Merkava for Singapore ?


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Thanks for any confirmation.
I would be very surprised, if that is the case. This seems rather speculative.

The Merkava IV is a great platform; but not well suited for our current Armour Battle Group (ABG) conops - a lot of things in the SAF will have to change, if we are to switch platforms. If anything we need more L2SGs and already use the Büffel ARV and the Leguan Bridge System on a L2 chassis; and we have placed an order for the Kodiak AEV (for the Armoured Engineers to keep up with the L2SGs).

It also does not make logistics sense given that the ABGs have L2SGs, BX IIs and the BX basedTrailbazers (with BX IIIs under development for the ABGs - unless you tell me that the BXIII under development is going to be as heavy as a Namer). Any IFV under development, no matter how heavy will be built by STK in Singapore (and not a foreign source). We are not Malaysia - buy a bit here, a bit there.

IF we bought something that will raise regional sensitives, it would not be leaked in this manner. As long time customers of Israeli weapons systems, those guys know better than to leak news of any potential deal due to confidentiality clauses present in the Singapore contracts with arms suppliers.

BTW, I understand there is also a 8x8 155mm project under development intended to replace the Primus - it may or may not succeed.
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The Bunker Group
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Thanks for the info OPSSG. Singapore procurement is always better planned than say it's Southern Neighbour :D So, when I read this, it raised question for me, why both Leo 2SG and Merkava 4. Not really surprising for me, on the based of close relationship between Singapore and Israel. However not really in line with Singapore ussual well planned procurement.

As for regional sensibilities, I don't think getting Merkava 4 will raised much eye brows in the neighbourhood considering everyone now try and already got MBT. Do you have info on further upgrade on Singapore's Leo 2A4 to Leo 2SG standard ?

TNI-AD already mentioned that when the budget available, they want to upgrade those 44 Leo 2 A4 to same standard as the 62 Leo 2RI. Anyway, Merkava 3/4 actually came as possible contender (by TNI-AD procurement committee) as with M1A1 and T-90S before they choose Leo 2.

Getting Israel UAV, radios, small armed for special forces is one thing. Getting Israel MBT will be to much political mine...Still Merkava is excellent MBT system, which should getting much export order in the market.


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If you look at SAF's 2013/14 announced procurement pipeline - 6x A330MRTT, 8x Littoral Mission Vessel, 2x Type-218SG, 60x upgrades to the F-16C/D fleet (we bough 7 spare engines for the fleet, as well), the latest 1x Joint-Multi-Mission Ship and more BXs and Terrexs (to double the current fleet size).

Plus F-35B (to be announced in a few years time), where got money left (for a vanity project of a 2nd MBT type)?

The Fokker-50 MPAs also needs to be replaced; and thereafter in late 2020s/early 2030s planning for the replacement of the 10x upgraded C-130Hs. At that time frame the 6x Victory Class will need to be replaced. Then the two Super Puma squadrons.

Do you have info on further upgrade on Singapore's Leo 2A4 to Leo 2SG standard ?
Armour upgrades = classified.

A few years ago, some details were revealed in a magazine interview with the then Singapore Chief of Army (done as a courtesy for the Malaysians) but since then nothing new revealed.

The Germans have given Singapore two training slots a year to train at the Bergen ranges in Germany. Over the last five years, Exercise Panzer Strike has grown in scale and complexity. From an average of about 200 Armoured personnel participants a year, the number of troops and assets involved in the annual exercise jumped to more than 1,300 Armoured personnel, and Leopard 2s (see here for pixs).

In the past, the TNI are often told in advance by MINDEF on what is coming next -- not sure what is the state of the relationship after the TNI-AL ship naming incident (which is a pity -- such a huge set back to the bilateral relationship). I don't think we want the TNI-SAF relationship to get worse, during your elections transition period.
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The Bunker Group
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Yes, Usman Harun naming incidence unfortunately came on election year. Name Usman Harun came after the Navy give Bung Tomo and John Lie (the only three stars officer from Chinese-Indonesian decent up until now) as names for those ex Nahkoda Ragam. Bad diplomacy handling, couples with some political faction blow up the case to the test for current administration 'nationalist agenda' on election year..just compounded and restricted their option on handling the matter..

Anyway back to Merkava 4, if Singapore is not the partner that will take additional Merkava to keep the line commercially viable. .then who's going to be...? Doubt any Western European or US will take them..the rich defense budget East Asian build their own MBT..and India already commited to their own domestic MBT and Rusian T-90..No way they can export to rich middle east..On South America..economically Brazil or Venezuela that still have budget to buy newly build Merkava..but the latter is politically dead end..and Brazil did not show any interest so far for MBT..

Unless Israel willing to angger China..and export to Taiwan..which I believe willing to accept..considering lack of Modern MBT option available to them..
What export option be available for them..? Azerbaijan. .? They do have oil money to afford them..


Banned Member
Agree with all that SG will not be buying Merkeva. Singapore has lots of Israeli-linked weaponary and has links with the Israeli Defence Forces. But the Leo 2SGs are fine enough and are of significant quantity.


Well-Known Member
We are not Malaysia - buy a bit here, a bit there.
Actually, it was not only Malaysia but also other ASEAN countries - with the key exception of Singapore - that had/have a policy of buying 'a bit here, a bit there', due to political reasons and to avoid placing all of ones eggs in a single basket. In Malaysia's case the MAF has attempted to improve on commonality and there has been some minor improvements in this regard; but as ever, the final decision lies in the hands of the politicans who unfortunately also base their decisions on factors such as supporting local industry, improving bilateral relations, technology transfers, etc.

Given that the current Prime Minister - due to local politics and other domestic issues - hasn't really been able to devote much attention to the MAF since entering office a few years ago and that there will probably not be many big ticket buys over the next couple of years or so; it remains to be seen if Malaysia will continue with its longstanding policy of spreading out is purchaces.

Anyway back to Merkava 4, if Singapore is not the partner that will take additional Merkava to keep the line commercially viable. .then who's going to be...?
Good question. If I recall correctly there was a Janes's Defence Weekly report in the 1990's of Turkey expressing a keen interest in the Merkava but later cancelling its plans due to Israeli reluctance.
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Defense Professional
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Turkey is out with them having their new Altay and the Leo II upgrade in the pipeline.

Merkava IV won't be cheap and should play in the same league like other modern western MBTs when it comes to the pricetag.

Most of the market has own programs, already bought other MBTs or is hostile towards Israel. I am hard pressed to think of any possible buyer.

Joe Black

Active Member
Turkey is out with them having their new Altay and the Leo II upgrade in the pipeline.

Merkava IV won't be cheap and should play in the same league like other modern western MBTs when it comes to the pricetag.

Most of the market has own programs, already bought other MBTs or is hostile towards Israel. I am hard pressed to think of any possible buyer.
A Merk 4 cost about $6M US per tank.


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Singapore has bought from a range of countries, including the Russian Igla. You it is a bit buy all over the place.


The Bunker Group
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Agree..Honestly, with Singapore out of potential users of Merkava 4, then considering budgetary and political consideration I can only think Azerbaijan and Taiwan as potential candidate outside Israel at this moment.

For Taiwan, China factor is big hurdle..but Azerbaijan with their Oil Money and their willingness to build relatioship with Israel (despite as Moeslem majority country)..put possibility there..

Still it is really very limited option of Market for Merkava..afterall it's an expensive MBT despite it's excelent capabilities.


Grumpy Old Man
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Agree..Honestly, with Singapore out of potential users of Merkava 4, then considering budgetary and political consideration I can only think Azerbaijan and Taiwan as potential candidate outside Israel at this moment.

For Taiwan, China factor is big hurdle..but Azerbaijan with their Oil Money and their willingness to build relatioship with Israel (despite as Moeslem majority country)..put possibility there..

Still it is really very limited option of Market for Merkava..afterall it's an expensive MBT despite it's excelent capabilities.
there's little point in any country buying merkava if their armour/operational doctrine doesn't align with the israeli model

the tank has been built around that foctrine and force construct model.

i can't see the taiwanese or azerbeijanis using the israeli force model


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The Israelis are in a similar position to where we were with the Cr2 - nice tank but not enough volume to be competitive on price/sales. Add to that the layout and internals are very driven by how they use their tanks...

And if you've already got a fleet of Leo's ..well, you'd just buy *more* Leo's surely?


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Right, even if one doesn't get additional A4s out of storage one could just buy new build Leos. Keeps the logistics simple without any capability disadvantages.


Banned Member
The Israelis are in a similar position to where we were with the Cr2 - nice tank but not enough volume to be competitive on price/sales. Add to that the layout and internals are very driven by how they use their tanks...

And if you've already got a fleet of Leo's ..well, you'd just buy *more* Leo's surely?
Singapore as they used the word is "kiasu"--closest meaning is overdoing it. Singapore is better off with more medium tanks or AFVs rather than MBTs.


Grumpy Old Man
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Singapore as they used the word is "kiasu"--closest meaning is overdoing it. Singapore is better off with more medium tanks or AFVs rather than MBTs.
,,,,,, the Singaporean doctrine revolves around one of the fundamental tenets of overmatch - CREF prev commentary in earlier threads scattered about the forum about comparisons with Israel and their close relationship - ie force development and assoc doctrine.

It's not literally about their gear - it's about the use of it


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there's little point in any country buying merkava if their armour/operational doctrine doesn't align with the israeli model

the tank has been built around that foctrine and force construct model.

i can't see the taiwanese or azerbeijanis using the israeli force model
,,,,,, the Singaporean doctrine revolves around one of the fundamental tenets of overmatch - CREF prev commentary in earlier threads scattered about the forum about comparisons with Israel and their close relationship - ie force development and assoc doctrine.

It's not literally about their gear - it's about the use of it
Part 1 of 3

1. I am repeating some of what I have said before for the benefit of new members. Doctrinally, the SAF does not intend to defend Singapore at the gates of the city, as it were and is capable and resourced for 'forward defence' of our country. Our thinking on defence is something that is not well understood by casual observers and often leads some misunderstanding. It was not so long ago when Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore worked hard collectively to convince Lloyd's of London to remove the "War Risk" premium for the Malacca Strait due to the then prevalence of piracy or sea robber activity. This premium was only removed by the Lloyd’s Market Association’s Joint War Committee in August 2006. Until the "War Risk" premium was removed, every piece of cargo shipped incurred higher shipping costs (because of higher insurance premiums).

2. Winston Churchill described the British defeat at Singapore in 1942 as 'The greatest disaster ever to befall British arms'. On 15 February 1942, the British Imperial garrison of Singapore, surrendered to a numerically smaller Japanese assault force which were supported by tanks. Whereas the British did not expect to face Japanese tanks, nor were they prepared for the swift onslaught. As WWII has shown, a good defence plan for Malaya (against the then external Japanese invasion from the north) from should start at the appropriate geographical choke point in Thai territory (see Appendix 2 for Map of the opening blows in the Pointer Monograph on page 64). The Imperial Japanese Army landed in Thai territory and proceed to march south. There is also a Pointer Monograph on the mistakes in the Malayan Campaign, including a chapter on operational art shortcomings by LTC (NS) Singh and I quote A/P Farrell from the Monograph below:

"The only conceivable scenario in which the 21st century SAF will be fighting on its own is the direct defence of Singapore itself in circumstances where Singapore’s allies are unwilling, or unable, to assist its defence. SAF operations in Cambodia and East Timor were part of larger multi-national efforts and we must assume this will remain the more likely scenario for a long time to come.

The defence and fall of Malaya and Singapore provide a stark if general warning in this respect. Defeat was probably unavoidable for the British Empire in Malaya after the fall of France in 1940, certainly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. But disaster, the rapid and humiliating collapse of the defence on the mainland, need not have happened.

One important reason why it did was the failure of the defenders, especially Malaya Command, to manage the inherent problems of fighting as a coalition. The frustration and pressure of retreat and defeat naturally magnified those problems. Inter- operability in all respects, including moral and psychological, spells the difference between victory and defeat in coalition operations. The SAF must learn to work effectively with foreign partners, just as they must learn to work with it. Finger pointing based on national differences, once started, can be impossible to stop."​

3. British military intelligence officer Hughes-Wilson attributes the intelligence effort at Singapore as having four fatal flaws as follows:
(i) underestimation of the enemy;

(ii) fragmentation of effort;

(iii) lack of resources; and

(iv) no influence at the highest levels of command and control.​

4. In World War II, the Japanese attacked Malaya and Pearl Harbor almost at the same time. In a similar act of tactical brilliance and excellent command of operational art by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA), Malaya and Singapore both fell faster than the IJA had hoped. In page 58, of Tim Huxely's book, "Defending the Lion City, The Armed Forces of Singapore", he said:-

"For example, from the late 1970s MINDEF developed plans for contingencies which might have arisen from the presence of Soviet forces in Vietnam, such as Soviet air attacks in retaliation for any Singaporean intervention in defence of Thailand, or in the event of a wider conflict between rival super-power-led coalitions."​

Singapore will start the defence of Thailand in Northern Thailand and in the 1980s the SAF Commandos conducted joint patrols with Thai forces. The invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam in December 1978 was a source of concern for ASEAN members. At that time, Singapore and Thailand were wondering if the Vietnamese would continue further south. Especially since the US had just left Vietnam a few years earlier. Learning from past mistakes, Singapore understands that to be fore-warned is to be fore-armed. Good intelligence is of crucial importance to a small state, like Singapore. The security problems faced by Singapore go beyond the traditional need for intelligence on state actors from the past. Today's threats faced are multi-faceted, trans-national and complex.

5. Singapore is not shy about learning from others, and as events unfold, someone in Singapore, is observing, and learning from that incident. Studies of the recent Mumbai attacks have underscored the critical need for intelligence, early warning and preventive capabilities to detect, deter and defeat these threats. Using software, Future Systems Directorate (FSD) mapped the Mumbai attacks in time sequence and by geographic location, to understand how events unfolded. The Concept Development and Experimentation (CD&E) process adopted by FSD includes:-
(i) strategic and long term planning;

(ii) concept design and development;

(iii) experimentation and validation of capabilities; and

(iv) incubation and transition into capabilities.​

Beyond military experimentation by the FSD, the Singapore Army has changed the way and methods it uses for training. This change has been formalised though the creation of the Force Preparation Centre (FPC), under the Peace Support Operations Development Group (PSO-DG) to better train and support troops deployed abroad. For lessons affecting current operations, PSO-DG collaborates with partners to review, refine and develop new Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs), to ensure that feedback from troops in-theatre are kept updated for the next batch being deployed. For lessons that are relevant for Army wide implementation, TRADOC becomes involved. An example of this type of change, has been the Army wide change in the way our soldiers are trained for urban warfare (see this video on the Singapore Army's new Urban Ops Range: This is reflected not just in the syllabus change but also change in the technology used to deliver the training outcomes desired. This change has resulted in increased realism in the training provided and better training methods being adopted.

6. By way of background for those that don't know, Singapore has a mainly conscript army (72,500 active & 312,500 reserves); and when it is mobilized, the SAF is actually larger than many armies in larger countries in ASEAN (eg. The SAF is larger in numbers than that of Malaysia). The Singapore Army has:-

(i) 3 modern combined arms divisions (3rd, 6th & 9th Divisions);

(ii) operates 2nd hand Leopard 2 tanks and a range of locally made IFVs and ICVs;

(iii) an elite rapid deployment division (21st Division) and an armoured 25th Division, both of which serve as the army's operational reserve; and

(iv) has a division plus force that is responsible for homeland and key installation defence - the 2nd People's Defence Force (2PDF).​

7. Please note that the Singapore Armed Forces is not called the Singapore Defence Forces - simply because other than 2PDF - most of our divisions are designed to be forward deployment forces. I tend to see Singapore's deterrence strategy in terms of escalation options - Singapore's defence plans are designed with a certain level of resilience - where the SAF can take an attack, defend against that attack, and at the same time conduct a rapid counter offensive. Beyond these 6 Divisional commands, the SAF has also stood-up a number of task forces to meet our security needs (see org chart here). The more significant of which is the National Maritime Security System (NMSS), which is hard at work to protect Singapore from terrorism.
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 (delivered)
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.
8. If a US or a PLA general was asked to defend Singapore, within Singapore, the hypothetical general may tell you that such a plan is foolish or that it cannot be done effectively. Hence the need to take the fight outside of Singapore (also called a pre- emptive strike in certain circumstances), as a defender confined to only within Singapore is at a tactical disadvantage. In geographic terms, the defence of Malaysia-Singapore is indivisible. If a hostile aggressor invades West Malaysia, The SAF cannot standby the side, and we will be drawn into the conflict. West Malaysia is a peninsular with a limited width in the frontage, hence the terrain is only suitable for the deployment of a division+ sized force against an aggressor that is also divisional in size. There are three additional points to note on a discussion about the SAF, as follows:-

One, the SAF's ability to respond within hours and with decisive force on an act of aggression pre-disposes a regional challenge geared towards either an asymmetric or non-state action;

Two, I am also of the view that it is very, very unlikely that Singapore's immediate neigbours would ever close the causeway and mine the approaches to Singapore, as an economic blockage of this sort would be seen as an unambiguous act of war by Singapore (or acts for which we will punish) -- which would have negative consequences for the aggressor. Such acts are not in the interest of our ASEAN neighbours, as we are mutually interdependent major trading partners; and

Three, other powers, much more powerful than Singapore may intervene in coalition with the SAF to remove the threat to a key port that serves the Indo-Pacific region.​

9. Insights from a NBR Analysis (Vo. 14, No. 2, Aug 2003) titled: "Theater Security Cooperation in the U.S. Pacific Command: An Assessment and Projection" by Sheldon W. Simon, from over 10 years ago, reinforce some of the core issues discussed here. As the Americans noted in this report, Singapore believes defense is our own responsibility. While the SAF desires inter-operability with other forces it is also designed to operate on it's own, if need be. I quote a small section of what he wrote and in particular, what he said about Singapore:
"Of America’s three closest Southeast Asian security partners, (Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines), only Singapore’s armed forces are sufficiently technologically proficient to interact with U.S. forces in a manner comparable to Japan, the ROK, and Australia...

Singapore’s defense concerns focus entirely on its own neighborhood. As a major international port and business center, maintaining freedom of the SLOCs and air routes is essential to the city-state’s prosperity. This core interest fits well with U.S. East Asian strategy... Moreover, Singapore is the only Southeast Asian military to have an active rapid deployment force, which operates in an integrated manner with the navy and air force...

While the city-state prefers U.S. defense technology because of its superiority and logistical advantages, Singapore also maintains a complex system of licensed production, assembly, and technology agreements with Britain, France, Italy, Israel, Thailand, Sweden, and Taiwan...

The United States has solidified its security ties to Singapore with a logistics facility, which provides a surge capacity during crises, and was used in Operation Enduring Freedom. Moreover, the new Changi Naval Base, with its deep-water capability, permits the berthing of U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. Despite these close ties, Singapore is not completely satisfied with its U.S. defense relationship. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) desires full technology release on all systems it purchases. That is, Singapore wishes to have the right to modify U.S. technology to fit its own needs. Therefore, it is less concerned with maintaining interoperability with the United States than with integrating U.S. equipment into Singapore’s own armed forces doctrine...

At bottom, Singapore believes defense to be essentially its own responsibility. What it wants from the United States, therefore, is increased technology transfer to enhance its independent military capability. Singapore is more enthusiastic about multilateral anti-terrorist cooperation, though even along this dimension the city - state seems more comfortable sharing intelligence with the United States than its neighbors...

Protecting the Strait of Malacca where 1,100 supertankers pass eastbound annually is of great concern to Singapore. A terrorist incident could disrupt traffic simply by causing insurance rates to skyrocket... Terrorist groups have engaged in piracy according to the Malaysian Institute for Maritime Affairs. The MILF and Abu Sayyaf from the Philippines have attacked vessels in the Sulu Sea; and although some anti-piracy cooperation occurs among the littoral states, obstacles remain... This is a particular problem when pirates flee into Indonesian waters among that country’s thousands of islands..."​
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Part 2 of 3

10. Singapore is a maritime nation and the Singapore Navy provides with a crucial capability to secure Singapore's Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs). SLOCs are crucial to a port city connected to the maritime commerce of all of the Indo-Pacific region (i.e. the Malacca and Singapore Straits). More than 3,000 vessels call Singapore every week. Dedicated intra-Asia services connect Singapore to many of the smaller ports, whereas the big vessels on the services from North America and Europe represent the main connections not only to the markets outside Asia; but also to all the major ports in Asia (i.e. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Busan, and Tokyo). To secure our SLOCs, the Singapore Navy has conducted a spectrum of operations that includes:-
(i) participating in an international search and recover operations for a missing airliner -- a frigate (with an organic sikorsky S-70B), a missile corvette and the MV Swift Rescue were deployed to assist in the search and locate operations in the South China Sea for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing on 8 March 2014 (until the Malaysians acting on new radar and satellite data, terminated the search in that area and relocated the search to other areas);

(ii) conducting ongoing counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden under CTF-151, in Operation Blue Sapphire. Singaporean boarding teams from the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) have faced off with pirates and sank their attack skiffs in Operation Blue Sapphire; and

(iii) conducting disaster relief operations in the near abroad. For example after the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 (in Operation Flying Eagle), 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.​
Basic Conceptual Terms Defined
(1) Strategy - The overall concept of using military power to achieve political and/or military ends

(2) Tactics*** - The art of winning battles and engagements (and this idea is always tied to a specific area of operations, usually at a lower level of command and against a specific enemy)

(3) Battle - A violent collision of forces at a specific time and place

(4) CONOPS - Concept of Operations is the planned positioning and movement of forces to gain an advantage over the aggressor

Note: ***The following definition of tactics may also be used:
(i) The employment of units in combat (FM 3-0).

(ii) It includes the ordered arrangement and maneuver of units in relation to each other, the terrain and the enemy to translate potential combat power into victorious battles and engagements. (FM 3-0 & FM 3-90).​
11. Having been dealt a geo-strategically disadvantaged hand at the country's formation on 9 August 1965 in the mist of tension with its ambitious neighbours, Singapore has to build military capabilities that it needs, first, and that has been the country's singular focus since August 1967. There are three points to note:-

One, the SAF is not an expeditionary army, nor is the RSN a blue water navy; but it is the world's smallest country with a tertiary air force. Singapore's lack of depth has resulted in a clear focus on the building the basic force structure for regional over-match, if threatened; and the SAF's capabilities serve to deter larger powers from acting unilaterally and buys valuable time for our citizen soldiers should the SAF be required to engage in the forward defence of Singapore.

Two, beyond Singapore's lack of depth, lack-of-water catchment areas big enough to supply water to our growing population and economy is a problem. Therefore, water is a big part of urban planning. In this respect, Singapore still buys raw water from Johor. It's tapped from a river and sent to Singapore and in return we have to pay. It is accurate to say that we pay for Malaysian rain that would otherwise flow into the sea. In return for paying for rain, Singapore is obligated to treat a portion of the the raw water supply, process it and supply it to Johor at a fixed price regardless of our cost. In other words, Johor gets treated water at a lower cost than they can treat. So by contract, Singapore's Public Utilities Board is required to pay for raw water and also subsidize the supply of water to Johore. So we pay twice for the privilege in accordance to the terms of the water supply agreements. The 2011 water agreement has expired but the 2nd water agreement will only expire in 2061. By way of background, it's been announced that both governments, that the parties will not renew the agreements, when they expire. While the parties to the water agreements are between Public Utilities Board and the Johor state government, the Malaysian Federal Government has guaranteed the observance of the two water agreements in an amendment statute that was annexed to the Separation Agreement, which Singapore then registered with the United Nations. If Malaysian leaders threaten to cut off Singapore's water supply, Singapore could go to the UN to get a ruling by the United Nations Security Council.

Three, water is NOT a political issue in Singapore because there is a consensus in Singapore that we need it. Water supply to Singapore is a political issue in Malaysian politics. That is why the less responsible Malaysian politicians always want to threaten to cut-off our water supply, when it suits their domestic politics. Because Singapore is blessed by this dependency, we know that our water supply is to some extent contingent on Malaysian politics. The SAF exists to ensure that Singapore will have escalation options should the Malaysians decide not respect their contractual obligations under the 2nd water agreement. Every Singapore child is taught at school that water is precious and it's integrated into our education system. Schools organise field trips to NEWater plants to impress this point on children. In fact, Singapore's daily domestic usage is about 158 litres per day (below UN's benchmark 165-litre mark), while in Penang, Malaysia, people there use 286 litres of water a day. It's even reflected in the pattern of water usage at home. This type of consensus building is very powerful and it's in the people's psyche. So there is a national consensus, built from childhood, that we need to husband this precious resource -- WATER. However, thanks to a generation of efforts with development of NEWater plants, the desalination plants and new catchment areas (eg. the Marina Barrage), we do not need to renew the 2nd water agreement when it expires.​

12. Over the years, along with falling birth rates and as the SAF became more capable the duration of service required of Singapore men, as citizen-soldiers, has been reduced. It is also meaningless to look at pictures of the SAF hardware without understanding the SAF's mission, the role of logistics, its C4I capabilities and the intelligence cycle (see Singapore Army Pictures - 2014 Onwards). The SAF provides Singapore with an independent deterrence against potentially ambitious neighbours. 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 Special Operations Task Force (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 two examples to illustrate this capability:-

SAF's Special Operations Task Force:

(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; and

(ii) 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.​

13. It turns out the some years ago, in a Malaysian staff collage, one of the students (training to be a Commanding Officer) wrote a paper about poisoning Singapore's water supply and it was published because of his creativity at approaching the solution. What do you think is the correct solution to this problem/threat? A minor shooting war, then, is not sufficient in of itself (issue of escalation control, as modern wars are seldom unconditional). Therefore, it became necessary to develop a range of responses to persuade Malaysian decision makers and individual actors that this sort of decision is not in their personal interest. This was made more acute when Malaysia established official relations with the Palestinians and the Palestinians conducted two bomb attacks in Singapore in mid-1980s. Further, in 1991, SQ117 was also hijacked in Malaysia by four men of Pakistani origin. These incidents underscored the need to building a capable network abroad, to enable Singaporean intelligence understand how these threats originate or are staged. This will have unintended second and third order consequences. When a country acts against the core national interest of another, a response is guaranteed. Remember, the response may not even be visible but it exists.

14. Tim Huxley chronicles the evolution of Singapore's strategy. In the early years, Singapore used the analogy of a 'poisonous shrimp' (small but indigestible by predators) to define its military strategy. The idea was that any aggressor would find that the costs of attempting to invade and occupy Singapore outweighed any conceivable benefits. By the 1990s, the emphasis it grew from a 'poisonous shrimp' to enabling the SAF to achieve a 'swift and decisive victory' over aggressors. This was because the 'poisonous shrimp' strategy was deficient in that it merely offered Singapore a choice of 'suicide or surrender'. According to Tim Huxley, "the key to understanding Singapore's strategy, is that the SAF's clear capability to inflict severe damage on Malaysia (by implication creating serious political and economic repercussions for Singapore) is not intended to be used. The capability is a deterrent - a sort of regional 'doomsday machine' intended to manipulate Singapore's regional threat environment by forcing neigbouring states to treat the city state with a degree of respect and caution which might otherwise be absent."

15. Serving as a vital port that connects the Indo-Pacific, tiny Singapore (at 714.3 km² in land size) has to continually reconstruct itself and keep its relevance to the world and to create political and economic space. As Robert Kaplan noted, the Indian Ocean is the world’s energy interstate. He is of the view that we are entering not so much a world where there is an East Asia, a South Asia, and a Southeast Asia, but a world where the whole of Eurasia constitutes one organic, interconnected geography. To that end, Singapore's air force and navy, are used as tools to:-

(a) provide Singapore with the ability to project soft (in stability missions, in humanitarian and disaster relief missions or even search and locate missions in the case of MH370) or hard power in coercive missions, like enforcing no fly zones or performing any of the four roles of air power in war over long distances through the compression of time and space, by the use of technology; and

(b) expand geostrategic depth by enabling the nation to use its air power to build up a network of bilateral and multilateral defence relationships within a country's vicinity and around the world.​

16. In August 2013, Singapore's Prime Minster announced that, in future (in the 2030+ time frame), Paya Lebar Airbase to be moved to Changi Airbase to free up 800 hectares for economic development. The plan to consolidate the RSAF's three fixed wing air bases from three to two, will increase their vulnerability. A partial solution to the problem of increased vulnerability is investing in F-35Bs, which are capable of STOVL operations. The other part of the solution is for the SAF to invest in a stronger aviation centric platform, namely the Joint Multi-Mission Ship (JMMS). The JMMS will help mitigate against the vulnerability of Singapore's air bases (and alternate runways) from surprise attack. Further, learning from its previous HADR missions, the SAF realised the value of having a larger naval vessel, like the JMMS (being planned), which could act as springboards for extended aviation operations.
...It is clear from the prior posts that Singapore has some military power. However, our ability to be seen in exercising this power is constrained by current geo-political reality.

Q1: Why is Singapore so reluctant to use military power as a strategy?

Ans: We use the SAF to achieve political ends but usually not to conduct war (because war in of itself is a blunt policy tool). The SAF is usually used by Singapore to win friends and influence other countries (and not to fight with them). An example of the SAF in non-combat roles is all the humanitarian relief deployments (eg. the Dec 2004 Tsunami) or peace support ops. And the SAF contributes to peace support ops too. If we can achieve the same political goal by negotiations or diplomatic efforts:- Why not? Further, the mere presence of the SAF deters potential aggressors from using force. So ironically, the presence of military power, may reduce the necessity of using military power.

Q2: Why does Singapore focus so much attention on air power?

Ans: Singapore lacks strategic depth and our forces cannot retreat from the city into the jungle. Therefore, it is crucial for us to at least maintain air parity, or if possible, win air superiority so that we can protect the city from aerial bombardment and employ our air power to our tactical advantage to enable us to establish local superiority in battles.

Q3: Why build the Singapore navy, when you have air power?

Ans: We are not self sufficient in food (over the long term) and we need trade to ensure that our city does not starve in a naval blockade. It is no good if we can defend Singapore island but cannot import food because of a naval blockage. In fact, just an increase in insurance rates will affect the price of goods imported into Singapore. Being able to defend Singapore island itself is meaningless if we cannot keep our SLOCs open. Further, air power can have a multiplier effect on the RSN's capabilities and gives us a greater choice of tactics in any naval battle.

Q4: Singapore has a strong but small* air force and navy, why do you need an army?

Ans: Because without an army we cannot hold physical ground (we would have to give up the possibility of using forward defence as a potential tactic, if we cannot hold ground) and it would create a force imbalance, that can be easily overcome by a capable aggressor. Further, we are not a true island like NZ or the UK (where they are separated by miles and miles of water), as we are physically connected by 2 land bridges to Malaysia (and therefore physically connected to the rest of mainland Southeast Asia). In WWII, the causeway was demolished by the British but the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) were able to cross it in a few hours and bring over their troops, tanks and supplies. So IMHO, a strong army component is essential in any land battle (keeping in mind that the IJA invaded Singapore by a land route). Our army components include recce elements (like LRRPS), armoured battle groups, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and so on...

*Small being a relative concept when compared to regional powers (the RSAF has the best trained and largest combat aircraft fleet amongst the ASEAN countries). The RSN has arguably the most capable naval fleet amongst the ASEAN countries (in terms of force balance).
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Part 3 of 3

17. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is the smallest of the three services, but it is the home of big ideas; and effectively communicating its ideas to the public in Singapore. This two minute commercial captures the navy's contributions towards Singapore's seaward defence, centred on four key roles:-
[nomedia=""]Defending our Everyday - YouTube[/nomedia]

(i) ensuring maritime security, everyday by patrolling Singapore's waters;

(ii) enhancing diplomacy by working with like minded nations;

(iii) protecting Singapore's SLOCs; and

(iv) securing the peace for Singapore and its citizens.​

18. Please take two minutes to watch the above video, to fully appreciate the importance of these four key roles to Singapore (as a port, and as a city-state) to understand the RSAF's focus on developing maritime ISR and attack capabilities to support the RSN. The Singapore Navy has two Archer-class AIP equipped submarines (each with a pressurized diver's lock-out to facilitate special forces operations), provides a key ISR capability that gives a larger nation a cause-for-pause, when taking the SAF's capabilities into consideration.

19. From 22 to 24 April 2013, Dr. Ng visited Germany; and on 22 April 2013, met with his counterpart Dr Thomas de Maizière in Berlin, where they discussed political and security developments in Europe and Asia, as well as bilateral defence cooperation. Dr Ng also conveyed Singapore's appreciation for the German government's support for the SAF's armour training in Germany. With the recent agreement to provide a second training window from 2013 onwards, the SAF will now be able to train in Germany twice a year. Singapore and Germany interact regularly in a range of defence interactions, such as visits, military exchanges, professional courses, policy dialogues and technology collaboration. Both countries signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement in September 2005 and Singapore will acquire two new Type 218SG submarines from Thyssenkrupp Marine System GmBH. These new submarines (with a customised design) are to be delivered by 2020; with ST Electronics, co-developing the combat system with Atlas Elektronik GmbH. Felix Seidler, has a post on the Type 218SG at the Center for International Maritime Security blog. And given that Singapore is a maritime nation, the SAF will spend far more on submarines and the JMMS with it's embarked aircraft than what it will spend on its ABGs (and main battle tanks, which form part of the ABG).

20. Prior to citing comments by others on the RSAF, I think it is important to repeat the four roles of air power for Singapore (see Air Power 101 for New Members for more examples of air power at work). They are as follows:-
One Force - 2014 RSAF:

(i) to fight for control of the air in support of SAF operations, through the use of F-16C/Ds, F-15SGs and F-35Bs (in the near future), supported by G550 AEWs and KC-135Rs, to gain air superiority;

(ii) to attack any aggressor's forces, through the use precision munitions delivered by fighters or other platforms, on land or at sea;

(iii) to provide air mobility to enable the SAF to insert troops or send supplies in support of missions conducted on land or at sea; and

(iv) to conduct ISR, in other words to gather intelligence, conduct surveillance or reconnaissance using fighters (as ISR assets), MPAs, Heron 1 UAVs, Hermes 450 UAVs and Scaneagle UAVs launched from land or from the sea.​

21. As Lt. General (Retired) Deptula (of the USAF) noted in discussing the future of air power:-

"Today the situation is reversed—finishing adversaries is easy… finding them is the challenge, and that places a premium on the importance of conducting effective intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance or ISR. ISR today is the linchpin of our ability to conduct traditional find-fix-finish operations, and it’s increasingly being performed by fighter aircraft as an integral part of their traditional missions."​

22. The US Air Force is stepping up its collaborative efforts and capabilities with key regional air forces, including with Australia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan. In a November 2013 Breaking Defense interview with Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, underscored that the US Air Force is adopting innovations from partners and he said:-

“Singapore is doing very innovative things with their F-15s, notably in evolving the capabilities of the aircraft to contribute to maritime defense and security. We are looking very carefully at their innovations and can leverage their approach and thinking as well. This will certainly grow as we introduce the fleet of F-35s in the Pacific where cross national collaboration is built in.”​

23. But maybe the USAF are talking about the RSAF using the AN/ASQ-236 externally mounted sensor pod's synthetic aperture radar or such other sensor (that provides detailed maps for surveillance, coordinate generation and bomb impact assessment purposes) for use in a maritime domain. Instead of just using the AN/ASQ-236 pod to precisely geo-locate points of interest and conduct surveillance activities day or night, in adverse weather conditions, the RSAF could also use it as an AESA sea-search sensor, in combination with the use of the F-15SG's Sniper targeting pod. I suspect that Singaporean WSOs could be developing tactics for searching or targeting ships by using both.

24. In the November 2013 Breaking Defense interview, Gen. Hawk Carlisle also noted "the ability of 5th generation aircraft to provide forward target identification for strike missiles from a surface or subsurface maritime asset. He described the ability of advanced aircraft, in this case the F-22, to provide forward targeting through its sensors for submarine based T-LAMS (cruise missiles) as both a more effective use of the current force and a building block for the emergence of the F-35 fleet in the Pacific. This is a harbinger of things to come with the emergent weapons revolution associated with the laydown of a new generation of combat systems enabled aircraft." As Dr. Robbin Laird recently said:-

"We usually think of technology as the driver.. but in fact we are entering a decade where the CONOPs changes are as important as the technologies."​

25. The future is no longer about platforms but how these platforms are used as part of coalition CONOPS. As Mike Yeo of the Baseleg blog has recently noted on the maritime role of the F-15SGs:-

"While not some exciting, big bang secret weapon many of us were probably hoping for, this is essentially the future of warfare: where disparate, totally different platforms can communicate and work together seamlessly to maximise their effectiveness during a time of conflict. One can only imagine F-15SGs, using their sophisticated AESA radars and distributing information over secure networks via datalinks while operating from high altitude, providing updated, over the horizon targeting information for the Republic of Singapore Navy's Formidable-class frigates. Or in the future, even working with the recently-acquired Type 218SG submarines in a similar fashion. And that may not even be restricted to Singaporean platforms. It is not entirely inconceivable that the F-15SG's can do the same for allied ships, for example with Australia's upcoming Hobart-class Air Warfare destroyers in a future coalition ops scenario.

Or, it may really be an exciting, big bang secret weapon. Like the AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapons that were included in an U.S. Foreign Military Sales notification to Singapore a few years back having been upgraded to C-1 standards to add the capability to hit moving targets..."​

26. As Lee Kuan Yew once said, a small country like Singapore seeks a maximum number of friends, while maintaining the freedom to be itself as a sovereign and independent nation. Both parts of the equation – a maximum number of friends and freedom to be act - are equally important and inter-related. This is why the SAF's mission in furtherance of Singapore's forward defence posture is as follows:-

"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."​

Our investments in training, technology and logistics are but tools to enable the SAF to act decisively in accordance with our mission statement. That is why I take a considered view that the defence of Singapore against any aggressor should be dynamic, and considered. However, Singapore must guard against operational complacency and the unfounded assumption that any aggressor at war would want to meet the SAF in decisive engagements.

27. Our army has also progressively become more mechanized than other ASEAN countries; and in certain areas, our conscripts in specific vocations may be better trained than the full time professionals of our regional cousins (because of continuous improvements made over time). While there is much room for further improvement, Singapore's training standards are high by regional standards (in terms of cultivating an operational learning culture) and Brunei uses the SAF as a training benchmark, sending a number of their personnel for to train in upgrade courses conducted by the SAF. There are four additional points to note below:-

The SAF - For Singapore:

One, 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);

Two, the Singapore Navy is a green water navy, with some special features, including being used as a tool for diplomacy. Through the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), Singapore's land based air power dominates these chokepoints, as a status quo rising power;

Three, the hard power that controls the adjacent land to the chokepoint, also controls passage of vessels. The ability to operate via FOBs and disperse forces, gives the SAF flexibility in the conduct of the forward defence of Singapore, at a place and time of its choosing - aka choose where and when to give battle. More often than not, the more capable force gets to choose when to act with decisive force - however, Singapore's lack of depth and lack of natural resources makes it uniquely vulnerable; and

Four, when the SAF unveiled an upgraded Leopard 2SG and it is clear that the upgrade is the logical outcome of the discussions at SAF's 2006 Land Defence Asia Conference. And the acquisition of the Leopard 2SG and it's supporting platforms are designed to enable the Singapore Army to conduct a Thunder Run into the aggressor's centre of gravity. It took 5 years from concept to execution but the focus is not on a single platform, rather, it is on delivering a capability (supported by ISR, a range of sympathetic platforms and systems) with a strong focus on the SAF's ability to project, promote, persist, prosecute, and maintain a presence in an urban environment - however that does not mean that the SAF does not have capability gaps or can afford to be complacent.​

28. IMHO, the reality is the SAF does not exist to just defend Singapore, within Singapore. The SAF also serves to defend Singapore's interests; and Singapore's interests as a port-city, have a strong maritime character. The recent announcement that the SAF will acquire the JMMS (in addition to the 8 Littoral Mission Vessels to replace the Fearless Class vessels) is further affirmation that Singapore is a maritime nation.

29. For those who are interested in reading more on Singapore, may I humbly recommend reading a couple of my prior posts:-
(i) 'Singapore in respect to Select Sino-ASEAN Developments' (Part 1 of 3), (Part 2 of 3) and (Part 3 of 3);

(ii) 'The Geo-Political Context of US-Singapore Relations' (Part 1 of 3: People-to-People Ties), (Part 2 of 3: Commercial Ties) and (Part 3 of 3: Milestones in Security Cooperation); and

(ii) 'RIMPAC 2014 and the Shifting Winds of Change in Asia' (Part 1 of 7), (Part 2 of 7), (Part 3 of 7), (Part 4 of 7), (Part 5 of 7), (Part 6 of 7), and (Part 7 of 7).​

Further, the Little India Riot demonstrated that Singapore is not as prepared, as it wanted to be for even an internal security mission (with very, very restrictive rules of engagement and where only less lethal solutions are allowed). Therefore, there are plans to institute change in the SAF at three levels to deal with special circumstances that create a gap in our capabilities (as the Defence Minister noted in his facebook post, which is quoted in full below).
Little India Riot - Lessons for the SAF

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” - Mike Tyson

As a professional boxer, Mike Tyson knew the painful difference between plans and reality. You can train for an event, spectators and coaches can give great advice from the sidelines during or after the match but for the actual participants slugging it out, reality meant having to make instant decisions while being beaten.

We have not had a riot in more than 40 years and don’t wish to see any more, but this real-life situation holds many important lessons for the SAF, much more than from our exercises or scenario planning. If called upon by the Home Team to assist, how effective would the SAF have been? We should approach this honestly so that our systems can improve. SAF commanders are therefore scrutinising the entire incident to learn the right lessons.

Some big issues:

Communications – the SAF has its own network but how would it perform in an urban high-density environment?

Information – How would we get real-time accurate information on the ground when things are changing by the minute? What “sensors” would we deploy, when and how?

Mobility – How would we get men and machines to ground zero? How do we bypass urban traffic and grid-lock?

These are some important questions that will need to be addressed. We should be thankful and respectful that the Home Team did their job well, and no one got killed. But we must make sure we take full advantage of this real-life situation, learn from others and update the SAF’s tactics and procedures.

- Ng Eng Hen
30. The above links in my post should help set the context of gf0012-aust's reply in this thread, where he noted it is not about platforms but how they are to be used. The SAF is hard to fight against not just because the country buys the right hardware/platforms alone (aka technical competence) or that it has the force structure that is capable of forward defence (aka right force structure and logistics). Rather, the SAF is hard to fight against because it also noted for using the technology acquired or developed in an innovative manner.
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New Member
Hey OPSSG, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Singaporean Merkava 4 rumour; it affirms what I had read elsewhere about Singaporean defence procurement.

If I may, what are your thoughts about the recent (as well) JMMS announcement and especially how does that tie in within a perceived desire to replace the Endurance as well as the interest in the F-35B? I have read names like the Cavour, Mistral and San Juan being bandied about.

Do feel free to delete/move this post if it is inappropriate/sensitive; I had posted this here only because I hadn't seen any relevant threads over at the naval forum and that there were mention of the JMMS here.
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