02 Juli 2009

3rd Generation SAF Taking Shape, Says DPM Teo

2 Juli 2009

Mr Teo in a BIONIX II Infantry Fighting Vehicle, observing as 2nd Lieutenant Lim Ming Liang explains the networked capabilities of the Battlefield Management System. (photo : Mindef)

It has been five years since the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) embarked on its 3rd Generation journey, and the key building blocks are all in place.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean shared this with the media during an interview on 26 Jun, ahead of SAF day celebrations on 1 Jul.

"You can now see the shape of this 3rd Generation SAF," he added.

Highlighting the three key elements of this transformation, Mr Teo said the SAF is now a modernised, networked force, capable of carrying out a wider spectrum of operations, and manned by committed people.

Commenting on the SAF's evolution into a modernised force, he cited examples of its upgrading of second-hand equipment, such as the recently launched RSS Archer submarine, and the replacement of its E2C early warning aircraft and SW1 armoured tanks with G550 AEW aircraft and Leopard 2A4 tanks respectively.

Other recent additions to the SAF's arsenal include the Formidable-class stealth frigates, the Hermes 450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) first F15SG fighters.

The SAF's edge lies in the networked capabilities of these machines, which provide more speed, precision, mobility and combat power.

"They are able to exchange information with one another and...call upon the total capabilities of the SAF," said Mr Teo, who witnessed UAVs, artillery systems, Apache helicopters and F-16s operating as one integrated force during Exercise Wallaby in Australia last year.

Complemented by such hardware, the SAF is now capable of carrying out a wider spectrum of operations, which include contributions to multinational anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

A Landing Ship Tank (LST) with two Super Pumas on board, was deployed to the Gulf of Aden in April this year, while various medical, construction and engineering teams have been sent to the Oruzgan and Bamiyan provinces in Afghanistan since 2007.

These missions have been good operational experiences for servicemen, said Mr Teo. Although such deployments are not without risks, he expressed his confidence that all SAF servicemen are well-trained to handle such situations.

To mitigate risks like rocket attacks in Afghanistan, the SAF is prepared to contribute UAVs for surveillance and a Weapon Locating Radar to provide early warning.

Re-organisation within the SAF has helped widen its scope of operations. A UAV Command, formed through the RSAF's revamp in 2007 from a geographically-based structure into five distinct commands, "reflects...the operations we expect the 3rd Generation SAF to undertake," said Mr Teo.

Part of the SAF's modernised hardware, the Hermes 450 UAV, has improved detection capability and communication systems to transfer images to control stations in real time.

The SAF has also undertaken a multi-Service and multi-agency approach, with the formation of Island Defence Headquarters in 2001 and Maritime Security Task Force in January this year.
This July, the SAF will unveil a Special Operations Task Force, combining all the special operations forces in the SAF, "so that they can work together much more cohesively...and much more effectively," Mr Teo said.

As the SAF transforms, people who are committed and capable of handling the SAF's current and future capabilities and operations are needed.

The rising importance of small unit leaders, coinciding with more well-educated, able young people serving National Service, "enables us to give them more meaningful things to do, and draw upon their capabilities to build a much more capable SAF," he said.

In May, new human resource schemes were rolled out, including the extension of officers' retirement age from 45 to 50, more opportunities for personal and professional development of Warrant Officers, and the introduction of a new 3rd Warrant Officer rank.

The MSTF in action, featuring a Police Coast Guard vessel (front) and a Republic of Singapore Navy's Anti-submarine patrol vessel (back) closing in on a small boat, suspected to be a threat.

Besides reflecting the desire of some officers to stay longer in the SAF, such initiatives also "recognise the capabilities of the type of people that we want to take in for the Warrant Officer Corps to be the backbone of the SAF," shared Mr Teo.

Also, the introduction of a Military Domain Experts Scheme in May reflects the SAF's need for competencies in specific areas of engineering, technical and intelligence. Under this scheme, regulars can experience progression and continuous learning till they are 60.

Acknowledging that the SAF still has some way to go before its transformation is complete, Mr Teo concluded: "It's not finished yet...but you can now see the shape of this 3rd Generation SAF. There's still much work to be done over several more years.

"The SAF will continue to look at new technologies and new capabilities "which allow us to do things better - more effectively, more efficiently, more cost-effectively."

About The 3rd Generation SAF :

Capable of a Spectrum of Operations
The 3rd Generation SAF will possess the capabilities to fight decisively in war and respond flexibly in peacetime for counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid.
Holistic Advancements
Besides fighting strength, the 3rd Generation SAF will also see improvements to administration, training, human resource management, planning and logistics.
Focused on People and Values
The 3rd Generation SAF will continue to rely on the dynamism, will and competence of its people. It will remain steadfast to the core values that have nurtured our people.
Technologically Advanced
The 3rd Generation SAF will continue to employ state-of-the-art technology to gain an asymmetric edge over its potential adversaries, such as in areas of precision strike, advanced networks and unmanned systems.
Integrated and Networked
Forces operating on land, in the air and on/under the sea would be interconnected and able to fight co-operatively.

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