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 “The 3rd Gen SAF will be able to (1) conduct a widened spectrum of operations, (2) be a more capable and effective fighting force, and (3) have our people as the permanent competitive advantage” – LG Perry Lim, former Chief of Defence Force [1]

A strong defence lays the foundation for peace and progress in Singapore. The mission of MINDEF and the SAF is to enhance Singapore’s peace and security through deterrence and diplomacy, and should these fail, to secure a swift and decisive victory. The SAF also does our part in contributing to a regional and global security architecture that helps to maintain a stable external environment conducive to Singapore’s interests.

The 3rd Generation SAF is a strong and integrated force that operates across a full spectrum of operations. We have developed our capabilities and organised our forces to primarily protect our nation against direct threats, and also respond flexibly in peacetime to transnational security challenges posed by terrorism, piracy and natural disasters.

Our Transformation Journey

When the SAF first started in the 1960s, the most urgent focus for what we now call the 1st Generation SAF was to provide for Singapore’s basic defence. The 2nd Generation SAF, from the early 80s to late 90s, saw the upgrading and modernising of our Army, Navy and Air Force. Post-9/11, there was a shift in the security landscape, which widened to include non-conventional threats such as terrorism and piracy. Resource constraints and the emergence of advanced warfighting technologies also drove the SAF to rethink our development trajectory. To meet new security challenges effectively, the SAF embarked on a 3rd Generation transformation journey in 2004 and continues today to upgrade its capabilities into an advanced networked force.

A Strong and Professional SAF

Today, the SAF is respected as a strong and professional armed forces. The SAF has developed leading-edge capabilities, networked together as an integrated fighting system. The SAF’s well-trained and professional soldiers make use of networks to sense faster, manoeuvre forces effectively, and apply combat power precisely across the battlefield. For example, the SAF demonstrated the ability to carry out integrated strike in Exercise FORGING SABRE, where air and ground troops relayed information over networks to an integrated command post, which then directed shooters to neutralise targets. The whole fighting system was linked in real-time, allowing the SAF to strike targets with a swifter and deadlier punch.

The SAF maintains a high level of operational readiness to defend Singapore against threats from the land, sea, or air. In order to defend Singapore against a widened spectrum of threats, including non-state threats such as terrorism and piracy, the SAF’s task forces bring together capabilities across the SAF, and work together with other national agencies, to respond swiftly and effectively to potential threats.

Contributing to Global and Regional Security

“This generation is witnessing significant change in the global order and the new security challenges that come with it… We must commit to working together to building stronger international institutions and constructive partnerships at both the bilateral and multilateral levels, based on shared interests, aspirations and principles.”

                                                            - Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence [2]

Beyond our shores, the SAF continues to play our role as a responsible member of the global community to ensure peace and stability in our region. The SAF contributes to international security and reconstruction missions, as well as in disaster relief operations in many parts of the world. The SAF also participates actively in bilateral and multilateral exercises to enhance the working relationships with our defence partners. We seek to sustain a strong web of defence relationships, as well as contribute to a robust, open, and inclusive regional security architecture.

Our People and Commitment to Defence

“I am heartened to witness, in my visits to units and training exercises, the high level of commitment, fighting spirit, toughness and professionalism displayed by our soldiers, sailors and airmen, both regulars and national servicemen.”

                                                            - Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence [3]

At the heart of all our fighting capabilities are capable and committed soldiers, sailors, and airmen. The SAF continues to rely on the dynamism, will, and professionalism of our people to achieve our mission. As our systems and operations become more complex, our people will continue to build deep expertise through realistic training and continual learning. The SAF is committed to nurturing leaders to advance the SAF into the future, as well as being able to engage and lead their men and women towards continued commitment to defence.

As a nation, we have to rely on ourselves to defend our way of life. National Service remains a crucial and indispensible element of our nation’s defence. Our NSFs and NSmen form the backbone of the SAF, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Regulars to form a potent fighting force. The SAF remains committed to deliver a meaningful and positive NS experience that will train and bond our people to defend Singapore and our way of life.

Next Generation SAF

“As we did for the 3rd Gen SAF transformation efforts, the SAF must once again transform to the Next Gen SAF to be better positioned for the future”

                                                            - Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence [4]

The SAF is taking critical steps to protect Singapore against new threats in an uncertain world. As part of the Next Generation SAF, the SAF is (1) building up a new cyber command to deal with cyber-attacks and hybrid wars, (2) developing itself as a global tech player and (3) building a new SAFTI City. The cyber command will oversee policies, train cyber units to monitor and defend our networks 24/7 from threats, and will assess vulnerabilities, detect attempted intrusions and breaches in the system. The SAF is also committed to become a global defence tech player by investing in robotics, analytics and artificial intelligence. This will allow the SAF to better leverage on technology to combat new threats. Also, the creation of the new SAFTI City reflects the SAF’s commitment to train against conventional threats and terrorism. It will comprise of both conventional and urban terrain and seeks to allow any battalion to fight across different terrains as they would do in real life missions.


[1] Speech by Chief of Defence Force at the MINDEF Workplan Seminar 28 Mar 16

[2] Speech by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the 11th Shangri-La Dialogue – 3 Jun 2012

[3] SAF Day Message 2012 by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen – 2 Jul 2012

[4] Speech by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the Committee of Supply Debate 2017 – 3 Mar 2017