will replace its Patrol Vessels with new Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs), while the Army will have Protected Response Vehicles in place of the V200 vehicles. The Air Force's Super Puma helicopters, which have served for almost 30 years, will also see replacements done over the next decade.
To deal with the impending manpower crunch as a result of long-term demographic trends in Singapore, the SAF must also operate effectively with a leaner force. Through the use of advanced technologies, the restructured SAF has been able to maintain its fighting edge, said Dr Ng.
For example, Unmanned Ground Vehicles are being considered by the Army to conduct security patrols while Unmanned Surface Vessels may be used to patrol at sea.
These advanced technologies have greater precision, endurance and use less manpower, allowing the SAF to remain potent with a leaner force, explained Dr Ng. But even in the need for advancements, MINDEF manages its budget prudently by upgrading existing platforms instead of purchasing new ones unless necessary, said Dr Ng.
The recently upgraded Mine Counter-Measure Vessels (MCMV), for example, can integrate with unmanned underwater systems and are able to clear mines up to five times faster than their predecessors.
To cope with limited land resources, the Multi Mission Range Complex (MMRC) houses seven ranges that can simulate day and night conditions on the site of a single 100m range, providing more efficient training for soldiers.
Realistic training and operations
The SAF also consistently benchmarks itself with militaries from other countries and tests its systems through realistic training and real operations.
Over the last decade, the SAF has taken part in four editions of Exercise Forging Sabre in the US, and in Exercise Wallaby in Australia annually since 2000. Both soldiers and platforms, which include Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, F-15 and F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, were put through complex and realistic test scenarios.
The SAF has also actively contributed to missions that have strengthened international peace and security as well as for HADR, said Dr Ng.
In January this year, SAF ships and aircraft were deployed in the search for AirAsia QZ8501. The Army also deployed water purification teams and equipment to Kelantan to supply potable water for Malaysian flood victims.
Whether through exercises or real operations, the SAF has shown that it can move decisively as one integrated professional force and succeed in missions and tasks assigned, explained Dr Ng.
However, even with the most advanced military technologies and equipment, he noted that the cornerstone of Singapore's defence remained in the strong fighting spirit of its people.
Concluding his speech, Dr Ng said: With the strong commitment of NSmen, their families, employers and the community, the SAF will continue to safeguard Singapore's independence and sovereignty… so that future generations may also enjoy the peace and security that we enjoy today.
Even with the most advanced military technology and equipment, national servicemen remain our greatest and most indispensable asset.
Said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the 2015 Budget debate on 5 Mar: It is ultimately… the strong fighting spirit of our soldiers, airmen and sailors, as well as the quality of leadership, that will allow the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) to deter aggression and when that fails, prevail over potential aggressors.
To boost this commitment to defence, we must train our servicemen well, train them safely, be good stewards of their time and talent, and last but not least, give due recognition to our national servicemen where it is due, added 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing in his speech to Parliament at the debate.
Making NS more efficient effective
Following announcements at the Budget debate last year to implement the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) recommendations, Dr Ng revealed that the initiatives were well in progress.
One significant proposal was the reduction of waiting time for NS enlistment to not more than six months from the completion of their post-secondary education.
Mr Chan elaborated that the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) were working to double the number of pre-enlistees enlisted within four months of leaving school from 45 to 90 percent.
And as time progresses, so must the SAF's training strategies evolve. Mr Chan noted that MINDEF would continue to widen the use of LEARNet to save up to 20 percent of learning time, which can then be used for hands-on practical learning. LEARNet is a Web-based system which allows trainees to quickly access learning.
To give servicemen more time to focus on their training rather than on administrative duties, the new Tactical Engagement System (TES) equipping station that will be rolled out this year will allow the SAF to fully equip an infantry or armour battalion within half a day as compared to 24 hours in the past.
Time taken to mobilise and equip soldiers will also be reduced from 24 hours to just a few hours, said Mr Chan.
Boosting training safety
Improvements have also been made to the SAF's training and medical systems to take better care of soldiers.
The newly-opened SAF Cardiac Fitness Centre, for instance, is integrated with the National Heart Centre to provide centralised and dedicated specialist cardiac care for all SAF personnel and pre-enlistees.
The new SAF Emergency Ambulance Service (EAS) was also operationalised in January this year, said Mr Chan. With this, training activities outside SAF camps are now supported by ambulance evacuation services using both SAF and EAS ambulances.
The SAF has also leveraged the Soldier Tracker System to keep track of soldiers during difficult terrain and small unit operations. The system is linked to satellite services that are networked to exercise control headquarters, providing real-time information on the location of its soldiers.
Not only is this system operationally useful, it also builds greater confidence in our evacuation system, explained Mr Chan.
Other safety initiatives include the introduction of heat stress monitors to closely monitor localised weather conditions and reduce heat injuries.
In the area of fitness, the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) system will evolve to a three-station format from 1 Apr, to make it easier for servicemen to train and excel. Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) will have a year to transit to the new format, and can choose to do either the older five-station IPPT or the new IPPT till March 2016. More time - 12 months - has also been given for NSmen to train, prepare and meet their fitness standards.
Initiatives like IPT-in-the-Park were also introduced to make IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT) more convenient for NSmen. They were also encouraged to take greater ownership of their fitness through trial use of fitness-tracking devices like iDAT and FitBit, said Mr Chan.
Additional Medisave grant
To strengthen the recognition of NSmen, the NS Recognition Award has evolved into the NS Housing, Medical and Education (NS HOME) Award.
Previously, an NSman would receive $9,000 to $10,500 across three milestones in his NS journey. But now, he will receive an additional Medisave grant of $6,000.
Mr Chan also revealed that more than 56,500 NSmen have benefitted from the NS HOME Awards since its implementation in September last year. He added that from this September, Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) would receive part of this additional grant to help cover their MediShield Life premiums while they are serving full-time NS.
SAF Volunteer Corps
Mr Chan also announced that the first intake of the SAF Volunteers Corps (SAFVC) would begin training in March. The Corps was set up last year following the implementation of the CSNS recommendations.
Since the launch of its recruitment last October, the SAFVC has received about 900 applications, and will take in about 100 to 150 volunteers in the first year.
What (these volunteers) bring to the table are not just operational capabilities for the defence of the country. As importantly, if not more… they demonstrate their willingness to go that extra mile to defend what is ours, explained Mr Chan.
And while NSmen form the backbone of the SAF, there must be adequate SAF Regulars to train units and build capabilities, said Dr Ng. There are plans to double the number of Regular trainers at the Basic Military Training Centre from the middle of this year.
He added that the SAF would also be recruiting more women as more opportunities opened up in different vocations due to advanced platforms.
Another CSNS recommendation implemented last year was the restructuring of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD) into three councils - the Employer and Business Council (EB), Families and Community Council (FC) and Educational Institutions Council (EI).
Mr Chan, who co-chairs the EB Council, revealed that one of the recommendations the council had come up with was to revamp the Total Defence Awards to recognise more people and organisations who have contributed to the defence of Singapore.
…instead of just recognising the employers and companies, we should also recognise the colleagues and immediate superiors who are supportive and made a difference to the national servicemen when they answer the call of duty, explained Mr Chan.
The council also proposed a closer working relationship between MINDEF and employers to keep them informed of their employees' In-Camp Training call-ups for both parties to plan ahead and make work arrangements. This would give NSmen greater peace of mind in preparing and discharging their NS duties, said Mr Chan.
Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, who co-chairs the FC Council and the EI Council, gave an update on the recommendations that the two councils proposed.
While NSmen can now enrol in special enrichment and refresher modules before they start their university courses, the EI Council will look into how these modules can be enhanced to better meet the learning needs of the students, as well as explore other efforts which further support NSmen.
Members of the FC Council will collaborate with the People's Association (PA) and SAFRA to offer more benefits and discounts to servicemen. PA will be looking at how they can offer privileges for use of facilities at Community Centres to servicemen and women, while SAFRA is looking at enhancing their membership privileges.
In an effort to reach out to women, the FC Council also recommends partnering the Singapore Council of Women's Organisation and PA's Women Integration Network to conduct sessions for mothers to share their experiences in supporting their children through NS, as well as engaging young women and wives of NSmen.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education under the SAF-Schools Partnership Programme, 33 Post-Secondary Education Institutions were paired with 47 SAF units to co-organise activities such as unit visits for their students.
Dr Maliki noted that the restructured ACCORD was taking a proactive approach: The members are actively leading in various initiatives and such ground-up efforts will have significant impact on our outreach and engagement with various stakeholders to increase commitment to defence and support for NS.
Thanking SAF pioneers
As the SAF marks its 50th anniversary this year, a series of events has been lined up to recognise and honour the contributions of all who have served in the defence of Singapore.
SAF50 is a way of saying thank you to the pioneers and all the men and women who dedicated themselves to preserving our sovereignty and defending our way of life, said Dr Maliki. What the SAF lacked in resources in its early years, our pioneers made up for with their fortitude and determination.
Celebrations kicked off last month with SAF50@Vivo, which attracted more than 87,000 visitors. The event was anchored on an exhibition that featured SAF stories of pioneers' convictions and sacrifices. These stories will also be published in a commemorative book.
To be launched in July this year, the book is a collection of over 70 stories that showcase many aspects of the SAF, ranging from diplomacy, defence technology and operations to family and community support, media and entertainment, said Dr Maliki.
SAF pioneers will be invited to key events such as the SAF50 Parade, SAF50 Commemoration Dinner and SAF50@Istana presidential garden reception. Those invited will include Officers and Warrant Officers from the first batch of national servicemen and pioneers who served before 1965.
SAF formations and units will also engage SAF pioneers as part of their own celebrations.
Explained Dr Maliki: We want to bring our pioneers closer to our younger generation. They inspire us with their experiences, memories and motivations.
In addition, the SAF launched the Commitment to Defence Ambassadors' Programme, where some of the pioneers and ex-servicemen will engage younger Singaporeans to share with them their early struggles, experiences and accomplishments in the face of adversity.
I hope these stories will help inspire younger Singaporeans, and give them the spirit and strength to do their part for Singapore, said Dr Maliki.
As we celebrate SG50 and SAF50 this year, we must remember this spirit and strength exemplified by our pioneers. We must harness it and work towards building a more secure and prosperous future for Singapore.
As the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) celebrates its 50th birthday, here is a look at some of the things it has done over the past year in defending the nation.
In a reply to a Parliamentary Question last November on Singapore joining the multinational coalition to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said: Singapore must resolutely oppose the spread of terrorism in order to safeguard our security here. ISIS exports terrorism to our region, whether by sending foreign terrorists to carry out terrorist operations or by radicalising regional elements who engage in violence in Iraq, Syria and subsequently their home countries.
If this terrorism threat is allowed to grow and spread, innocent civilians here and elsewhere could be endangered and killed. By contributing to the international effort to tackle the threat at source, we are contributing directly to our own security.
Following the announcement, the SAF has sent a liaison officer and a Needs Assessment and Survey Team to the United States (US) Central Command Headquarters to facilitate planning and coordination for the SAF. Planners will be further deployed to the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters and the Combined Air Operations Centre. There are also preparations being made for the deployment of a KC-135R tanker aircraft to support air-to-air refuelling for coalition forces.
Today's ever-evolving security threats often transcend boundaries, and a small country like Singapore will always be at risk to attacks. Fifty golden years of peace is no small feat but after patting ourselves on the back for having done things right, we must look forward.
On 26 Jan, at the third International Institute for Strategic Studies Fullerton Forum: The Shangri-La Dialogue Sherpa Meeting, Dr Ng emphasised that we lived in an interdependent world and it was crucial to recognise that regional peace and stability depended on the collective will and efforts of nations to address security challenges facing the region.
Beyond building good defence relations, Singapore has also made significant headway internally in reaching out to our soldiers. Here's a look at how it has done both.
Soldiers are doing better and are more motivated to ace their annual physical fitness test.
Results from the three-month pilot implementation of the new three-station Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) format showed improvements across the board: 88 percent of participants improved or maintained their standards for sit-ups, and 73 percent, for the 2.4km run.
For the new push-up station, 74 percent of participants achieved average and above average performance, compared to current international standards.
The pilot, which ended in December last year, saw some 5,000 servicemen and women taking the new IPPT format.
The results validated our belief that the new IPPT generates greater ownership and motivates our people to do well, said Colonel (COL) Ng Ying Thong, Assistant Chief of the General Staff (Training) at a media brief on 27 Feb.
For the 27 percent who did not do better in the 2.4km run, the majority were servicemen or women who had already achieved Gold or Silver, according to COL Ng.
COL Ng also updated on other changes to the IPPT system, including tweaks to the performance standards. Soldiers will have new standards to meet when the three-station IPPT officially rolls out on 1 Apr.
Soldiers must now score 85 points for Gold and 75 points for Silver. This is a four-point increase from the standards announced for the three-month IPPT trial.
The Gold mark for elite soldiers - Commandos, Guardsmen and Divers - has also moved up by five points to 90.
The scoring tables have also been improved to encourage soldiers to do better by making the allocation of points more consistent with the number of repetitions performed for the sit-up and push-up stations, and the 2.4km run times.
This move is to enable fitter servicemen to continue to find challenge in meeting the higher IPPT award standards, said COL Ng.
We were very careful when refining these standards; to make sure that we not only encourage our fitter servicemen and elite forces to do well, but also not de-motivate the bulk (of our soldiers) from trying to do well, added COL Ng.
For example, an average 35-year-old NSman will have to do 39 sit-ups, 39 push-ups and run 2.4km in 10 minutes 40 seconds to attain the Gold award.
Operationally Ready National Servicemen will have a year to transit to the three-station IPPT format. This means that they can choose to do either the older five-station IPPT or the new format up to 31 Mar 2016. Active service personnel will move to the new format on 1 Apr 2015.
For 29-year-old NSman, Lieutenant (LTA) (NS) Christopher Ng, the new IPPT standards will push him to train and do better. The new IPPT system is better and the new standards are more challenging, but I think they are do-able, said LTA (NS) Ng.
I can now train for the IPPT even at home, without equipment like pull-up bars, added LTA (NS) Ng, who serves in an Infantry unit. He took part in the IPPT pilot, scoring a Silver award.
For full-time National Servicemen such as Corporal (CPL) Napolean s/o Parthiban, the scoring system motivated him to do well for the IPPT.
The more reps (repetitions) you do and faster you run, the more points you get. That makes me work to try to max out in all three stations, said the 23-year-old NSF from 5th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment.
A new Preparatory Training Phase (PTP) exemption criteria for NS will also come into effect from 1 Mar. Combat-fit pre-enlistees will have to attain 61 points or more when they take the National Physical Fitness Award or NAPFA test with push-ups, to be exempted from the PTP.
Getting settled into a new role on board a warship, training to be an aircraft controller, going overseas on exercises, moving house and getting married (sorry, guys) - all in a year.
No wonder the question of what she likes to do on weekends draws a blank expression. Last year was quite a big change for me so I haven't had time for much else, said the fresh-faced 25-year-old who tied the knot last September.
Trained as a Naval officer, she has a master's degree in War and Psychiatry. As the Assistant Operations Officer on board frigate RSS Intrepid, part of her job is to act as the bridge between the warship and the Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopters.
When the pilots are 40 to 50 miles away from the ship, we need to tell them what to do and then they will relay the information which the ship needs, explained CPT Sim.
She has managed to bring her other love - playing the guzheng - into her job in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). At last year's Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, she played the classical Chinese stringed zither during a reception on board the frigate. RIMPAC 2014 involved 22 countries and about 25,000 personnel.
Going back to the question about her weekends, CPT Sim quipped: Maybe if you ask me one year later, when I'm more settled, I'll have an answer!