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Home > Back Issues (Journal) > Journal V24 N1 (Jan - Mar 1998) > Training A World Class Navy

Back Issues Journal

Training A World Class Navy
by MAJ Lim Khia Teck



The development of the RSN in the last 30 years has been nothing less than phenomenal. From two Second World War vintage ships in 1965, the navy has today become a professional force of multi-dimensional warfare capability. As the navy sails into the 21st century, we have set our sights on becoming a world class navy, up there with the best.

To be world class, we want to build an organistion that meets up to the standards of best practices. We want to put in place systems and processes which will ensure that we are recognised as being the best. By realising this vision, the RSN will not only fulfill our national defence objectives but also contribute to our wider regional responsibilities.

One of the cornerstones of a world class navy is its training system; a training system which generates quality people with operational proficiency of world class standards. This system must ensure that the components of the navy, the individuals, warfighting teams and the command organisation, are ready for their wartime tasks and missions.

Without the "benefi"' of war to validate our operational readiness, training takes on the all important role of building up our operational experience and testing our fighting concepts. Ultimately, our training system must produce a fighting Navy which delivers victory in war.


In our drive to achieve a truly world class training system, developments within and outside the RSN pose a serious challenge to our training planners.

As the navy extends its reach and punch beyond its present operating space, force structural developments have become more diverse, complex, and highly specialised. Therefore, we will need a wide spectrum of individuals and teams with very specific warfare skills.

Our qualified and experienced operators are sought for in both training and operational units. Since it is necessary to arm the teeth rather than the tail, if training were indeed the tail, training must continue to thrive with less manpower.

With shorter career contracts, and a high turnover rate of personnel in the Navy, the time for training is very short indeed. This is especially true for NS men in the bid to maximise their deployable time within the enlistment period.

The implementation of UNCLOS will place further restrictions to our available training areas, forcing us to conduct sea training further from Singapore.

As we increasingly turn to technology to overcome many of these constraints, our current knowledge and skills will face rapid obsolescence and require constant updating and renewal.


The training system we envisage must more than overcome these challenges. We need to transform untrained individuals into trained professionals and operational warfighting units. It must also ensure that the RSN has an effective warfighting organisation in order to successfully conduct the entire naval campaign. In drawing out our strategy to achieve this, the training process is guided by six key principles.

Trainees must be given optimal training, at the right level and sufficient for him to perform his job competently. Training will be administered effectively and efficiently by employing technology and well-developed methodology.

We must provide realistic training to allow trainees to be exposed to conditions resembling the operational environment and fighting scenarios expected during the conduct of their tasks and missions.

Our trainers, in schools and in operational units, must take full ownership for their roles in the training system and ensure their trainees can meet up to the navy's stringent demands.

We must have a closed-looped training system. Responsive feedback is crucial to ensure that training remains relevant and effective. Experiences must be retained, analysed and assimilated to make the entire organisation better than before.

Applications of technology must be well planned to enhance the quality of our training and overcome our constraints in training space, time and manpower.

Finally, inter-service operability at all levels must be enhanced in our training in preparation for operations in an integrated environment.


The RSN training process will consist of two broad phases: Individual Training and Warfighting Training.

In Individual Training, officers and specialists will undergo formal training in the schools and continual training in the units. The emphasis for the individual is to gain professional knowledge and proficiency in operating procedures before integration into warfighting teams.

Warfighting Training is divided into two levels. The operational level involves units in the operational commands, the ships, task units and task groups. The system level of training will be targetted at the Navy's various command headquarters.

At the operational level, units will firstly undergo basic shipboard procedural training. They will then proceed on to intermediate and advanced tactical training. This process will arm the units with the necessary combat abilities in the warfare areas appropriate to achieving the Navy's requirements in an integrated warfare environment.

The various command Head quarters will undergo system level training with actual deployment of assets at sea or through link-ups to the tactical shore trainers. This training will ensure that the Headquarters warfighting organisations are armed with the necessary skills to achieve effective command and control of units and inter-operability in an integrated campaign.


Training in the RSN has seen many changes in recent years. With the re-structuring of the training organisation, Training Command was formed and training functions were re-defined. Several key initiatives have been identified for both Individual and Warfighting Training. These initiatives serve to meet key organisational requirements and concerns of the ground units. They will be crucial in translating the training concepts and strategies into a complete Training Masterplan.

Individual Training

In individual training, the new initiatives aim to tie in training with career planning, as well as provide continual and quality training.

For the first part, the training Route-of-Advancement (ROA) of each servicemen must be closely co-ordinated to match his career ROA. This will ensure that he will undergo training at the right point in his career before moving to a new appointment. This can be achieved by integrating the training roadmap with the career ROA to form a Profession ROA. This profession ROA will synchronise both the training and advancement roadmaps and change in accordance with each individual's performance and potential.

With our force structural developments into diverse warfare areas, there will be a need for our people to become experts in their field of specialisation. In order to maximise the potential of each trainee, we will assesseach individual's aptitude and select him for specialisation. This process will be moderatedby operational demand and is flexible so that we can deploy these personnel to other fields.

A Personnel Training Management System using IT tools will ensure the successful implementation of these initiatives. The system will assist us to select and identify "raw" personnel for suitable training ROAs. Once trained, the management system will track his progress in order to identify him for further training.

Upon completion of formal courses, individuals will continue training at their place of work. This will shorten the formal training time and ensure a speedy delivery of trained personnel to the operational units. The Self-Paced On-Time On-Need training concept and Distance Learning programmes will allow our servicemen to upgrade themselves continually.

These two learning concepts can also be extended to NS-men Training. We can reach out to the NS-men with training materials without having to physically recall them. In this way, we can expand NS-men training beyond maintaining their skills to upgrading them, and do so even off the ICT periods.

To support these self-learning concepts, a Training Intranet will be developed. A virtual library, containing reference materials and computer training packages, will reside in our new Changi Naval Training Base. Distance learning architecture will be a key design in the development of this new training base.

In response to the needs for more hands-on training, we will commit resources in procuring practical trainers and put in place a systematic On-the-Job Training (OJT) programme. Personnel will therefore transit more smoothly from schools to operational units with confidence. At the same time, units can take ownership of its personnel training.

To instill the sense of pride and mission in our training institutes, they will be designated as centres of excellence. These centres will seek to continually improve the provision of training and help to build a self-learning culture. By recognising the institutes as specialist authority, a culture of maintaining high standards will be developed. This will ensure that quality training is provided and maintained.

Where possible, courses conducted in the navy will be accredited with the same status as courses run by commercial or other military schools. This will ensure high standards for the courses and raise the market value of training in the RSN. This equips RSN personnel with a recognised job skill upon completion of service with the Navy, and ties in well with the RSN's drive to tap into expertise of institutes of higher learning.

Good trainers are the key to quality training. Imparting not only their knowledge and operational experience, they also act as role models to motivate and inculcate in trainees the navy's values and culture. The ground perception that "the less capable and motivated" are posted to training must be radically reversed. The best personnel should be selected for the training community in order to maintain high standards. Trainers must be well trained for their job in terms of professional knowledge and training techniques. In other words, we must Train the Trainers.

Schools and operational units must work ever more closely to keep abreast of changes in operational requirements and expectations of trained individuals. This is consistent with the key requirement for a closed loop training system.

Warfighting Training

While much effort has been committed in laying a strong foundation for individual training, emphasis is also required in developing the system for warfighting training. The output of trained personnel from Training Command and SAFTI-MI must be integrated into combat ready teams to man the ships of the fleet and COSCOM.

Our key initiatives in warfighting training aim to provide a systematic training process, extract maximum value from our exercises, ensure a closed loop system and capitalise on technology to enhance realism and integration of our training. For the operational units, a systematic training cycle comprising multi-level exercises will be completed within a fixed time-frame. This will start with basic single ship exercises, progressing on to multi-unit and task group level exercises for the intermediate and advanced levels. Warfighting training for the Command Headquarters will follow a similar training cycle culminating in an exercise by the various HQs.

To extract maximum value and increase the robustness of our training, we need realistic and rigorous two-sided exercises. These will be based on realistic threat scenarios and 'threat' strategies as defined by a specialist 'Threat' Agency. This agency will draw on experts from the intelligence community and the Institute of Maritime Warfare. They will maintain a constant and accurate update of capability developments of possible enemies. In this way, they will be able to postulate the strategy of the threat and role-play as the enemy in place of our traditional controllers for higher level tactical training.

Wargaming exercises should be focused towards supporting and evaluating the navy's six capability areas as detailed in our Operational Concept Formulation. This will validate the navy's core capabilities in a naval campaign.

To ensure we draw the correct lessons from our exercises, a credible assessment system must be put in place. Assessment teams comprising warfare experts with operational experience will be formed. These teams will provide objective assessments on the performance of ship teams and the HQs. These teams will also assist the commanders levels to fine tune specific warfare skills of their subordinate units between inspections.

In order to ensure a closed loop warfighting system, lessons learnt from exercises must be captured and infused into our doctrine development process. The Doctrine Development and Management System will be set up for this purpose. It will draw upon a central depository in IMW which houses the RSN's corporate warfighting wisdom, including all the lessons learnt from past exercises. It will also facilitate warfare specialists throughout the RSN in giving their inputs to warfare issues, thus harnessing the corporate thinking power of the Navy. Together with Fleet and COSCOM, who are the lead agencies for doctrine development, IMW will put the resulting new doctrines and tactics through vigorous testing using Operational Analysis and OT & E. The tested products will then be quickly disseminated to the operational units for application.

An exciting new development promising unprecedented realism and integration of warfighting training is the Vision for SAF Simulators or VSS 2000 masterplan. The RSN's focus in VSS 2000 is to support our drive to Train Virtual, Fight Real. VSS 2000 must also provide seamless integration for HQ RSN vertically within the RSN warfighting command chain and horizontally across to the other service command posts. This process has already begun with the Naval Wargaming System targetted at inter-command post exercises.

Under VSS 2000, the training system shall ride on the actual operational systems in the form of CIC embedded trainers. This materialises the concept of Train As You Fight. Operational systems will be able to support training requirements by the simple flick of a switch from the normal operational mode.

Shore tactical trainers should be able to exercise with ships and aircraft at sea through live training systems. These systems will also provide realistic engagement results between aircraft and ships to allow them to evaluate their engagement effectiveness.

Riding on the virtual battlefield created by VSS 2000 , operational plan rehearsals can now more accurately zoom into operational bottlenecks. Potential problems can be identified in good time and refinements made to existing battleplans.


What you have just read about were some highlights of initiatives in the training system as guided by the 6 key pillars. To measure our progress towards the desired state of training, a performance framework needs to be developed. The framework will be based on the three principal goals of Organisational, Process and Product Excellence.

For Organisational excellence, we assess the availability of facilities, the quality of materials and instructors, trainer-to-trainee ratio and the accreditation of RSN conducted courses.

For Process excellence, we want to measure our success in capitalising on commercialisation, technology and customer feedback to improve training quality while reducing costs in manpower and training time.

For Product excellence, we want to ensure our trained personnel and ships can perform their tasks and missions. At the operational level, performance indicators are mission based and pegged at the ship and task group levels. At the system level, we will measure the effectiveness of RSN and other RSN command organisations.

To ensure we keep up with the world's best, we want to benchmark our organisation and products against world recognised institutions and best practitioners. Our centres of training excellence must rank with insitutions of international repute, such as the US Naval Academy and the Royal Navy School of Maritime Operations. We will know we have arrived when top navies around the world want to send their best people to be trained by us.

Our products must also emerge top when competing with the best in the world. Our ship teams must match up to the best in combined exercises with top navies. Our officers and specialists must continue to produce outstanding results in prestigious courses that they attend with the best practitioners.


In conclusion, to develop a training system that is 'world class' for the RSN is not simply emulating the best practices of others. We do not always have the luxury of resources some established navies have. We need to recognise our own unique circumstances and take into account our constraints of costs, manpower, training time and training areas. Our training system must therefore be unique, and tailored to meet our larger corporate objectives.

The strategies and concepts highlighted above will give the RSN the unique training system it needs to achieve its vision of world class standards. Some of the planned framework and organisations are in place, and some of the supporting technology and infrastructure are in the pipeline. It is now crucial for our people to operationalise the initiatives we have put in place and play their part in building a training system worthy of a world class Navy.

Note: The author wishes to thank MAJ Harris Chan,, MAJ Tan Kai Cheong and CPT Keith Lim for their contributions.

MAJ Lim Khia Teck is presently the Commanding Office of a Patrol Vessel. Awarded the SAF Overseas Merit Scholarship, MAJ Lim holds a First Class (Hons) degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from King's College, London.

Last updated: 18-Jul-2005






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