How does Singapore's Special Forces compare with the other Special Forces in S.E.Asia

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How does Singapore's Special Forces compare with the other Special Forces in S.E. Asia? 30 years ago I know the training was quite tough and comprehensive, how about these days? Given that Singapore's army is a conscript one and have only a small pool of regulars I was wondering of what standard the special forces are as compared to other SE Asian armies.
[Mod edit: Post 9-11, expenditure on this area has gone up - search under the key words, Ex APEX, Ex Northstar (in particular, read up on Ex Northstar VII), Ex Highcrest (Part 1 and Part 2) and Deep Sabre II (a Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) exercise).

IMHO the talent pool we can draw our Special Forces (SF) from is small, by virtue of our small population; and Singapore faces many limitations in developing specific SF related competencies for a small country/city that is not at war. For example, there is no gun crime in Singapore, so SF medics cannot be exposed to gun-shot wounds or multiple limb amputations from IEDs in Singapore. Therefore select SF medics have to go abroad to be exposed and trained in that clinical area.

The SAF also lacks winter training, as it is a army of the tropics. To compensate, there is a training freezer in Hendon Camp, to help winter deployment teams, destined for Afghanistan mentally prepare for operations at sub-zero temperatures. They get to strip and assemble weapons, learn how to use winter gear and other related tasks in a freezer, before they go to a country with seasonal weather for pre-deployment training. In the recent past, medical teams train in Holland, with the Dutch, as part of pre-deployment training. For six years, all these teams are then sent to Kuwait or another country nearby (staging area before theatre entry) for them to experience desert conditions, as the last step before theater entry. At the staging area, they are issued their weapons and ammo for the flight into Afghanistan in support of Operation Blue Ridge.

Singapore does not have gun crime, winter or desert conditions. We cannot replicate some conditions realistically and these are problems that money or training abroad would not fix - which is why the SAF needs to deploy to support coalition efforts to learn how to operate in conditions the SAF does not face in routine unit training.

When the first Singaporean Commando went to Afghanistan in 1997, he did not even have desert cammo. Through continuous operations over the years, defence science has developed customised gear, such as, inflatable body armour to support ship boarding operations or even portable through-wall surveillance technology to see through brick walls. Numerous incremental defence science innovations have been made to support SAF operations at home or abroad. [nomedia][/nomedia] ]

I have been away from Singapore for many years and did my national service there in the early 80's when on the whole it was rather tough whatever service you came from...
[Mod edit: MINDEF acknowledged the SOF's existence on 20 February 1997. Since 1997, MINDEF has been more forthcoming with information, including the 2009 announcement on the Special Operations Task Force (SOTF); a force that includes both the Commandos and the Naval Diving Unit (NDU). With the joint headquarters, the SOTF includes planners from the RSAF and the RSN to tap on their service-specific knowledge. To develop a common understanding, SOTF troopers are required to undergo an eight-month Special Forces Qualification Course that imparts the fundamentals. Following that, they head back to their respective units for specialised courses.[nomedia][/nomedia]

MINDEF has a press release on the recent change of command parade (see Army Facebook for pictures of Commandos in desertcam (Operation Blue Ridge), multiCam (on trial with SOTF), and traditional all black uniforms).

I am guessing you are out of touch with these developments; including the increase in operations tempo after 9-11, to support Singapore's overseas commitments. There is now a blurring of traditional notions of external and internal defence. These new range of threats now require a greater degree of intelligence and operational integration, that is able to sustain a level of higher alertness and operational responsiveness in moments of peace. The SOTF has the capability to:-

(i) conduct special operations tasks that requires highly specialized equipment, and training beyond the norm for elite conventional forces, including insertion/extraction from submarines, or the conduct of high altitude parachute operations to insert men and boats/equipment in restricted areas undetected. These teams/platoons are small in size and are to be used in operations of short duration at home or abroad. This would include deep reconnaissance, beach reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, hostage rescue (on land and in maritime domains), counter-piracy, non-compliant boarding of ships (to intercept weapons of mass destruction), clearance diving, salvage, sub-rescue, and non-combatant evacuation of Singaporeans abroad; or

(ii) work with conventional forces to conduct integrated missions at up to battalion size for raids. There is a strong focus developing a capability to conduct raids on defended targets instead of forceable entry. This includes the capability to conduct heliborne or amphibious missions at home or in the near abroad with support from other elite units or the high readiness company from the Army Developmental Force (1ADF). 1ADF is an evergreen elite infantry unit that provides the 21st Division with a classified capability that has often been deployed as part of force protection measures in higher risk overseas operations in support of US CENTCOM and 5th Fleet requirements (see 1ADF at the urban operations live-fire range: [nomedia][/nomedia] ). The high readiness company has an annual currency budget (for ammo and training) that exceeds by many times that of normal battalions mainly because it needs to be able to deploy on short notice.​

Further, an attempt has been made at integration to enable the transition of Singapore's disparate national agencies from troubled peace to hot war in a coordinated manner. Beyond enhancing critical infrastructure to withstand attacks, the SAF and Home Team agencies have fine-tuned some operational mechanisms to protect vital public and private installations around Singapore. This is most visible in the creation of 8 and 9 SIR (as POI Battalions under 2PDF), along with increased troop deployments to safeguard Changi International Airport and petro-chemical hub on Jurong island.]

do the commandos still run 10km full battle order in under 70 mins. for example?
[Mod edit: Do you understand the current joint SF selection process and what used to be called hell week (renamed as team building week)? Meeting passing standards like running the 10km SOC is not an indicator of capability, as it is also a requirement for a Physical Training Instructor (PTI). A simple physical conditioning task, that a PTI can meet, does not tell you much about operational capability.]

how would one gauge the standard of special troops anyway as they are secretive in nature?
[Mod edit: The local courses conducted by the Commando Training Wing or at NDU are benchmarked by cadre cross attendance of foreign courses - Q-course, BUD/S and so on. There are lots of changes but where to start? Unarmed combat is no longer taught, as it is lacking realism and relevance (it has been replaced by another deadly art to meet current operational deployment needs in the Middle East region or even counter piracy deployments). Singaporeans do top their class in these foreign courses and have conducted a consistent tempo of operations abroad.

Singapore SF also train with other foreign SF, with Exercise Tricrab (the trilateral Australian, American and Singaporean clearance diving and EOD exercise - [nomedia][/nomedia]) and Exercise Sandfisher (between the NDU's Underwater Demolition Group and US Recon Marines - [nomedia][/nomedia]) being some of many examples.]

30 years ago they were skinny blokes but extremely fit, has the increased standard of living produced a better and fitter crop of troopers or has it softened them ?
[Mod edit: After selection, there is also multi-year process of courses and training to impart the basic skill sets to operate in a tier-one special operations team. A typical SOTF team member will attend:

(1) Basic Commando Training
(2) Commando Section Leader Course
(3) Basic Airborne Course
(4) Basic Military Freefall Course
(5) Advance Military Freefall (High Altitude Parachute Operations)
(6) Basic trade course: eg. Combat Medic Specialist level II / Para Medic Level II
(7) Combat Diver Course
(8) Advance trade course: eg. Underwater Medic Level I
(9) Foreign and local courses too many to mention, such as the Ranger Course or the Q-course (eight months).​

Typically, what is described above is a four year process. The NDU will still drive the doctrine development and training related to diving as they are the subject matter experts on the matter. Likewise, the Commandos will do so for parachute operations (see [nomedia][/nomedia] ).]

These are just some of the queries I would like to address and all comments are welcomed.
[Mod edit: Please have a look at this Backgrounder on the SAF and this Pointer 2013 article: 'Whither Special Forces? The strategic relevance of special operations'.

Singaporean imagery analysts deployed to Afghanistan under Operation Blue Ridge provide a niche ISR capability to aid coalition decision making in RC South. Click here, to learn more about the the deployment of a UAV Task Force to Tarin Kowt, Oruzgan from October 2010 to January 2011. For details see: [nomedia][/nomedia]

While the SAF has strong ISR capabilities, the Singapore Government's unwillingness to deploy Singaporean special forces, in a direct action role to Afghanistan (under ISAF command), puts limits on their ability to learn their direct action tradecraft under fire. IMHO, Afghanistan is really the Olympics of NATO, Australian and NZ special forces. Singaporean special forces have not been allowed to participate in the direct action role because of the abundance of governmental caution.

Below is a 2009 video of General Casey, speaking to SSG Lim SY (a Commando who is airborne, military freefall and ranger qualified) that deployed under Operation Blue Ridge. In SSG Lim's case he was deployed to do reconstruction work in Bamiyan (along with the NZDF's PRT): [nomedia][/nomedia]

From 19 to 21 October 2009, the SAF hosted 350 participants for the SF Commanders Conference (held in conjunction with the 10th ASEAN Chiefs of Army Multilateral Meeting and the 19th ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet). For more details, see here. The SAF and TNI also conducted a Joint Counter-Terrorism (CT) exercise held in Singapore from 14 to 16 July 2012. About 150 personnel from the SAF and TNI participated in the three-day exercise, which comprised a professional sharing workshop and component CT training. If you are interested on regional developments, do take a look at the pictures of Exercise Chandrapura 2013, a bilateral exercise between SAF's Commandos and Indonesia's KOPASSUS. There is even a HD video of the jump. When Indonesian SF need help, they are willing to call upon the SAF for technical assistance. In 1996, the Indonesian and Singapore armed forces worked together in a hostage rescue operation in West Papua.

As retired US Army General Donn Starry once wrote:

"Wars are won by the courage of soldiers, the quality of leaders, and the excellence of training. Of the soldier’s courage, there is no doubt. The quality of our leaders can be enhanced by the excellence of training, training that is realistic, meaningful, and thorough; training that adheres to standards that are understood and achievable; training that provides the intangible spark that convinces our soldiers and our leaders that they can and must win the battles of the next war; training that gives them the will and the knowledge that they are the best; training that provides them the skills and craftsmanship to do the job."​

It is not just fitness alone that matters but also training that is realistic, meaningful, and thorough to provide the intangible spark under the SAF's current leadership competency model with five competency domains. Four are considered “core competencies” that directly affect leadership performance, and there is a fifth “meta-competency” that is required for leader adaptability and growth. The cultivation of the intangible spark includes the sponsorship of Commando mountain climbing teams for adventure training trips to a couple of mountains (as the SAF lacks mountain and winter warfare training). For example, Col. Ang Yau Choon, a Commando (who completed BUD/S, earning the right to wear the SEAL trident), has conquered Mount Everest, in one of these climbing trips. The Commando coat-of-arms and the Singapore Flag was brought up Mount Everest on 22 May 2007. There can be no doubt that the SOTF are well trained and led, with two fine examples of Commando officers below:-

(i) Col. (Ret) Lo Yong Poo, was appointed as Military Adviser to the United Nations Special Mission in Afghanistan (UNSMA) in 1997. He successfully conducted the helicopter evacuation of 15 UN staff members and 2 NGO personnel trapped in Mazar-i-Sharif on 15 September 1997. LTC Lo received the SAF Medal for Distinguished Act, for remaining behind in an area that was overrun by insurgents to see to the safe extrication of UN officials after extensive fighting broke out during his participation in UNSMA.

(ii) Col. Mike Tan, who is US Army Ranger and Pathfinder trained, served as a Strategic Planner in the J5 Directorate of the US Central Command where he participated in planning in Operation Enduring Freedom. He was awarded the US Army Meritorious Service Medal for his service.]​
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New Member
I don't think a comparison is possible between SpecOps in SEAsia or in the world for that matter. There are a lot of factors involved. Doctrine, training, experience especially under enemy fire, a comparison of equipment, luck, nationalism etc.
[Mod edit: It is clear to the Mod team that you have expressed an opinion that is devoid of content.

1. If you are serious, you could provide an opinion supported by facts from various sources (by typing the article title, publication, author and page number) to show us you have done the work.

2. If you were really interested, you could have started with a discussion on William McRaven's concept of relative superiority in special operations (see his June 1993 NPS Thesis on: The Theory of Special Operations). Every special forces operation can be visualised as an inverted pyramid resting on an narrow apex, top-heavy and easy to topple. At the bottom of the inverted pyramid is planning, which requires simplicity. Contained in the middle of the inverted pyramid are the factors of security and repetition. At the top of the inverted pyramid are the factors of surprise, speed and purpose. The factors in the inverted pyramid enable William McRaven's concept of relative superiority, which can create a state of tactical paralysis in even a well prepared opponent that knows an attack is coming. He states that relative superiority is achieved at a pivotal moment in engagement. The initiative held by the special forces attack could shock the adversary into a state of temporal paralysis where they momentarily lose their ability to respond; a vital opening for special forces to take advantage of to ensure mission success. For details of a US Special Forces raid, see this 2011 New Yorker article, 'Getting Bin Laden: What happened that night in Abbottabad.'

3. On 26 March 1991, four Pakistani terrorists, claiming to be members of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), hijacked SQ 117 from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur with 129 passengers and crew. On 27 March 1991, members of the SOF stormed the plane after it landed in Singapore, killing the four Pakistani hijackers and freeing all passengers and crew. However, this is not the only terrorist related activity that is linked to events occurring in Malaysian territory - RSIS has some details here. Please note that these are security events that occur on Malaysian soil (and the parties need to cooperate). For details, see this video which includes narration by the team leader of the SOF: [nomedia=""]Integrated - SQ117 Museum Installation - YouTube[/nomedia]

4. After the SQ117 hijack from Subang Airport, instead of expressing sympathy, and promising to tighten security or increasing security cooperation, the Malaysians chose to conduct, an combined airborne assault exercise with Indonesia's TNI, codenamed Pukul Habis (Malay for 'Total Wipeout') on 9 August 1991, with a drop zone in southern Johor just 18km from Singapore.

5. In the 1990s, there were a number of incidents where decisions made by the Malaysian government/armed forces that triggered mobilization of the SAF in Singapore. According to a senior MAF officer, the MAF was also put on alert, in late 1998, as politicians on both sides argued over the status of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) checkpoint, at the border.]

For example, rich countries like Singapore could claim to have better equipment, while poorer countries fighting insurgency like the Philippines could claim to have better experience.
[6. More than just experience, silent professionals also talk about relationships (including foreign language skills), logistics, ISR and command and control (C2).

7. Singapore does lack experience in certain types of operations (and has much to learn from others). However, no other ASEAN country has an equivalent air and naval logistics.

8. If the yard stick used to measure current capability is by historical track record, I agree that from a historial perspective, the SAF has limited operational experience in war zones. Especially when compared to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who fought in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Filipinos should be proud of the AFP's past history in the decades of the 1950s and 1960s.

9. But the past is no indicator of current capability. Since 2004 the SAF's operational experience has grown by leaps and bounds, including 998 (who served in Iraq and the Northern Arabian Gulf from 2004 to 2008), 492 (who served in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2013) and 1,200 (who served in CTF-151 - ongoing operations). Currently, the SAF is an Integrated Knowledge-based Command and Control (IKC2) force that has evolved from its humble beginnings. The two main categories of recent internal change to make it more effective, are as follows:

(i) Organisational changes at the SAF level, and the Army level to integrate the different C4I entities throughout the SAF into a community. The three organisational changes include:-

One, the creation of a career path for Intelligence Experts, as a vocation, whose members are groomed in specialised intelligence domains for uniformed personnel who have a keen interest in current affairs, geopolitical development and are technically inclined - their motto: Dominant and Indomitable.

Two, the inauguration of the SAF's C4I Community on 4 April 2012, under the command of a 43-year old two-star rear-admiral (with the same rank as Singapore's Chiefs of the three respective services), holding the dual appointment of Military Intelligence Organisation (MIO) director and chief of the C4I community. Rear-Admiral (two star) Joseph Leong's appointment and promotion to two star, on 30 June 2013, signals how important his role as MIO director and chief of C4I community is in today's information-driven battlefield.

Three, on 10th July 2013, the Army Intelligence Inauguration Parade was held at Pasir Laba Camp. The Army Intelligence's needs and capabilities have grown significantly as the Army transforms into a 3rd Generation fighting force. This Inauguration Parade marks the restructuring of Army Intelligence; it will be organised into staff, command and training functions which are respectively represented by G2-Army, HQ Army Intelligence and the SAF Military Intelligence Institute. The restructured Army Intelligence will provide better focus and supervision to build up Army Intelligence to support our Army's evolving operations. Under this new structure, the C4I Battalions report to Chief Army Intelligence Officer, COL Kuan Meng Ying James Arthur; and whose motto is: First Line of Defence.

(ii) On 13 May 2013, the Singapore Army unveiled its upgraded wide area communications system, which includes the Digitised Trunk Communications System (D-TCS) and the Ku-Band Satellite Communications (SATCOM) system. The D-TCS provides a data network with a bandwidth of 34 megabits per second (Mbps), resulting a 17-fold increase in bandwidth compared to the prior system used. The Ku-Band SATCOM system transfers data at 2Mbps, up from the 1Mbps provided by the previous C-Band SATCOM system. This will improve the data transmission capabilities of the C4I battalions. The 10th and 11th C4I battalions were formed in 2010 through the merger of Signals units and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) units of Army Intelligence.​

10. At an international level, the Singaporean Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) has strong relationships with their ASEAN SF counter-parts in Brunei, Indonesia, and Thailand and a working relationship with the Vietnamese and Malaysians - thanks to efforts to enhance maritime information sharing and regional cooperation in counter terrorism. For example, the Malacca Strait Patrols (comprised of coordinated naval and air patrols by the four littoral states of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand) have dramatically reduced piracy incidents.

11. In August 2013, a Thai court sentenced 2 Iranians to life in prison for their involvement in a February 2012 terror plot directed at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok, Thailand. In connection to this Iranian terror plot, the Thai police are seeking the extradition of Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, who managed to escape to Malaysia. Therefore, there is significant cooperation between ASEAN countries for counter terrorism and in the above case, Iran's export of state sponsored terrorism to SEA. Thanks to defence cooperation between Israel and Thailand, in December 2012, they was able to foil a terror plot by the Hezbollah group, with the arrest of a Lebanese suspect in January 2012. This arrest resulted in the arrest of an agent of Hezbollah (a client terrorist organisation, that is sponsored by Iran and Syria) lifting of the terror alert in Bangkok. Further, in a riot on 11 July 2013, 212 inmates (including the nine terrorist convicts, of which eight have been recaptured) escaped from the Tanjung Gusta Penitentiary in Medan, North Sumatra.

12. In the face of trans-national threats the SAF's C4I and intelligence community has had to make significant changes to cope — see this 2009 article on 'Singapore’s Approach to Counterterrorism'. No ASEAN state is immune from transnational security threats such as terrorism, piracy or natural disasters. Neither is any ASEAN state able to tackle such complex challenges on its own.

13. Collaboration at the policy-making level is complemented by operational-level dialogues and exchanges. For example, Singapore was the first country in SEA to uncover the existence of a robust al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network. In December 2001, Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) informed Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Australia of the existence of JI on their soil. ISD conducted two waves of arrest of JI members, in December 2001 (arrested 13 JI members and 2 others), and in August 2002 (arrested another 21 members). A few months before the Bali bombing in 2002 Singapore identified Amrozi as a terrorist and informed its Indonesian counterpart. Similarly, Singapore informed its Australian counterpart of the existence of a JI network raising funds and recruiting operatives there. In addition to arresting Fathur Rahman al Gozi, a key JI and Moro Islamic Liberation Front operative, Singaporean intelligence enabled the Philippines to uncover arms, ammunition and explosives. Due to the close collaboration between Singapore and Malaysia, the Malaysian Special Branch arrested over three dozen terrorists.

14. Inter-governmental collaboration at counter-terrorism efforts in Southeast Asia (SEA) has resulted in a mixed bag of notable successes in stopping JI linked attacks with some prominent failures. Thanks to a Japanese warning, the 5 March 2010 security alerts issued by three countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore) averted a planned terrorist attack on vessels plying the Malacca Strait. Prior to that in 2009, JI recruited Garuda staff for an aviation attack, which was also foiled. In January 2008, Singapore authorities arrested three men under the Internal Security Act for involvement in activities that posed a potential terrorist threat. Further, in February 2007, Singapore was able to detect a threat from homegrown radicalization with the arrest of Abdul Basheer Kader. On the other hand, prominent failures in counter-terrorism in Indonesia include the 17 July 2009 Jakarta bombings at JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Hotels, the 1 October 2005 2nd Bali bombing, the 9 September 2004 Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta, the 5 August 2003 car bomb at Marriott Hotel, Jakarta, and the 12 October 2002 Bali bombing.

15. While Singapore special forces community is small, they have a command structure, comms, intelligence, ISR and medical support that other ASEAN SF dream of (eg. USV and UAV support from a tertiary air force, a navy whose frigates are IKC2 nodes, and a network centric army with precision attack capabilities thanks to the acquisition of HIMARS).

16. The RSAF is the only tertiary air force in SEA, with the ability to insert/extract special forces within the near abroad (i.e. within 1,000 km of Singapore). A portion of its vision & mission is quoted below:-

"The RSAF is... always ready to deter aggression and defend Singapore and its interests. We will respond decisively to the full spectrum of missions from peace to war as part of an integrated SAF. We will be superior in the air and decisively influence the ground and maritime battles..."

This enhances the strike capability and provides military options to the government in times of tension. Further, the RSAF has the capability to detect, track and engage airborne, ground and maritime targets that is a golden mile ahead of any other air force in SEA. Air power can be used by the SOTF to achieve rapid effects for short periods in theatre entry, and even provide an air bridge to sustain initial operations. However, sealift is a more practicable means of deploying heavier equipment of conventional forces and then sustaining the joint operations of the SOTF and conventional forces. Sealift permits the SAF's land and amphibious forces to transit to theatre, and poise offshore (on vessels that can provide electronic support for special operations, conduct intelligence gathering, function as a node in the C4I network, and serve as stable support weapons platforms), if required. Therefore do not mistake my understanding the SAF's logistics, C4I, intelligence and offensive capabilities as arrogance. The key to understanding the 3G SAF is that Singapore is a status quo rising power, sitting at a major maritime chokepoint (that is interested in limited sea control for specific purposes and supportive of freedom of navigation through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore).

17. Despite the changes and achievements listed above, the Singapore Government has failed in the past. On 17 March 1985 and on 21 December 1986, Palestinian terrorists set off more bombs at or around Faber House, along Orchard Road in Singapore. We believe the bombs were targeted at the Israeli embassy (then located at Faber House) but no one was killed. One of the Palestinian terrorists, Fuad Hassin al-Shara confessed to the bombings when he was captured by the Israelis in 1991. The 21 December 1986 bombing occurred slightly more than 1 month of the then Israeli President Chaim Herzog's visit to Singapore in November 1986. According to Tim Huxley (at page 45 of his book: 'Defending the Lion City'), a state visit by the Israeli President in Nov 1986 "triggered anti-Singapore demonstrations in Malaysia and political controversy lasting several months." Further, I note that Malaysia has diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

18. The most notable recent failure was the 2008 escape of Mas Selamat from ISD custody. If you are interested in learning more on counter-terrorism in SEA, there are old DefenceTalk threads on the Jakarta bombings (3 page thread from 2009), Mas Selamat, a JI operative (2 page thread from 2009). For those that are unfamiliar, the first batch of JI's terrorist operatives in Singapore were captured in 2001, for plotting to conduct terrorist attacks. Please see this US link for more background information on the JI. ]

As for the rest, someone who is more familiar with Singapore's SFs or a former commando could provide better answers.
[19. It is obvious you don't understand existing military-military relationships and intelligence sharing arrangements in SEA - the details of which have been provided above.

20. The Moderators intervene in threads to encourage discussion at an informed level, or to encourage basic research. Your conduct indicates that you are not here to learn, or understand beyond the fortress of your own mistaken assumptions. ]
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Super Moderator
Staff member
@klaXonn and others like you,

Please see my 24 point reply, below.

1. How special are special forces? In contrast to the military of the other founding ASEAN members (whose defence budgets are more than double that of the Philippines):-

(i) the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is barely able to sustain three S211s and about 15 OV-10s. It has struggled to find money to keep more than three C-130s operational. Read the recommendations of the Heritage Foundation: 'Getting the Philippines Air Force Flying Again: The Role of the US—Philippines Alliance,' which has rather harsh things to say; and

(ii) the Philippine Navy (PN) can scarcely patrol its own EEZs and holds the dubious distinction as the only US ally in Asia that does not send its navy ships for counter-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden. Whereas the navies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have ALL sent ships to the Gulf of Aden for counter-piracy patrols. These naval patrols demonstrate the capability to project power abroad. Thailand (the Thai Navy has a YouTube Channel on their operations there - [nomedia=""]ข่าววันที่ 28 ต.ค.53 - YouTube[/nomedia] ) and Singapore (3 rotations, so far - [nomedia=""]The SAF Command Team - CTF 151 - YouTube[/nomedia] ) have by rotation taken command of CTF-151.​

Where is the PN? The PN's contributions to CTF-151 is so tiny and inconsistent. Especially since Filipino merchant seamen, working on merchant ships, are often victims of Somali pirates.

2. Let us take a honest look at the problems faced in the Philippines - as a source of instability in Southeast Asia (SEA). Despite some progress and US military assistance for the last 11 years, the Philippine Government, has not been able to deny terrorists, safe-havens within its own territory because of an inability to address structural and/or local grievances, stop the spread of powerful ideologies within disadvantaged communities and the inability to stop existing groups from mobilising these radicalised individuals from their respective disadvantaged communities.
klaXonn said:
3. Your delusion and complacency knows no bounds. According to the Terrorism Risk Index developed by Maplecroft, Philippines is ranked 8th (under the category of extreme risk) in their report dated 12 Dec 2012. Beyond the failure to address the issue of terrorism in the Philippines, let us start with few facts to begin your education on a system where incompetence and corruption is rewarded (read up on the scandal regarding military comptroller Carlos Garcia). Retired Philippine Army Gen. Ricardo C. Morales wrote in 2003, that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) suffered from widespread corruption and incompetence. Various rebel groups are able to win battles, close roads, plant car bombs, kidnap AFP troops, and impose additional local revolutionary taxes because of incompetence. This is illustrated by listing a few recent examples of AFP leadership failures below:-

(i) As recently as October 2011, a special forces unit of 40 Philippines soldiers were overrun in Al-Barka, Basilan with 19 killed. Several AFP officers were subjected to court martial for their role in that debacle. The AFP officers convicted included:-

(a) Col. Aminkadra Undug, the former commander of the Special Forces Regiment Battalion, who was found guilty of “imprudence without inappropriate clearance from higher headquarters and violation of the chain of command” when he allowed the military scuba diving course students in actual operations on 18 October 2011; and

(b) Col. Leonardo Peña, the former commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion who was found guilty of “conduct prejudicial to good military order and discipline.”​

(ii) More recently, in July 2013, a rebel group was able to close stretches of the Cotabato-General Santos Highway.

(iii) On 5 August 2013, a car bomb was set off in in Cotabato. It was the second bombing to hit Mindanao in 10 days - a month after the United States, Australia and Canada warned its diplomatic staff against travelling to Cotabato and two other southern cities on Mindanao — Zamboanga and Davao — over fresh threats of terrorism.

(iv) In a serious breach of discipline, on 20 September 2013, five Philippine soldiers were arrested for looting during the 20-day battle to free civilian hostages taken and for control of Zamboanga City from a faction of the MNLF.

(v) Despite reports of some AFP successes against the New Peoples Army (NPA), in August 2013, the NPA attacked the Japanese Sumitumo Fruits Co., in Bangbang, a village in North Cotabato province in Mindanao. It is believed that the attack was instigated by the Japanese firm's refusal to pay the NPA's 'revolutionary' tax. In June 2013, the NPA demonstrated its ability to kill civilians who refuse to pay extortion fees, and kidnap AFP troops.

(vi) Not only do the local rebel groups disrespect the AFP, rebel groups in other countries like the Syrian rebels, also kidnap Philippine troops on UN Peacekeeping missions to make a point. The Syrian rebels did not just do it once (with the first AFP kidnapping incident on the Golan Heights in March 2013 of 21 AFP troops), but is repeated (with the second AFP kidnapping incident on the Golan Heights in May 2013 of 4 AFP troops). It is a shame that the AFP has an institutional inability to learn from past mistakes in taking adequate force protection measures.​

4. The Aquino administration has worked on the peace process and is interested in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration insurgents in Mindanao and other areas, but it has no strategy that connects assistance to former rebels to making communities more peaceful and secure in the long run. Two recent examples illustrate the chronic piss poor performance at gathering actionable intelligence, and being pro-active at stopping organised terror attacks (instead of the curent reactive mode of whack-the-mole, when it appears):-

One, the current peace process has been haunted by the mistakes of years past, which leads to a low level of trust by all parties. On 9 September 2013, about 180 to 300 rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked and held four neighborhoods in Zamboanga City, with a number of hostages being used as human shields. Thus far, eight have been killed and dozens wounded in shoot-outs at this busy port city of 800,000 that is known for its Hispanic influences in its culture. For the last few days, normal life for Zamboanga City has ground to a halt during the standoff, with flights into the area canceled and schools and most offices closed (see NY Times report dated 10 September 2013 for details). Rappler has an interview with Brig Gen Tutaan, of the AFP, who illogically describes this as not a failure of military intelligence. It is clear that APF intelligence under-estimated the resolve and numbers - conceptually, if the AFP predicted an attack by 30 rebels and 300 actually turned up, it is an intelligence failure on the numbers. Based on early local reports, the AFP conducted an unsuccessful interdiction at sea, where shots were exchanged and a Philippine Navy sailor killed. Feel free to marvel at Brig Gen Tutaan's ability to put the 'piss poor performance' in a 'good-light' in the interview below:-

[nomedia=""]It's not a failure of military intelligence, says Brig Gen Tutaan - YouTube[/nomedia]​

The MNLF were able to gather 180 to 300 fighters, with weapons, to capture parts of Zamboanga City. Brig Gen Tutaan is illogically claiming success at shooting at MNLF boats but not knowing if they landed, as intelligence success. It would be more credible if he explained that the AFP cannot cover all sea approaches to the city adequately at all times despite heighten alertness. He can argue that it is not a total failure of intelligence, but it is a failure nonetheless.

Question: How is deploying inadequate forces to stop armed rebel boats on the way to Zamboanga City, NOT an act of intelligence failure?​

Further, the sensationalist local press has provided photographs by Eyrhil Tom Bulahan, a resident of Zone 4 barangay, where it was reported that hungry soldiers fighting in Zamboaga City resorted to begging for food and water. The Armed Forces of the Philippines' official Twitter account, @TeamAFP, said that the incident may have been an isolated one, and that it may have been because of their hasty deployment to the area. Unfair local press reporting on the AFP's failure to deliver the last mile logistics support in the 3Bs (i.e. Bombs, Beans and Bullets) at Zamboaga City, serves to cast doubt on the professionalism of the AFP.

Two, local government officials and military officers reported that around 150 guerrillas from Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group joined forces and attacked the outskirts of the predominantly Christian town of Lamitan on Basilan island that resulted in 3 AFP soldiers being wounded. It is not clear if this latest Basilan battle is related or unrelated the Zamboanga City crisis, as Lamitan is a short boat ride from Zamboanga City (see NY Times report dated 12 September 2013 for details). Further, it has been reported on 13 September 2013 that, a total of 9 AFP soliders were wounded and MG-520 attack helicopters were used to repulse an attack. Lamitan Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay said they had anticipated the possible attack from the forces allied with MNLF founder Nur Misuari and is quoted below:-

“It was just fortunate we have imposed security measures meant to prevent them from getting through the center of Lamitan right after the hostilities in Zamboanga City broke out. Our security forces have been prepared as we have received information on the ground.”​

The AFP also said a battalion of troops was deployed to Lamitan to augment the Army Scout Rangers on reports that some 200 armed men were spotted just outside the city.​

In a series of competent, brave and bold moves, government troops took back portions of the city from rebels and cut off escape routes to end the 20-day battle to rescue hostages and take back the city. On 28 September 2013, the Philippine Government said the crisis in Zamboanga City was over, but troops are continuing operations to remove the last remaining fighters of a MNLF faction. While operations are ongoing former President Fidel Ramos gave the Aquino administration the following unsolicited advice:-

"Why don't you clean up your own mess first because you did it in the first place after we turned it over to you in a nice silver platter... Put your team in order. After that, maybe you can succeed in cleaning up the mess."​

Quick Facts on the Philippines and the AFP

Population.......................................: 91.98 million
2012 GDP .......................................: US$250.4 billion (IMF data)

No. of Troops (active/reserve)..........: 120,000 (active) and 171,000 (reserves)
No. of fighter aircraft : Zero
No. of jet trainers (S211) : 3 to 5
No. of operational C-130s : 3
No. of medium/heavy lift helos: Zero
No. of armed helos with ballistic protection (eg. Apaches): Zero
No. of submarines: Zero
No. of LPDs, SSVs or MRVs : Zero
No. of missile armed naval vessels : Zero
No. of naval vessels capable of ASW : Zero
No. of naval helicopters with dipping sonar: Zero
5. Look at the Quick Facts Box above, your country has so many big fat zeros in so many areas that is too many to describe (in contrast to the Quick Facts Box on Singapore below). The AFP is sorely lacking in both military platforms (eg. the navies of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam operate submarines, whereas yours does not) and in developing your own intelligence capabilities to provide your special forces with actionable intelligence.
Quick Facts on Singapore and the SAF

Population.......................................: 5.08 million
2012 GDP .......................................: US$276.5 billion (IMF data)

No. of Troops (active/reserve)..........: 72,500 (active) and 356,500 (reserves)
No. of G550 AEWs* : 4
No. of fighter aircraft* : 60 F-16C/Ds, 24 F-15SGs & 26 F-5S
No. of jet trainers (M346)* : 12 (on order)
No. of operational and modernised C-130Hs : 8 (with 2 more being refurbished)
No. of Chinooks* : 16
No. of Super Pumas* : 33
No. of Apaches* : 19
No. of submarines : 4 Challenger Class & 2 Archer Class
No. of LPDs : 4 Endurance Class
No. of multi-mission corvettes : 6 Victory Class (equipped with Scaneagle UAVs)
No. of multi-mission frigates** : 6 Formidable Class
No. of S-70B naval helicopters* : 6 (with 2 more on order)
No. of Fokker-50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft* : 5

* Note 1: The number of aircraft is extracted from Flight Global's World Air Forces 2013.
** Note 2: Each Formidable Class frigate is equipped with up-to 32 Aster 15/30 missiles for air defence, and up-to a maximum of 24 Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles. This means the 6 frigates, in theory, have the potential to carry up to 192 Aster missiles and 144 Harpoon missiles, before counting the torpedoes carried or the weapons carried by the organic S-70B naval helicopters.
6. The problem with your country is not with the brave men who serve in Philippine special forces units — rather it is the politicians who refuse to act logically to use them during a crisis. Special forces, in theory, provide options for a government. However, if a government is not competent at crisis management, members of the special forces can do nothing, if they are not selected as the force of choice. Let me explain with four simple truths you may not have considered:-

One, the failed hostage rescue at the August 2010 Rizal Park hostage fiasco is a leadership failure — leadership failure of the national authorities, the local authorities, the police, and the AFP. The first of a series of leadership failures occurred when the Crisis Management Committee was not activated in accordance with the manual. Further, there was no intelligence gathering sub-group that would have systematically gathered relevant information to aid the hostage negotiating team. The Philippine Government itself has documented numerous failures in the acts, omissions and reaction, of the authorities in this incident. This is a chain of criminal negligence (including the criminal acts of the local press in hindering the conduct of operations), given that the US has provided training and equipment, to help raise, train and sustain special forces units, such as the NCR-RPD (or better known as the Special Action Force for the police); and the Light Reaction Unit (LRU) of the army. See also: [nomedia=""]National geographic : Inside hostage massacre HD - YouTube[/nomedia]
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Super Moderator
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Two, irrational decision making during a crisis — choosing to use the poorly equipped and untrained Manila SWAT — as the force of choice. There was a trained special forces unit present at the scene — namely, the NCR-RPD/LRU. You should be ashamed, if you understood the 'Ten things the Philippines bus siege police got wrong'. Unfortunately Philippine special forces units on scene, simply cannot convince those in power that they should take command of the scene. This was a crisis evolving in slow motion that was inaptly handled by many involved in a dysfunctional manner

Three, the Rizal Park hostage fiasco demonstrates a level of utter and complete governmental incompetence that no other country in SEA can match, or hope to match. The Aquino administration's failure to understand the 7Ps (Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) resulted in unnecessary deaths. The city of Manila and its political leadership was caught unprepared with officials refusing to follow the written manual for crisis management. Keeping the 7Ps in mind, counter-terrorism professionals do not plan, train and write the manual for a contingency, when it happens. They prepare for contingencies way before they occur by getting the command relationships in order. Philippine counter-terrorism officials were not just unprepared, they were shown to be incompetent on live television. In the inquiry the followed the fiasco, as usual, Philippine officials were found to be incompetent in a dysfunctional system repeats cycles of piss poor performance.

Four, Philippines special forces do not have the logistics or technical enablers to operate locally or abroad in denied environments against a spectrum of unconventional threats. It should not be a shock that the Philippines has less than a limited ability to detect, classify, and mitigate a chemical, biological or radiological (CBR) attack from any terrorist organisation. Your country is unprepared to manage the consequence of an incident like the 1995 Tokyo Sarin Gas attack. Being prepared means more than having some mission oriented protective posture (MOPP) suits for members of the special forces. Having limited preparedness means at least having MOPP suit equipped standby medical personnel to operate portable decontamination equipment, so that members of your special forces can be washed down after operating in a denied environment. The AFP is not just unprepared. It is abnormally unprepared in CBR consequence management and repeats cycles of piss poor performance during a crisis.​

7. There is a huge difference between forces that are chronically under-funded like the AFP, and other forces working for competent governments in SEA, with the ability to project power abroad. There is a difference between the Philippines (with a GDP of US$250.4 billion) representing 7% of all defence spending in SEA, with a 2012 defence budget of about US$2.9 billion (or 1.2% of GDP) , and a 2012 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of 34 out of 100 (No. 105 in CPI), whose special forces equipment is provided by grants from the US, to the armed forces of:

(i) Indonesia (with a GDP of US$878.2 billion) representing 23% of all defence spending in SEA, with a 2012 defence budget of about US$6.8 billion (or 0.8% of GDP) and a CPI score of 32 out of 100 (No. 118 in CPI);
Al Jazeera Nov 2011 - Indonesia to increase military spending

(ii) Malaysia (with a GDP of US$303.5 billion) representing 13% of all defence spending in SEA, with a 2012 defence budget of about US$4.7 billion (or 1.5% of GDP) and a CPI score of 54 out of 100 (No. 49 in CPI);
[nomedia=""]The World Armed Forces Series | Malaysian Armed Forces - YouTube[/nomedia]

(iii) Singapore (with a GDP of US$276.5 billion) representing 29% of all defence spending in SEA, with a 2012 defence budget of about US$9.7 billion (or 3.5% of GDP) and a CPI score of 87 out of 100 (No. 5 in CPI); and
[nomedia=""]The World Armed Forces Series | Singapore Armed Forces | Created by Sairagon 1988 - YouTube[/nomedia]

(iv) Thailand (with a GDP of US$365.6 billion) representing 16% of all defence spending in SEA, with a 2012 defence budget of about US$5.4 billion (or 1.5% of GDP) and a CPI score of 37 out of 100 (No. 88 in CPI),
[nomedia=""]The World Armed Forces Series | Royal Thailand Armed Forces - YouTube[/nomedia]

that have some limited ability to project power abroad, in conventional or unconventional operations. Save for Singapore, no other ASEAN Army is as networked or as capable as the SAF in the conduct high tempo combined arms operations against aggressors with the power projection capability. This is because high tempo combined arms wars, with associated main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery and multiple rocket systems, are orders of magnitude more difficult than dealing with a local insurgency, which is primarily infantry centric. Singapore's forward defence places an emphasis on the role of joint operations and combined arms. This means the SAF is able to conduct manoeuvre warfare in the near abroad, in a synchronised manner while utilising its air and naval power to destroy or disrupt enemy C4I, lines of communications, logistics; and attack enemy operational reserves. Unfortunately, the Philippines is not even prepared to resource the AFP to win the peace against the various locally based insurgency movements. Broadly speaking, the local insurgencies in Philippines can continue because of piss poor planning by a government that is both corrupt and incompetent.

8. Despite the fact that the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are not as ready for war as they like, due to existing capability gaps, they still understand the value of special forces, and pay to keep the tip of this spear sharp. Special forces and amphibious forces are special because they have air and naval capability to project power (whereas the over 8,000 Philippine Marines have badly outdated amphibious equipment with primitive naval support). In contrast and listed below are naval assets and relevant amphibious capabilities of the four countries:-

(i) the Indonesian Navy operates five LPDs (including four 11,000 ton Makassar class LPDs, namely, Makassar, Surabaya, Banjarmasin, Banda Aceh), six LSTs (Teluk Semangka), 14 LSMs (comprising of 12 Teluk Gilimanuk and 2 Teluk Sirebon) and two Cakra class (or Type 209) submarines — giving Indonesia's 20,000 strong Korps Marinir (equipped with BMP-3F amphibious IFVs) and Denjaka (navy special operations), a capability come from the sea, in a lightly or unopposed landings;

(ii) the Malaysian Navy operates two multi-role support ships (with a displacement 4,300 tons, each), the KD Mahawangsa and KD Sri Indera Sakti (with an unfulfilled requirement to replace the KD Inderapura which was lost through a fire in October 2009) and two Scorpène class submarines — giving the Malaysian Navy's Pasukan Khas Laut and army units a niche capability to come from the sea, in an administrative landing;

(iii) the Singaporean Navy operates four Endurance class LPDs (with a displacement 8.500 tons, each), four Challenger class and two Archer class submarines — giving the SAF's Guards from the 21st Division (equipped with Terrex ICVs) and the NDU, a basic capability to come from the sea, in unopposed landings; and

(iv) the Thai Navy operates HTMS Angthong (LPD 791 - an Endurance Class vessel) and HTMS Chakri Naruebet, as a helicopter carrier. Kindly note that the Thai Navy does not maintain a current submarine capability and this capability was lost when the Matchanu class of submarines was decommissioned in 1951 (and the submarine group dissolved) — at 36,000 troops, the Royal Thai Marine Corps (RTMC) is one of the largest in the region. The RTMC once operated the LVT-4 before changing to the AAVP-7A1, AAVR-7A1 (Recovery), AAVC-7A1 (Command). Currently, the RTMC has 36 of AAVP and 48 BTR-3E1s. Along with the Underwater Demolition Assault Unit, the various service arms of the Royal Thai Armed Forces have a basic capability come from the sea, in a lightly or unopposed landing.​

Beyond naval power projection to deal with hybrid and irregular warfare in the urban littoral, let us list some of the track-record and capabilities of these countries in points 9 to 14, below. According to the UN, half the world's population lives within 60 km of the sea, and three-quarters of all large cities are located on the coast. Therefore, the armed forces of a number of ASEAN countries understand that if they are to shape events on land, they need the ability to project power into the connected coastal urban areas (i.e. people using cell-phones for data access in coastal cities) and in the littoral domain surrounding growing ASEAN cities. The November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack and the September 2013 Zamboanga City Crisis in the urban littoral will be the new normal for future terrorist attacks and full scale counter-insurgency wars; where the modern internet-connected insurgent is using the less governed spaces and slums in the urban littoral to their advantage, so as to stage their attacks. According to David Kilcullen, the future environment will be urban, littoral, and connected. The data suggest that this is the environment in which future conflict will occur. This is not a futuristic prediction, but rather a projection of trends that are evident now, and an assessment of their effects on cities as they exist today. The future is hybrid and irregular conflict combining elements of crime, urban unrest, insurgency, terrorism, and state-sponsored asymmetric warfare — more Mumbai in India, Mogadishu in Somalia, Zamboanga in Philippines, and Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica.

9. Many forget that on 7 December 1975, Indonesian forces invaded East Timor and subsequently annexed it as its 27th province in 1976. Operasi Seroja (Operation Lotus) was an invasion of East Timor by Indonesia with about 20,000 to 30,000 troops. It involved naval bombardment of Dili, landing of troops from the sea and a paratrooper assault. In March 1981, they conducted the successful hostage rescue of the hijacked Garuda Indonesia Flight 206 at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok, Thailand in a joint operation with the Royal Thai Armed Forces. As mentioned earlier, in May 1996, Kopassus conducted an heli-borne operation to free the hostages held by the Free Papua Movement (or Organisasi Papua Merdeka) deep in the jungles of Irian Jaya, with the help of dogs, Irian Jayan trackers and a remotely piloted aircraft from Singapore. In ASEAN, Indonesia maintains the largest and most diverse special forces capability in all three services, with the TNI's Kopassus having a force of about 5,000 elite troops. In 2003, Indonesian special forces also conducted parachute operations in Sumatra in pursuit of insurgents.

10. The Malaysian Grup Gerak Khas (GGK) in particular deserve a special mention for their role in the extraction of the US Rangers and Delta Force in Operation Gothic Serpent back in October 1993. Since 2010, Malaysia has played an role in deploying troops to provide humanitarian and medical aid in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Seven Somali pirates are in jail in Malaysia because the Malaysian Navy's Paskal operators were were able to rescue their country's merchant ship on 20 January 2011. Further, in February 2011, to their credit the Malaysian Armed Forces was also able to evacuate over 10,000 of their citizens from Egypt under Operasi Piramid (or Operation Pyramid). Most recently, in 2013, the GGK and other security forces were mobilized to neutralise the threat presented by invading Filipino Tausug gunmen and killing at least 56 of these terrorists through the use of close air support and other means, in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

11. Are you also aware that:-

(i) over 1,200 Singaporeans have operated under CTF 151 as part of the counter-piracy effort in the Gulf of Aden? Singaporean boarding teams have faced off with pirates and sank their attack skiffs in Operation Blue Sapphire (see [nomedia=""]Ep 4: Bravo Zulu - Well Done! (Securing Safe Passage - SAF In The Gulf Of Aden) - YouTube[/nomedia]);

(ii) 492 Singaporeans have served in Afghanistan? In recognition of the work done from 2007 to 2013, a number of SAF officers have been awarded US military decorations for their meritorious service in Afghanistan. These include: LTC Mohd Fahmi Bin Aliman (US Joint Service Commendation Medal - 2013), and MAJ Cai Dexian (US Army Bronze Star - 2012). The four officers were awarded US Army Commendation Medal were as follows: LTC Lock Wai Leck, Willy (2012), LTC Chan Ming Hoe (2012), MAJ Wong Wei Han, Gareth (2011), and MAJ Lim Kian Peng, Adrian (2011). Not to forget, Col. Mike Tan (US Army Meritorious Service Medal), who served as a Strategic Planner in the J5 Directorate of the US Central Command where he participated in planning in Operation Enduring Freedom, many years ago. For details on Operation Blue Ridge, see: [nomedia=""]Singapore Army: Operation Blue Ridge (OBR) Documentary - Full Version - YouTube[/nomedia];

(iii) over 1,500 reservists, NSFs and regulars were deployed to provide humanitarian assistance to Meulaboh, Aceh, an area with an active insurgency, in January 2005. In the case of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami:-

(a) Commander 21st Division (a 1 star) and his command staff were deployed to Banda Aceh in support humanitarian operations under Operation Flying Eagle. Within days of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the 21st Division (Singapore Guards) landed a reinforced battalion size force, in multiple phases - with combat engineers creating beach-heads, clearing roads of debris and providing drinking water; with medical and surgical teams providing care for the injured; with a command team to plan and manage the massive logistics required to help the locals

(b) RSS Endurance was the first foreign navy ship to re-establish a life-line to Meulaboh (a coastal town in West Sumatra that was previously completely cut off after the tsunami). Singapore's contributions to Indonesia included the deployment of three Endurance Class LPDs, eight CH-47 Chinooks and four Super Pumas, six C-130s, two F-50s, a mobile air traffic control tower (see this video: [nomedia=""]Defence Watch (Feb 05) - Operation Flying Eagle - YouTube[/nomedia]).

(c) With host nation support in Singapore, US Commands (Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific and Naval Regional Contracting Center Singapore) worked 24/7 to surge supply capacity in support of the humanitarian effort in Operation Unified Assistance.

(d) During the conduct of Operation Unified Assistance by US PACOM, two SAF officers proficiently in Bahasa Indonesia, with in-depth knowledge of Indonesian culture, psyche, and sensitivities to the presence of foreign military forces, were posted as Liaison Officers to enable the US to deliver aid to Indonesia with less fiction;​


(iv) 998 Singaporeans from the army, navy and air force served in Iraq and the Northern Arabian Gulf from 2004 to 2008? The SAF deployments in support of Operation Blue Orchid included:-

(a) Navy: 5x deployments of Endurance Class LPDs for the seaward defence of Iraq for 300 days against suicide boat attacks - which included NDU boarding teams conducting routine inspection of ships and dhows for explosives and other threats to protect Iraqi's two oil terminals. The Singapore Navy also trained the Iraqi Navy and helped them extend their operating range by refueling their patrols boats at sea (see this video on SAF in Iraq: [nomedia=""]In The Service of Peace - YouTube[/nomedia]);

(b) Air Force: 1x C-130 deployment for 2 months carrying men, cargo and equipment and performing evasive manoeuvres for about 1/3 of their 29 missions completed in 190 hrs of flight time (in the above video, you can see the force protection team deployed with the C-130); 5x KC-135R deployments for 3 months, each, all facing the danger of short-range SAM attacks with 303 missions completed in 1,800 hrs of flight time (see also: [nomedia=""]DHL Airbus A300 Struck By Missile, Baghdad - YouTube[/nomedia]); and

(c) Army: 4 officers, each, serving a 6 month tour under coalition command in Iraq.​
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Super Moderator
Staff member
12. Are you aware of the SAF's steady acquisition of new hardware to support the intelligence and ISR function? Singapore's ISR capabilities goes beyond just a range of UAVs to a whole range of unmanned systems and even its own micro-satellite (with a 10-year road map to build four nano-satellites). These ISR capabilities are designed to feed information to each Division Strike Centre (DSC). Singaporean special forces, like long-range-recce patrols, are the eyes and ears of the DSC. Each DSC is responsible for three key roles:-

One, strike orchestration. The DSC conducts strike operations against targets such as artillery platforms, Multiple Rocket Systems (MRS) and Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD), to shape the battlefield by reducing threats to our land and air assets. For more details on the level of integration in the 3G SAF, see: [nomedia=""]Exercise Forging Sabre 2011 - YouTube[/nomedia]

Two, counter-fire capability. Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) may be deployed to accurately locate artillery projectiles and rockets within seconds. Upon detection, DSC orders counter-fires which are immediately processed and transmitted directly to pre-determined shooter platforms. The entire process, from detection to firing the first shot can be effected within minutes. In particular, I note that Singaporean WLR teams have been on a fifteen month deployment to Afghanistan. See: [nomedia=""]Ep 4: Rocket Racket (Ops Diaries - SAF in Afghanistan) - YouTube[/nomedia]

Three, synchronisation with air and naval fires. Besides co-ordinating fire for the Army, the DSC also synchronises with shooters from the Air Force and Navy enable lethal actions. See this 2008 RSAF video on being full spectrum, integrated and ready: [nomedia=""]RSAF 40th Anniversary Video - Third Generation - YouTube[/nomedia]​

13. Are you also aware of the role of Thai and Singaporean military in Timor-Leste? After a UN-sponsored vote for independence in 1999, Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor) was engulfed by conflict — an estimated 75% of the population was displaced and nearly 70% of all buildings, homes, and schools were destroyed by an orchestrated campaign of violence carried out by pro-Jakarta militia groups. This conflict was halted by an international peacekeeping force that led to the transfer of authority to the UN, and the establishment of a UN mission in Timor-Leste. In September 1999, Australia was desperate for an ASEAN partner to deploy into East Timor. Thanks to Dr. Mahathir's prior political stance, Malaysian troops were seen by the locals, Australia, NZ and the US as taking a pro-Indonesian or non-neutral position with regards to events in Timor-Leste (eg. The NY Times reported that Ramos-Horta was opposed to Malaysia being given command of UN troops and that such a move would anger the East Timorese). Thailand was the first ASEAN country to volunteer, followed by Singapore and the Philippines. Thereafter, Thai and Singaporean military and ships deployed in support of the Australia and New Zealand-led international stabilization force were instrumental in maintaining ASEAN's credibility, at a difficult time — with the then Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir casting aspersions on the lead country conducting peace-enforcement operations in East Timor. The SAF deployed to conduct UN peace-enforcement patrols at Cova Lima, in south-western Timor-Leste with a mandate under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. These combat peacekeeping deployments:-

(i) started in May 2001 with 70 Singaporean combat peacekeepers stationed at Cova Lima in Operation Blue Heron. The deployment of this enlarged platoon lasted for a period of one-and-a-half years till November 2002. The conduct of these border patrols, intelligence gathering efforts, and presence of a quick reaction force enabled the SAF to disarm militia-men and criminal elements in their assigned sector, to stop the cycle of violence;

(ii) continued in November 2002. The number of Singaporean combat peacekeepers deployed to Cova Lima was enlarged to a company sized force of a 160 troops as reports of groups terrorizing the villages between the border and Dili grew in number till early 2003. Singapore's combat peacekeeper company was supported by a RSAF helicopter detachment comprising four Huey helicopters, with a Singaporean Major General taking command of UNMISET forces of 3,300 peacekeepers from August 2002 to August 2003. The Singapore combat peacekeepers operated as part of THAIBATT with responsibility for half of the border between West Timor and Timor-Leste — AUSBATT having responsibility for the other half. The increase in numbers and the insertion of Singaporean long-range recce patrols by RSAF Huey helicopters into the jungle to track hostile elements crossing the border was instrumental in stopping the cycle of violence. 17 reservists and 10 full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) were among those who volunteered and were deployed for the combat peacekeeping mission (see the photo exhibition, In the company of Peacekeepers and the ebook); and

(iii) lasted till December 2012 (at a lower level), with the end of the UN mandate. At early stage of the peacekeeping mission under INTERFET, Singapore Navy's 3 LSTs provided up to 50% of all sea-lift to support the UN peacekeeping mission via a continuous ferry service dbetween Darwin and Dili (for details see 'Strength through Diversity: The Combined Naval Role in Operation Stabilise'). Thereafter, Singapore has consistently provided troops for deployment to Timor-Leste and only ending these small deployments in December 2012.​

14. Further, Thai special forces have:-

(i) been fighting an insurgency in the Southern provinces;

(ii) fought in a number border skirmishes against Laos (December 1987 – February 1988) and Cambodia (in the area surrounding the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple);

(iii) deployed in support of CTF-151; and

(iv) participated in joint exercises with foreign special operators (such as Ex. Teak Torch with the Americans and Ex. Wyvern Sun with the Australians).​

Please also educate yourself by reading up on the scale of Thai involvement in Vietnam. Special forces units in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have funding limitations, organizational limitations, or a small size of talent pool to select from. Regardless of these limitations, the special operators from these ASEAN countries, each have their own unit track record in numerous operations at home and abroad.
Thought Experiment No. 1:

On 14 August 2013, Maj. Gen. James McConville, ISAF Regional Commander-East and commanding general of the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, providing a Pentagon briefing on progress in Afghanistan said:

"[The Afghan Army] just did a pretty major air assault by anyone's standards with six Mi-17s and two Mi-35s with four turns of troops going into Hesarak, which is -- which was a pretty good operation for a new air force. They are starting to go to the most difficult places and resupply their troops."​

Given this American update on Afghan progress, let me ask you a question, to illustrate your failure to apply considered logic:

Question: Is the Afghan Army better than AFP because they have more experience in fighting (given that they are fighting a larger scale insurgency and are able to conduct an air assault supported by attack helicopters)?

Glimpse inside Afghan army's elite forces - YouTube

Answer: No, I would not consider the Afghan Army to be better than the AFP. The Afghan Army has a huge problem with trust and basic literacy. In 2012, green-on-blue attacks accounted for 15% of coalition deaths, up from 6% of coalition deaths in 2011; and 2% of coalition deaths in 2010, which means coalition soldiers cannot trust Afghan soldiers they are conducting training for. More recently, Monsif Khan, a special forces team leader of the Afghan Army, in Kunar switched sides, to join the Hezb-e-Islami organization. Beyond the issue of loyalty, the Afghan Army also has serious problems with learning (i.e. soldiers who can't read or write), organisational maturity and logistics.

While the AFP is a far more capable organisation than the Afghan Army, it has some organisational maturity issues when measured against the armed forces of the other founding ASEAN members. This includes the AFP's lack of technical competence in keeping platforms operational and an illogical logistics system, when compared to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand. Given the difference in resources illustrated in points 7 and 8 above, it is not useful to consider the AFP as equal to their peers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand.​

Reminder No. 1: Please read, before sharing your subjective individual point of view that is devoid of considered logic and lacking in actual content.
15. Counter-terrorism planning has seen a sea of change, since 9-11, the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, the 2003, 2004 and 2009 Jakarta Hotel/Embassy Bombings, the London 7/7 bomb attacks in 2005, and the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. As a result, there have been three notable changes:-

One, the special forces of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have conducted unilateral, bilateral and multilateral counter-terrorism exercises of greater and greater complexity. Counter-terrorism exercises not only to raise awareness of special forces capabilities in local officials, they also iron-out any chain-of-command issues that may occur, should the need arise.

Two, ASEAN has also approved the establishment of an Expert Working Group (EWG) on counter-terrorism (with Indonesia and the US as the co-chairs). Counter-terrorism professionals also plan to meet evolving threats with information and best practices sharing, like setting up an EWG and conducting multilateral exercises, with the latest being held in Sentul Bogor, Indonesia at the International Peacekeeping Security Centre, under ADMM Plus auspices. From 9 to 13 September 2013, an ADMM Plus Counter Terrorism Exercise 2013 (CTX 2013) will be conducted and it involves military personnel from ASEAN and regional partners countries. CTX 2013 consists of integrated activities, including a table top exercise and a practical exercise.

Three, US Special Operations Command (US SOCOM), headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa has launched a new initiative in October 2013 to station foreign special operations liaisons at the new International Special Operations Forces Coordination Center (ISCC). Liaison officers from ten countries (Jordan, South Korea, Italy, Poland, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Lithuania, Hungary and New Zealand) will be stationed at the ISCC, where they work to increase cooperation, reduce inter-force and regional conflicts or react to conflict more quickly, where required. The Pentagon’s policy office, working with the State Department, negotiates 10-year Memoranda of Agreement so that countries can send liaison officers and engage in the two way exchange information with the US (using a modified version of the existing US Battlefield Information Collection and Exploitation System - the NATO communications backbone - to allow communication between networks). Adm. William McRaven’s US SOCOM 2020 vision calls for a globally networked force of special operations forces, interagency representatives, allies and partners, with aligned structures processes and authorities to enable its operations. One of objectives is that the ISCC won’t just consist of military organizations. He wants organizations like the FBI, DEA and Department of Homeland Security to also take part, bringing their expertise and assets into the mix. Globally networked forces, will provide US geographic combatant commanders and chiefs of mission with an unprecedented unity of effort and an enhance ability to respond to regional contingencies and threats to stability. The US SOCOM planning team went back to the drawing board to come up with something never before formulated in US SOCOM’s history: a comprehensive, global special operations forces planning document that matches resources to need, including these five US SOCOM initiatives:-
(1) enhancing the global special operations network with the launch of of the ISCC in 2013, including the conduct of regular SF exercises with partners in an integrated manner with US regional combatant commands and also growing select partner capability beyond borders to deal with proxy-war issues;

(2) disaggregating special operations for persistent engagement via station assignments and other means;

(3) improving special operations language proficiency beyond language classes into specialised country specific SF billets, liaison positions and by greater diversity of recruitment and retention;

(4) updating authorities for preventive action; and

(5) developing new capabilities to address emerging challenges in austere or denied areas.​

16. There is a difference between spending a country's defence dollars ineffectively (due to interference by Malaysian politicians, resulting in hardware acquisitions without due regard to logistics commonality), and not spending the bare minimum necessary to retain key capabilities for the AFP. IMHO, your country's politicians have chosen not to provide your armed forces with the necessary financial resources (with a 2012 defence budget of about US$2.9 billion) to acquire the right equipment (instead, Philippine politicians continue to increase 'pork barrel' funding or otherwise known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund) and an institutional inability to fix a broken and slow AFP procurement system. AFP procurement officials lack the conviction to learn from past mistakes. The size of the PAF operations budget was a historical problem but the current bigger problem is that the PAF purchases items on a piece-by-piece basis in a bureaucratic manner that defies logic (all in the name of clean government, when it is actually a model of bureaucratic inefficiency and symptom of government waste). For example, the AFP Procurement Service about has about 7.9 million pesos worth of bid invitations. Instead of establishing a service support agreements with pre-qualified aircraft suppliers, the AFP Procurement Service invited potential suppliers to submit 18 individual bids for C-130 components. This mode of procurement is inherently more expensive and less efficient in keeping C-130s operational.
Thought Experiment No. 2:

Let me again illustrate with another over-simplified comparison between the Philippines (a country with a population of about 92 million) with a micro-state, Brunei (a country with a population of about 380 thousand).

Brunei has built a navy is more capable and advanced that that of the Philippines. It's not just in area of brand new, 80 metre Darussalam Class OPVs, where they are superior. Brunei also operates CN 235MPAs, which give them an over-the-horizon targeting ability for surface warfare. Further, Brunei's air force also operates medium lift helicopters (eg. Blackhawks), which the PAF cannot afford to operate. This means that the PAF cannot match the lift capabilities of Brunei's Blackhawks - which is essential to insert/extract and sustain special forces in operations.

BRIDEX 2011 dynamic demonstration - YouTube

Brunei's special forces are noted for their high standards as they have trained with the British and Australian SAS, US and Jordanian special forces, just to name a few. Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei and King Abdullah II of Jordan are friends, who on official visits, go to see each other's world class special forces training installations for benchmarking purposes. Please read up on the King Abdullah II Special Operations Training Center (KASOTC). KASOTC is a Jordanian state-of-the-art counter-terrorism training facility that organizes the annual Warrior Competition.​

Reminder No. 2: The AFP's annual defence budget is about 5 times more than Brunei's defence budget, therefore it is not just a lack of money that prevents the AFP from developing. Not only is the defence spending of the Philipines on the low side, the money is spent poorly.
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17. Despite all the talk, it is clear that your country has not fixed the slow and broken procurement system - instead the Philippine Department of Defense pretends to do work by sending out a never ending stream of press releases. Actual capability management is organized around a concept of operations (CONOPS), because the CONOPS describe how a specified course of action is to be executed. The ability to execute the specified course of action depends on many factors and the relationship between those factors. The most important of which is defined by three interdependent factors: combat readiness, sustainable capability and force structure. For the PAF to be well regarded in capability management in support of special operations, PAF's combat readiness, sustainable capability and force structure needs to improve. Further, capability management is:-

(i) not about the platform alone;

(ii) much more than buying the 'best' or the 'right' platform;

(iii) about training PAF's people to a certain level of combat readiness in order to execute a plan in accordance with a CONOPS;

(iv) having the right organisational structure to support the CONOPS; and

(v) about sustainable capability and this includes retaining the technical ability and the budget to sustain the assets/platforms after acquisition. In this regard, PAF has a poor record (over the years PAF acquired 12 C-130s but are only able to keep 3 operational). Traditionally, PAF has not been able to budget enough sustain its C-130 fleet, leading to crashes (last crash in August 2008, off-Davao and another in December 1993) and pre-mature scrapping of air frames (and without preserving parts, engines and spares that could have been preserved).​

18. At a technical war fighting level the AFP lacks some critical military abilities and this cannot be easily remedied (with the slow and broken AFP procurement system). Let us list some of the AFP failures and the system's lack of speed:

(i) Years ago, the AFP said there were interested in acquiring the Endurance Class (used by the Thai and Singapore Navies) as part of their P5 billion MRV or multi-role vessel program. After all the tours and trips, any bite? No. The AFP also told the Koreans/Indonesians that they were interested in their cheaper LPD. After all the tours and trips, any bite for the MRV project? No. From the latest news report, the AFP are not going ahead with the MRV but instead are looking for two service support vessels (SSVs) whose primary role is a transport vessel, with a budget of P2 billion (about US$45m each). If cheap is the criteria (to transport one battalion of troops with armored vehicles), why not the existing Indonesian Makassar Class LPD (used by the Indonesian Navy)? For more SSV details at this blog, here.

(ii) The AFP also said they wanted to buy 2nd hand Maestrale class frigates from the Italians. After all the tours, any bite? No.

(iii) The PAF has failed in its attempts at modernisation (or what I would call capability management). In 2010, the Philippine Commission on Audit reported that the PAF has a total inventory of 21 aging aircraft and 54 helicopters. However, the report also revealed that of the total of 339 air assets of the air force, only 91 are operational, 81 are grounded, while the rest are for disposal.

(iv) The PAF also said from last year, they want to buy the Korean jets but took forever to get the contract signed. Keeping in mind that on 25 November 2005, in a press interview, the then commanding general Lt. Gen. Jose Reyes Jr. of the PAF admitted the country will have to make do without any air defense until 2011. The PAF took until the 4 quarter of 2013 to sign a contract for LIFT/SAA. Two examples will serve to illustrate the contrast:-

One, in February 2012, Philippine OV-10s acquired a new ability (with US aid) to drop Paveway IIs, which are good for hitting fixed targets. Whereas Indonesia (F-5s, F-16A/Bs & Su-27/30s), Malaysia (Mig-29s, F-18Ds & Su-30MKMs), Singapore (F-5s, F-16C/Ds & F-15SGs supported by G550 CAEWs) and Thailand (F-5s, F-16A/Bs & JAS-39s supported by the Saab Erieye AWAC), have air forces with the ability to hit both fixed and moving targets to support their special forces on the ground since the early 1990s. The RSAF for example has been using Paveway laser guided bombs since the 1980s, and in 2011 acquired laser JDAMs, as part of its inventory of weapons. In contrast, PAF's aircraft are literally falling out of the sky, with too many crashes to list.

Two, the PAF does not operate fighter aircraft nor does it have air-to-air refuelling capabilities. Not only that, the PAF does not even operate transport or logistics aircraft that meets the theater entry standards to operate in war zones, like that of Iraq (see DHL crew saves A300 after SAM hit on takeoff) or Afghanistan. Meeting theater entry standards means the ability to conduct combat flying with installed aircraft self-defence systems like the directional infrared counter measure system. In contrast, since 2004, RSAF C-130s and KC-135Rs equipped with self-defence systems have flown into war zones, in support of both Singaporean and coalition efforts. Between 2004 to 2008, RSAF KC-135Rs off-loaded 14 million pounds of fuel to more than 1,400 coalition aircraft in 303 refuelling sorties; and between 2007 to 2013, RSAF C-130s were regularly flying into Afghanistan.​

19. It is also meaningless to make simplistic comparisons of special forces is without understanding the mission of the relevant armed forces, the role of logistics, its C4I capabilities and the intelligence cycle on modern warfare. The AFP is mainly resourced for defence against domestic enemies (i.e. the various rebel groups), whereas, the SAF provides Singapore with an independent deterrence against potentially ambitious neighbours. In contrast to the Philippine Navy (which is armed like a coast guard), the Singapore Navy for example, operates two Archer-class AIP equipped submarines, each with a pressurized diver's lock-out to facilitate special forces operations. With AIP submarines, Endurance Class LPDs, Super Pumas, and CH-47SD Chinooks with auxiliary fuel tanks for support there is no doubt about the ability of the SAF to insert/extract SOTF teams/platoons and their equipment undetected (including boats, jet-skis, light strike vehicles and other sensor/weapon systems) and at long range for both green-side or direct-action operations, with three examples to illustrate this capability:-

(i) on 9 July 1997, SOF force protection teams enabled the conduct of six flights of C-130 aircraft that flew over 1,132 km (611 nautical miles) to evacuate 450 Singaporeans and foreigners out of the Phnom Penh, Cambodia, under Operation Crimson Angel, in the middle of the Cambodian civil war;

(ii) between 2004 and 2008, more than 998 SAF personnel participated in the multinational effort to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq via multiple deployments of Endurance Class LPDs, under Operation Blue Orchid. This operation helped the Naval Diving Unit develop its ROEs to deal with coordinated suicide boat attacks on Iraqi oil terminals in the Persian Gulf at over 7,000 km (3,780 nautical miles) away from Singapore; and

(iii) on 3 April 2012, a Singaporean Chinook flew with NVGs in adverse weather and at night, to conduct a medical evacuation of a Greek civilian suffering from heart palpitations, on a merchant ship in the South China Sea, in an almost four hour round trip, demonstrating a capability for long-range search and rescue.

Further, the Singapore Army operates wave piercing Very Slender Vessels (VSVs) and the Navy operates RPG-resistant armoured landing craft as fire support platforms for brown water operations (click here to see a David Boey blog post). Besides a speed of 60 knots or greater (110 km/h), the VSVs (click here to see the VSV) are also C2 platforms. They have some limitations but these are not easily understood by the general public.

20. The three examples above demonstrate the SOTF's focus on being able to operate both at home, and abroad. This is because Singapore lacks strategic depth and requires a foward defence posture. The SAF's mission in furtherance of Singapore's forward defence posture is:-
"To enhance Singapore's peace and security through deterrence and diplomacy, and should these fail, to secure a swift and decisive victory over the aggressor."

Singapore is only able to maintain a forward defence posture through compulsory conscription and after 45 years of National Service (NS), compulsory conscription is rooted in Singaporean society. Military training carries with it some random risk of death or serious injury. Every Singaporean family who learns about a training incident would be able to commiserate with the family reeling from the loss of their loved one. In their hearts, they know that serving NS carries risk and someday, the bearer of bad news could come knocking on their own front door. In the period from 2001 to 2010, 42 Singaporeans died in peacetime military training. The longest fatality-free window period was 401 days (which stretched from 2009 to 2010), which has not been repeated since. This means that on average, 4.2 Singaporeans die serving NS each year. Therefore, the SAF's military capability is written with the blood of Singaporeans. In July 2013, the SAF Medal for Distinguished Act was awarded to Second Lieutenant (2LT) Kamalasivam S/O Shanmuganathan, who used his body to protect his recruit and his action averted more serious injury to the recruit during a hand grenade live throwing exercise on 8 March 2013. While 2LT Kamalasivam was only slightly injured in that incident, it is the story of one citizen doing his duty. The SAF Medal for Distinguished Act had previously been awarded to 6 SAF personnel and 1 from the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF):-

(i) Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Toh Boh Kwee, First Warrant Officer (1WO) Mohinder Singh, First Sergeant (1SG) Teo Boon Hong and Lieutenant Leroy Forrester from the NZDF for risking their lives to help injured soldiers immediately after an in-bore explosion of a 155mm artillery round in the barrel of an FH2000 gun-howitzer occurred during a live firing exercise in New Zealand in 1997.

(ii) LTC Lo Yong Po for remaining behind in an area that was overrun by insurgents to see to the safe extrication of UN officials after extensive fighting broke out during his participation in UNSMA in 1998.

(iii) Captain (NS) Kok Yin Khong for administering first aid, while exposed to hostile fire, to a UN military observer who was shot by an unidentified gunman in a fire fight, when he was serving in the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observation Mission (UNIKOM) in 1998.

(iv) 2LT Kok Khew Fai for his act of courage to save a recruit's life during a hand grenade live throw exercise in Mar 2008. 2LT Kok threw himself on top of the recruit to shield him from the blast when the explosive slipped from the recruit's hand during the throw and landed on the ground behind them.​
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21. Singapore's defence budget, at US$9.7 billion is at least 3x that of the Philippines (at US$2.9 billion), which results in obvious differences in equipping and mission sets of both armed forces. The last decade have transformed the way Singaporean special forces are used as a strategic tool in four specific areas:-

(i) working with other naval powers in the maritime domain (eg. Operation Blue Orchid for the seaward defence of Iraq and Operation Blue Sapphire in support of CTF-151's counter piracy mandate);

(ii) using airpower enabled land operations in support of Singapore or coalition efforts (eg. Operation Blue Heron, Operation Blue Ridge and Exercise Forging Sabre);

(iii) integrating operations and intelligence with the inauguration of the SAF's C4I Community, under the command of a two-star rear-admiral (holding the same rank as the three Service Chiefs), holding the dual appointment of Military Intelligence Organisation (MIO) director and chief of the C4I community. Rear-Admiral (two star) Joseph Leong's appointment and promotion to two star, signals the importance of the roles of the MIO director and chief of C4I community; and

(iv) returning to their role as military advisers for other ASEAN armies and governments, if required. As part of the overall commitment to the ADMM-Plus process, Singapore will co-chair the EWG on Counter-Terrorism with Australia in the next cycle of Expert Working Groups from 2014 to 2017.​

Beyond the difference in the mission sets of the AFP and its special forces (i.e. fighting local insurgents with the aid from the US) and the SAF and the SOTF (i.e. the SOTF as a force of choice capable of independent operations at home or abroad), the key difference is the difference in attitude. Singaporean special forces take to heart the words of the late Dr Goh Keng Swee (Singapore's first Defence Minister):-
"We must not think of where we are as the pinnacle of achievement, but as a base from which to scale new heights."​

22. On the other hand, President Benigno Aquino III has demonstrated an inability to understand the 7Ps (see point 6, sub-point three above) and also a consistent inability to understand defence matters (see my prior three part post in this thread - part 1, part 2 and part 3). Further, constant tinkering with the means and ends by the Aquino administration, means the following:-

One, no prior procurement plan can have continuity - ensuring that there is no strategy for the AFP to move forward. It is hard to be optimistic with AFP's track record and the Attack Helicopter (AH) acquisition project that was awarded to PZL Swidnik for the attack version of the W-3 Sokol, is an example. AH award decision was cancelled in September 2010 due to suspected anomalies. The Aqunio administration is keen to undo all the prior administration procurement decisions. Thereafter the attempt to acquire Fennec helicopters (originally destined for Pakistan) had failed. It was the fourth or fifth attempt that dated back to 2006. This lack of continuity and lack of bureaucratic logic will handicap AFP procurement for some years to come.

Two, AFP modernization by press release continues via an endless stream of Philippine Department of Defense (DOD) press releases. DOD press releases are infinitely cheaper than buying real gear to develop tactically significant military capabilities. This is just is another symptom of the colourful political culture of symbolism over substantive changes, with the DOD playing its symbolic part by sending out endless press releases; and

Three, President Benigno Aquino III and his political allies use elections as a tool to provide legitimacy. He is a privileged member of the oligarchy, where the rulers, get to exploit the resources of the Philippines via the norm of bribing or favouring their political allies (see the various local news reports on the anti-pork march). With a 2012 Corruption Perception Index of 34 out of 100, it is little wonder that some locals have explained that there are only three choices of political leaders for the Philippine electorate: (1) corrupt; (2) incompetent; or (3) both corrupt and incompetent. Despite the occasional anti-corruption rhetoric, what Aquino III represents, as a Pinoy politician, is not very different from Joseph Estrada (both corrupt and incompetent), who looted around US$78 million to US$80 million of public funds in his term as President or Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (corrupt but not incompetent) whose Presidency was constantly marred by her husband's unparalleled corruption. We will just have to wait for history to judge Aquino III's presidency -- to see if (1), (2) or (3) fits him better as a political leader. As Manuel L. Quezon, the 2nd President of the Philippines once said:-

"I would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a country run like heaven by the Americans, because however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it."

Given the above mindset, it is little wonder that the Philippines has ability to change their government in power through the EDSA I and EDSA II revolutions but keep the same corrupt political system (aka hell) unchanged.​

23. If you had done some basic reading on special forces, you would know that in the case of Afghanistan, coalition special forces often monitor insurgent communications during battles, to help identify Taliban leadership for later kill/capture missions as part of the F3EAD process. F3EAD or find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, and disseminate, recognizes the importance of intelligence in fighting the low-contrast insurgent. To correct your basic ignorance of special forces and their operations, let me provide you with some basic information, below:-

(i) Beyond AfPak threatre of operations, this PRISM article, by Lambert, Lewis and Sewall titled: "Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines: Civilian Harm and the Indirect Approach," provides some background on network-based targeting in the context of U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) in operations.

(ii) Since 2002, JSOTF-P has partnered with Philippine forces to conduct counterterrorism operations. JSOTF-P using the collaborative warfare model (applied and adapted based on the lessons learnt from Iraq), employed some new tactics and some new technologies (including using Paverway guided munitions from OV-10s at high value targets, charts, outboard motors and other tools to enable the Philippine Marines to operate in the maritime domain and increase the ability of the PAF and the Philippine Army to conduct heli-borne night operations thanks to night vision equipment and training supplied by JSOTF-P), but neither the tactics nor the technologies could have been used to good effect without the two new organizational innovations (of network-based targeting and interagency fusion).

(iii) For more details on how the intelligence cycle works, please read my prior post on the topic here. If you bother to read the links, you would know that the US military not only has experience from numerous operations, they have a formal process to ensure that organisational learning from these operations occur. One example is their joint lessons learned process that facilitates the collection, tracking, management, sharing, collaborative resolution, and dissemination of lessons learned to improve the development and readiness of the US joint force.

(iv) The typical US SF operator is married and has at least two kids, has 8 years’ experience in the general purpose force, and is an average of 29 years old enlisted, or 34 years old if an officer; and therefore have a mature disposition (for details on how the US SOCOM is structured and the mind-set of operators, please see: [nomedia=""]Wilson Forum-U.S. Special Operations 2020 - YouTube[/nomedia] ). There is also an established list of five “Truths” that have guided SF force development in decades past, and which will continue to do so in the future. These guiding certainties are:-
One, humans are more important than hardware;

Two, quality is better than quantity;

Three, SF cannot be mass produced;

Four, competent SF cannot be created after emergencies occur; and

Five, most special operation missions require non-SF support.​
(v) Weapons release, via aircraft or artillery, is the last step of a multi-step intelligence and operational planning process for US special forces at the joint force headquarters. Relevant working group and boards to the F3EAD process for operational planning teams may include:-

One, the joint targeting working group, which provides target system analysis for plans and operations with lethal targeting support;

Two, the joint targeting coordination board, which facilitates and coordinates joint force targeting activities within each component's scheme of maneuver to ensure joint fires priorities are met; and

Three, the joint synchronization board, which approves near term lethal and non-lethal actions.​

24. Looking at the current track record of piss poor peformance of the AFP, I am certain that strategy is a constant to be avoided by the political leadership in the Philippines. In theory, strategy aligns ends, ways and means but requires disciplined choices. Unfortunately for the political leadership of the Philippines has not had a track record of making disciplined AFP procurement choices over any recent time horizon. Frankly, I am a little disappointed with the posts in this thread, as there is no attempt to:-

One, provide sources on key considerations in special operations;

Two, understand the roles of special forces in the region (in each individual country); or

Three, apply basic considered logic on the topic of special forces capability management from a raise, train and sustain perspective.​
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Thread closed for violation of rule 3. Warning issued to both lastranger and klaXonn for ignoring the Forum Rules.

3. Do not start "this vs that" topic threads. We encourage detailed comparison of weapon systems which looks at capabilities of weapon systems being compared but not in form of "weapon A vs. weapon B." Please be detailed and give reasons why such and such weapon system would be better for various conflict scenarios.​

@klaXonn, enough with this illogical, knowledge poor, and subjective approach to every thread you participate in. Even when your fellow countryman, tonnyc, explained why you are wrong in your prior post, you refuse to learn from the source provided. Our forum members are adults, who share and learn from each other, through information posted and links provided. A little honesty and objectivity in your posts would be appreciated. Make good use of your one year ban, to read the links provided before posting again.
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