RSN capabilities


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Part 1 of 2: Concurrent activities with other navies at sea

1. At the end of 2020, the size of China’s navy— was approximately 360, compared to the United States’ 297, according to the US Office of Naval Intelligence. It also projected that China’s navy will increase to 400 ships in 2025 and 425 in 2030. Given the growth of the Chinese Navy, there are two paths to peace — (a) the absolute surrender of a country’s national interests (eg. the Philippines and Cambodia); or (b) working with a coalition of countries to align economic and security interests (eg. Australia, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Singapore).

2. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded a 3-nation tour of Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore) and Korea aimed at shoring up Beijing’s diplomatic engagement with the region following a number of visits by high-ranking U.S. officials. Visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that the long-standing China-Singapore relation has become an important stabilizing factor in the region. During their meeting, Wang conveyed greetings from the Chinese leaders to Singapore’s prime minister.

(a) Wang said the bilateral relationship has benefited from the strategic leadership of the leaders of the two countries, the joint efforts of people from all walks of life in both countries and the fact that the Singapore’s side has always viewed China’s development objectively and rationally. He highlighted that Singapore is adept at finding cooperation opportunities from China’s development and striving for win-win prospects.​
(b) Coming about two weeks after US Vice President Kamala Harris' trip to the region that sought to pit countries against China, Wang's trip showed that China and the neighboring countries are aiming to work in partnership to strengthen diplomatic relations. According to the Secretary-General of ASEAN, China, Singapore and Japan have finished ratification of RCEP, as a key move to enable post-pandemic economic recovery.​
(c) During the Singapore-China Defence Policy Dialogue (DPD) held on 14 Sep 2021, via video conferencing, both sides:​

(i) expressed their commitment to strengthen defence cooperation as agreed under the enhanced Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation signed in Oct 2019, that includes the regularisation and scaling up of bilateral exercises and interactions across the Services such as the flagship bilateral army and naval exercises Exercise Cooperation and Exercise Maritime Cooperation; and​
(ii) discussed ways to strengthen cooperation under the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus framework and broaden ASEAN-China defence cooperation to build mutual understanding and confidence among the defence establishments.​

(d) Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that his recent four-nation tour to Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and South Korea has helped upgrade mutually-beneficial cooperation among all sides. This trip follows upon the Apr 2021 trip by Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to China upon Wang’s invitation.​

3. Singapore Navy conducting a Passage Exercise with the PLA(N) in Sep 2021.
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Part 2 of 2: Concurrent activities with other navies at sea

4. The Singapore Navy conducted far more complicated serials with the Indians, prior to the serials with the PLA(N). With only 5 Fokker 50 MPAs and 8 Seahawks, the Singapore Navy struggles to conduct realistic ASW exercises at a reasonable training cost.
(a) Given that ASW is a combined operation and the days of a single vesssl searching for lurking submarines are long gone, it makes financial sense to train with the Indian Navy. Four F-16s took part to simulate the air threat and provide realism for the anti-air serial. The Indian Navy gets tremendous value as their PPOs get to hunt an AIP submarine and also defend against notional enemy F-16s.​
(b) This way within the task group for the exercise serials, there will be a number of options, including a P8I and organic naval helicopters to hunt the Archer class submarine that is playing the role of the enemy for SIMBEX serial on ASW.​

5. Exercise Bersama Gold 2021 is a Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) tri-service exercise involving assets and personnel from Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom — with the participation of 2600 personnel, 10 ships, one submarine, six maritime helicopters, three maritime patrol aircraft, 25 fighter aircraft, two support aircraft, and a G550 CAEW for command and control. As part of Bersama Gold 2021, a flypast and naval vessel display will be livestreamed on the Ministry of Defence's social media platforms on 18 October at 1200hrs (Singapore Time). The Naval vessel display will feature Australia's HMAS Canberra, Malaysia's KD Lekiu, New Zealand's HMNZS Aotearoa, Singapore's RSS Steadfast, and the United Kingdom's HMS Diamond.

6. The Bersama Gold 2021 exercise is an enlarged biennial Bersama Shield exercise but was renamed to Gold to reflect the 50th anniversary of the FPDA. The exercise is held mostly in the South China Sea between the coasts of Malaysia and Singapore, where participating nations will conduct anti-air and anti-submarine exercises, gunnery firings and maneuvering drills. Air forces from the FPDA member-nations will perform air defense exercises over the airspace of West Malaysia and support the maritime component in anti-submarine exercises; and this also marked the first field exercise for the FPDA since 2019, with the COVID-19 pandemic reducing drills to command post exercises held virtually.

7. According to Euan Graham, the FPDA is the Cinderella of Southeast Asian defence engagements. Often overlooked as an anachronism, including in member countries, the FPDA’s understated value is well understood by officials and military professionals on the inside. The limited visibility of the FPDA within member countries is not a problem for as long as the political will exists to maintain it. Three significant issues that weigh on the FPDA’s long-term survival.
One, the biggest risk in this regard is that Malaysia’s commitment to the FPDA wanes because of a lack of political support, due in part to ignorance of the arrangements.​
Two, Malaysia and New Zealand have fallen so far behind Australia, the UK and Singapore that the FPDA is now a two-tier grouping in capability terms. Ostensibly, the FPDA is an even partnership across the five signatories. But militarily it is in danger of becoming the ‘3+2’ defence arrangements.​
Three, potential for enlargement periodically surfaces as a question for the FPDA. There is zero appetite for this from the two Southeast Asian members, who fear it will dilute the foundational commitment to defending Malaysia and Singapore. This conservatism competes in tension with the desirability of cross-bracing the FPDA to other countries and structures in the region.​
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