Singapore Armed Forces (abbreviation: SAF,
Malay: Angkatan Bersenjata Singapura,
Simplified Chinese: ; ) is the
military arm of the Total Defence of Singapore; as well as the military component of the Ministry of
The SAF comprises three branches: the
, the Republic of Singapore Air
(RSAF) and the Republic of Singapore Navy
The SAF protects the interests, sovereignty and territorial
integrity of Singapore from external threats.
The SAF relies heavily on a large pool of conscripts
in the active and
reserve forces. It has an active strength of around 72,500
personnel and is capable of mobilising over 300,000
role stems from its
strategic geographical location, an asset exploited by local
settlers and foreign colonists alike. Archaeological
excavations have discovered
remnants of forts and other forms of military fortifications in
pre-colonial Singapore. Sir Stamford
, founder of modern Singapore, selected Singapore in
1819 to establish a new colony with the security concerns of
British interests in the Far East
against the Dutch. Thus, Singapore played an active role in British
military interests for decades, particular in the years leading up
to the world wars.
The Singapore Armed Forces has its humble origin in the Straits Settlements
, formed in 1922), which in turn
had its roots in the Singapore
, formed in 1888). The Motto
of the SVA
is "In Oriente Primus"
( ), which is
still in use today by the artillery formations of Singapore Army.
In 1915 it helped suppress the mutiny
of Sepoys in Singapore
World War II, the SSVF took
part in the Battle of
Singapore but most of its members were captured on 15
February 1942 when their positions were overrun.
end of World War 2, the SSVF
was re-constituted in 1948,
but the Singapore Volunteer Force (SVF
) in the
was absorbed into the Singapore Military Forces (SMF,
which is the predecessor of SAF) following the disbandment of the
in 1954. Subsequently in 1961, SMF was renamed as
Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
At the time it achieved independence in 1965 however, Singapore's
military consisted of only two infantry regiments, commanded by
British officers and made up of mostly non-Singapore residents. The
small nation, surrounded by its much larger neighbors believed that
it needed a larger force. To that end, Singapore secretly contacted
Israel, which sent military advisers who helped Singapore
set up a defence force modeled in part after the IDF.
Singapore Armed Forces Day is commemorated on July 1 with an annual
Deterrence and diplomacy have been the fundamental tenets of
Singapore's military defence policy. Through the years, the
military has developed extensive links with armed forces from other
countries. In recent years, there has also been an
increased emphasis on international peace-keeping and relief
operations, notably the peace-keeping operations in East Timor and
the Persian Gulf and disaster relief in the Indian Ocean
earthquake-tsunami of 2004, 2005 Nias earthquake and 2006
Yogyakarta earthquake in Central Java, Indonesia.
to military and strategic analysts, such as Tim Huxley in
Defending the Lion City, Singapore is known to be using a forward-defence military doctrine.
from MINDEF describe the SAF as a deterrent force. The SAF's
declared mission statement is to "enhance Singapore's peace and
security through deterrence and diplomacy, and shoun a relatively
quick and cost-effective fashion. Today, a career military force of
32,700 is supplemented by 39,800 men on active National Service
duty. The main force actually comprises 350,000 or so
Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (ORNSmen).
The SAF's policy towards Malays
share a religion and ethnic ties with Singapore's largest neighbors
Malaysia and Indonesia, has been a source of controversy over the
years. Malays were virtually excluded from conscription from the
beginning of the draft in 1967 until 1977 and, after the policy was
eased, were assigned mainly to serve in the police and civil
defence (fire brigade), not active combat roles. In 1987,Lee Hsien Loong
(then Second Minister for
Defence) stated that "If there is a conflict, if the SAF is called
to defend the homeland, we do not want to put any of our soldiers
in a difficult position where his emotions for the nation may be in
conflict with his religion" and in The Roar of the Lion
(2007), military analyst Sean Walsh claimed that
"official discrimination against the Malay population remains an
open secret". The Ministry of Defence contests the charge, noting
that there are "Malay pilots, commandos and air defence personnel"
and stating that "the proportion of eligible Malays selected for
specialist and officer training is similar to the proportion for
Women are exempt from National Service, but have served in both
combat and non-combat roles, some as combat officers, but mostly in
clerical and logistic positions in the earlier years. The range of
positions available to women has been expanded gradually, but is
still limited. In July 2007, the SAF launched an exhibition
highlighting the contributions of women in the armed forces.
All fit and able-bodied Singaporean men are enlisted into military
service, or Full-Time National Service (NSF). It is compulsory for
all said men who have reached 18 years of age and are not deferred
for educational reasons.
Full-time national service (NSF) was initially three years for
commissioned officers and two years for other ranks, but it was
later changed to two years and six months for soldiers with the
rank of Corporal or higher, and two years for those with the rank
of Lance Corporal or lower. In June 2004, NSF was shortened to two
years for all full-time national servicemen (NSFs), regardless of
rank, due to changes in population demographics and manpower
requirements. Upon completion of their NSF stint, servicemen will
be considered as having reached their operationally-ready date
(ORD) and will be known as operationally-ready national servicemen
(NSmen). Most NSmen will have to go through a 10-year cycle of
military training with their assigned NS unit. NSmen are called up
annually for training, courses and physical fitness tests.
combatant troops go through a 3-month Basic Military Training (BMT), held
either at the Basic Military Training Centre on the offshore island of Pulau Tekong, or at the various military units which directly
accept mono-intake recruits.
Recruits go through courses
including field craft, basic jungle survival, camouflaging,
operating their personal weapon and basic marksmanship.
Non-mono-intake recruits are also assessed
during BMT to spot potential officers and specialists, who are
thereafter posted to the Officer Cadet
School or the School of Infantry Specialists respectively.
Other recruits are posted to
various units or schools, where they may continue on specialised
Due to limited space within Singapore's territorial land and
waters, some training programmes and facilities are located
Initially, commissioned officers were drawn exclusively from the
ranks of Singaporeans who had completed their GCE A levels
or embarked on tertiary studies. While the
requirements have since been relaxed, the SAF has still been
criticized for "using a promotion system that is based more on
education and scholarships than on proven competence".
Officer receive their initial
leadership training at the tri-service Officer Cadet
School (OCS) in the SAFTI Military Institute (SAFTI MI), which is the Home of the Officer
Corps. As they progress in their career, they may
undergo further formal military education at the SAF Advanced Schools and the Singapore
Command and Staff College, also at SAFTI MI.
parallel, Specialist first
receive leadership training at the School of
Infantry Specialists (SISPEC) at Pasir Laba Camp, home of the Warrant Officer and
Future Platoon Sergeants
and Company Sergeant Majors
further instruction at the Advanced Specialist Training Wing (ASTW)
in the SISPEC. Specialists undergo further education at the
SAF Warrant Officer
before receiving their appointments as Warrant
OCS and SISPEC both have an infantry
curriculum; special-to-arms training for both officers and WOSPECs
is conducted at various training institutes and establishments such
as the SAF Medical
(SMTI), Artillery Institute
Engineer Training Institute
(ETI), Armour Training Institute
Supply & Transport
(STC), Ordnance Engineering
is the official journal of
the SAF. It is a quarterly publication distributed to all Officers
and Warrant Officers, which helps with their ongoing professional
Foreign defence relations
is a member of the Five
Power Defence Arrangements together with the United
Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia.
Designed to replace the former defence role
of the British in Singapore and Malaysia, the arrangement obligates
members to consult in the event of external threat and provides for
stationing Commonwealth forces in Singapore.
Singapore has consistently supported a strong U.S. military
presence in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1990, the U.S. and Singapore signed a Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) which allows the U.S. access to Singapore facilities at
Airbase and the Sembawang
Under the MOU, a U.S. Navy
logistics unit was established in
Singapore in 1992
; U.S. fighter aircraft deploy
periodically to Singapore for exercises, and a number of U.S.
military vessels visit Singapore. The MOU was amended in 1999 to permit U.S. naval vessels to berth at the
Base, which was completed in early 2001.
Singapore's defence resources have also been used for international
missions included United Nations
peacekeeping abroad in areas such as Kosovo, Kuwait and East Timor, participating in the multinational force in Iraq,
sending military equipment and personnel to assist in the humanitarian rescue
and relief efforts in the United States after Hurricane
Katrina, and establishing medical and dental assets for use by
the Afghan people.
under the command and control of the Ministry of
Defence (MINDEF), which is headed by the defence minister.
defence minister is Teo Chee Hean
also formerly the Chief of Navy who crossed over to the political
Under the SAF Act the president has the authority to raise and
maintain the SAF. The president also has the power to form, disband
or amalgamate units within the SAF.
The Armed Forces Council (AFC) administers matters relating to the
SAF under the SAF Act. The AFC consists of:
- ministers who are responsible for defence matters and any other
minister who has been assigned to assist them;
- the Permanent Secretaries of MINDEF;
- the Chief of Defence Force (CDF);
- the Chief of Army (COA);
- the Chief of Air Force (CAF);
- the Chief of Navy (CNV); and
- not more than four other members as the president may appoint
if the president, acting in his discretion, concurs with the advice
of the prime minister.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) consists of the:
- Army (Three Combined Arms
Divisions: 3 Div, 6 Div & 9 Div, two Army Operational Reserve
Divisions, 21st and 25th, and one island defence command : 2
People's Defence Forces)
- Air Force
(Seventeen squadrons and four air bases)
- Navy (Eight
squadrons and two naval bases)
The SAF is headed by the Chief of Defence Force, usually a
) and he is assisted by
the chiefs of the respective services, who are two-star
generals/admirals (or Major-General
). The current CDF is
Lieutenant General Desmond Kuek Bak Chye
Joint Staff ---|
| | | |
Director COA CAF CNV
Supporting the combat role of the SAF, are
other governmental organisations of the Ministry of
Defence (MINDEF), such as the Defence Science
and Technology Agency (DSTA), the Central
Manpower Base (CMPB), and the Military
Security Department (MSD).
Domestic technology companies
also play a role in building up Singapore's military capabilities,
particularly the government-linked Singapore Technologies
(Formerly known as Chartered Industries of
), which designed and built some of the SAF's
more advanced weaponry and equipment based on specific local
requirements which may be expensive for foreign companies to adapt
The Special Operations Task Force which includes Special Operations
Force, the Naval Diving Unit and other SAF combat forces integrated
under one command to combat common terrorist threats.
Technology in the SAF
The SAF utilises technology as "force
", especially in the area of C4I
integration which will enable its various units to fight in an
integrated manner. The army, air force and navy are linked via
advanced data-links and networks to enable coordinated attacks and
support for various units and forces. Technology is an important
element in the SAF's transformation into a 3rd Generation Fighting
The SAF acknowledges that technology is crucial for overcoming the
limitations of Singapore's small population. Having consistently
had one of the largest defence budgets in the Asia-Pacific region
, Singapore has
focused on maintaining its spending on sophisticated and superior
weaponry. Research and experimentation to develop a technological
edge began as early as 1971 even though the SAF then had only
rudimentary capabilities. The effort started off with a 3-man team.
 MINDEF is one of the largest employers of engineers and
scientists in Singapore and the SAF continues to devote
considerable resources to defence R&D and experimentation - 5%
and 1% of the defence budget, respectively.
education system has also produced national servicemen who can be
trained to operate SAF's sophisticated platforms and systems.
In Sep 08, the SAF officially opened its Murai Urban Training Facility
to hone the SAF's networked urban operations capability. The MUTF
resembles a typical town and allows the soldiers to train
realistically in an urban setting. In the same month, the SAF's new combat uniform
as well as the Advanced Combat Man System
also unveiled for the first time.
The country also has an established military manufacturing industry
is responsible for the design and development of the following
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