The best strategy to defending Singapore Island


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Post 3 of 4: Deterrence Explained
6. Deterrence “is the use of a threat (explicit or not) by one party in an attempt to convince another party not to upset status quo” (Quackenbush, 2010: 60). More specifically, deterrence is the persuasion of an aggressor that the cost and/or risk of a given course of action he might take outweighs its benefits (George & Smoke, 1974: 11). Consequently, deterrence is a mutual relationship that involves communication and signaling and assumes that states in competition or conflict make decisions in accordance with rational cost-benefit calculations that can be manipulated (Mazarr & Goodby, 2011). Just because an aggressor acquires the capability to fire cruise or ballistic missiles does not mean the SAF is deterred — because Singapore practices Total Defence. Total Defence encompasses six key pillars – military, civil, economic, social, psychological and digital defence – and focuses on the need for each Singaporean or Singapore volunteer (i.e. locals without NS obligations or foreign nationals volunteering to serve an abbreviated version of NS) play his or her part to keep the country strong. Total Defence Day is marked annually on February 15 to commemorate the anniversary of the surrender of the British to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.

7. On the flip side, Singapore aims to deter an aggressor using two main methods: denying benefits or imposing costs.

One, deterrence by denial involves convincing the aggressor that it will not reach its objective— which was successful from 1967 to 1990.

Two, deterrence by imposing costs and that the cost of a counter-attack significant — which has been successful since 1991 (see page 9 prior Post 3 of 5: Defusing tensions while standing our ground and working with partners). Further, it was reported that Mahathir said Singapore “may be small”, but it was more powerful than Malaysia. He said that he did not see war as “a means to settle conflicts”. He said that he’d rather sit down to negotiate, even though there may be no result, than go to war. In this specific case, Malaysia made no progress, gave up on its intrusive approach and sought rapprochement at a May 2019 Leader’s Retreat.

Only if deterrence and diplomacy, fail, does the SAF have to secure a swift and decisive victory. And there is no doubt that the Singapore military can do what it says, and it is a factor in an aggressor’s calculations.

8. Edit: Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on 7 Oct 2019 to a supplementary question by MP de Souza, who had asked if Singapore has the assets to counter attacks by military-grade unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Dr Ng said that most militaries, including the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), are "more confident" when it comes to dealing with "sophisticated" drones. "(For) the Saudi attack, the alleged components that were used or platforms (that) were used, we are quite confident that we would have detected it, as well as been able to neutralise it."
SSJArcher Krich said:
It would also be naive to think that ''partners in crime'' of the USA, like Singapore, can escape the inevitable. We should be cognizant of the fact that an isolated, pariah entity like the DPRK has managed to detonate nuclear devices and tested ICBMs (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles) that can target anywhere within the continental United States. The DPRK is also trying to develop second strike capability by developing what is suspected to be a submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles.

Iran has been a close partner, in defence affairs, of the DPRK for a few decades now...
9. Not sure why you want to talk like a fanboy and call us ''partners in crime'' of the USA — given Singapore’s advanced military capabilities, ‘non-aligned’ posture and strong defence relations with numerous parties that do not see eye to eye. With regard to 4 of the P5 UNSC members, Singapore has strong relations with:

  • the Americans (the 1990 MOU will be renewed and extended in Sep 2019);
  • the English (read up on the Sep 2018 Defence Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding and on the FPDA and it’s role);
  • the French (2019 is the 20th anniversary of the Singapore’s advanced jet training in Cazaux, France); and
  • the Chinese (with Singapore also upgrading of its defence ties with China in Oct 2019).
SSJArcher Krich said:
I can probably see things better than citizens of involved countries and objectively decide if plan A might be able to knock out Singapore, or if plan B might be able to do so better.
10. No you do not. You misunderstand Singapore’s military options for escalation in a conventional war scenario — a ballistic missile attack on Singapore gives us Casus belli — right to war. Any aggressor state’s military options must take into consideration the likelihood of retaliation. Any attack on Singapore, if it successfully occurs, only invites a response from the SAF, until Singapore is satisfied. With a defence budget of S$15.5 billion for FY2019 (up from S$14.8 billion for FY2018), Singapore is the most densely defended country in Southeast Asia. See also: Spotter’s Guide: NDP 2019 Mobile Column and A Perspective on Singapore - Proliferated Drones as a backgrounder on options and capability.

11. How Singapore fights an aggressor is going to be dictated by:

  • Our perceived threat matrix.
  • The type of force structure Singapore has built to address the said threat matrix (details provided in prior posts).
  • Where the fight may occur and its terrain or geographic features.
  • What Singapore is trying to accomplish (mission/goal).
  • Other concerns (foreign policy, etc.)
Which means, the SAF is not preparing to fight a hostile nuclear power or Indonesia, alone. IMO, hostilities between Indonesia and Singapore is unlikely, as the TNI and the SAF train together and have a record of working together. From 17 to 26 Sep 2019, the two neighbours successfully conducted the 31st edition of Exercise Safkar Indopura, that involved 470 personnel, comprising troops from Headquarters 3rd SIB and 5th Battalion, SIR from the Singapore Army, as well as troops from the 16th Mechanised Infantry Brigade and the 512th, 516th and 521st Mechanised Infantry Battalions from the TNI-AD.
Other examples include the SAF’s UAV command’s deployment of the Scout RPV to provide intelligence to the TNI to resolve the Mapenduma hostage crisis in 1996. Further, Singapore provides a submarine rescue service for the Indonesian Navy. It also provides the Indonesian Navy with the Surpic II information sharing portal, a sea surveillance system, set up since 2005, to provide maritime awareness of the Singapore Strait. Under a Defence Cooperation Agreement, Singapore provides training assistance to the TNI, including G-Tolerance trainer and Super Puma simulator trainer, and professional courses like the Combined Fighter Weapons Instructor Course. To date, hundreds of TNI-AU pilots have undergone simulator training in Singapore, and 10 TNI-AU instructors have graduated from the Combined Fighter Weapons Instructor Course. Marking five decades of bilateral defence relations, the RSAF and TNI-AU executed a combined 20 F-16 flypast on 7 Sep 2017, over Singapore.
@Ahmad if Indonesia for some reason decided to go to war with Singapore, she would have to very seriously consider the reaction of Australia, New Zealand and the UK... Indonesia may find itself fighting a war on two fronts.
12. Besides, any surprise attack on Singapore is an attack on the US logistics presence and as ngatimozart noted this hurts the interests of our FPDA partners, like Australia, UK and NZ — which ensures that Singapore will have external support for what we need to do to remove the threat. Our Changi naval base also currently hosts International Liaison Officers from 18 countries — an attack on Singapore is an attack on officers from 18 countries. For geo-political details, read the thread on ‘South China Sea thoughts?’, as a backgrounder.
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Post 4 of 4: Importance of geography and context
IMO it will be a biological event that destroys the world not a nuclear war...
13. This is a real concern and there is some investment in this area.
If you had said that Indonesia by 2050 would be in a good position to overwhelm Singapore's military - alone - without any outside intervention, that I could probably concur with...
14. For giggles, it is also possible to argue that by 2050, Indonesia’s military capability will be close to par, when compared with that of Pakistan (who is so impoverished with a 2018 GDP of USD278 billion), given Indonesia's larger USD 1.1 trillion dollar economy in 2018.
If it were a more militarily advanced country like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, South Korea or Japan instead of Indonesia and Malaysia next door, then it's very much possible that Singapore would have been invaded or decimated by now.
15. This aspect of your discussion, ignoring geography, can’t be serious. You can’t teleport countries or use a dimensional ‘gate’ to move armies, like that of Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, South Korea or Japan, to invade Singapore. In addition, why would you list such a dubious choice and be so silly as to consider Iran as militarily advanced (when compared to Indonesia)? Let me list the reasons why I would not use Iran as an example:

  • One, Iran does not have a modern air force (when compared to TNI AU’s 4 squadrons of modern fighters). Iran’s out dated air force is very much inferior in capability when compared with Singapore’s tertiary air force — that regularly takes part in DACT exercises like ‘Red Flag’. Other than Iran’s HESA Saeqeh (F-5 clone), Mig 29s and Su-24s, the vast majority of Iranian fighter aircraft are of late 70s vintage (i.e. obsolete).
  • Two, after eight years of fighting in the Iran-Iraq war, neither side could really claim victory. Both Iran and Iraq suffered devastating loses of men, materiel, and financial resources in the 1980s. You can even speculate or argue that officer cadre in the TNI are much more tactically competent than Iran’s army officers due to access to international connections that is not available to Iran — with the Americans, Australians and Singaporeans helping the TNI modernise it’s equipment and TTPs, in wide ranging defence cooperation. Not sure why you would list Iran, as a militarily advanced country, given their army’s prior less than competent human wave tactics (and 3rd rate equipment) during the Iran-Iraq war (Sep 1980 to Aug 1988).
  • Three, Iran has compensated for its lack of a modern air force by developing long range strike capabilities. However, the country lacks deployable intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The boosters and other technologies Iran is building for its space launch vehicles, particularly the Simorgh, are similar to those needed for ICBMs, meaning they could be converted to that purpose if desired. In fact, the space launch vehicles were built as an extension of Iran’s ballistic missile program.
  • Four, as an objective observer, Indonesia with its elected government is a G-20 member. It is a richer, larger country, that has a more capable air force, when it is compared to Iran. Indonesia co-founded and leads 9 other ASEAN countries, to create an open and inclusive security architecture — ADMM Plus and the ASEAN Regional Forum are examples of its diplomatic power. Who does Iran lead, as an isolated middle power? Iran is caught between a rock and a hard place (that is not even qualified to be a G-2o member). In time I hope that you will become capable of critical thinking and stop blindly buying into Iranian propaganda.
16. It is a pity that the basis to support your view is using anime logic (like The Gate: Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There). The very capable JSDF do not have the forward air bases, naval logistics (to move more than a brigade) or the will to invade Singapore. More importantly, read more about Article 9 of their constitution. If you like anime, here’s a video on the Singapore Army with an anime soundtrack, as I am a big fan of the export of Japanese culture.
17. While the military forces of Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan are substantial, they lack the forward air bases, don’t have the naval logistics and lack the will to project power from their home bases to Singapore in the face of determined resistance by a 5 fighter squadron tertiary air force and an advanced navy. While South Korea may have the naval logistics capability to move 2 or more divisions, they lack air bases in South East Asia (to forward deploy 10 to 14 fighter squadrons as a tertiary air force) and have much bigger worries at home (aka North Korea and their immediate NE Asian neighbours).

There is a considerable difference in terms of capabilities as well as ability to effectively launch a large number of Katyusha-type artillery rockets, and a similar number of Scud or other short/medium-ranged ballistic missiles.

A few things remain unexplained regarding the notion raised of Indonesia getting ballistic missiles which it could use to threaten Singapore.,,,
18. Agreed. Artillery threats, be they shells, mortars and rockets against Singapore main island has been around before Singapore gained her independence and during WWII, the crown colony was shelled by the Japanese Imperial Army. It is not something new and the SAF’s force structure is designed for forward defence to manage this threat, as the RSAF has the CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon integrated with its F-15SGs and F-16Vs. It is very much a key part of SAF`s contingency plans — see my prior ‘Post 1 of 2: Why Ahmad’s 2 prior posts are not logical’. Rocket artillery systems are shoot and scoot. The Malaysians have paired their Astros II with their Arthur counter artillery radar as a system to kill any enemy artillery system within range of any of their Astros II battery. Their system will start the kill cycle within 20 mins of detection, so the Malaysian artillery are quick in their response time. The ASTROS II ARS will fire the SS-60 300mm rocket, which has a minimum range of 20km and a maximum range of 60km, and the SS-80 300mm rocket, which has a range of 20-80km.

19. SSJArcher Krich does not realise that 122mm, 239mm and 300mm rocket attacks do not work to induce surrender; due to the substantial precision attack (up to 72 km) and counter battery capabilities of the Singapore Army, explained in prior posts. Singapore uses a combination of PRIMUS (155 mm/39 calibre — 30km range), HIMARS (227mm M270 rockets — 72km range), the SAFARI Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) and UAVs to support the army division — which is by design, long ranged with a slightly faster response time as part of the divisional artillery brigade. IMO, he is unable to tell the difference in the effect and range of rockets (below 300mm) versus larger ballistic missiles (i.e. capable of long range attack that Singapore’s Aster and other missiles has some ability to counter). Missile shields can leak, which is why the concept of diplomacy and deterrence is so important.

20. As part of defence diplomacy, Singapore hosts the annual Shangri-La dialogue — as a small country capable of supporting peace efforts and advocating its own interests, effectively, at the international stage (see paragraph 5 (ii) earlier) at the defence minister, chief of defence and head of services level. Further, Singapore’s defence minister is often an invited speaker at security forums like the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, Reagan National Defense Forum, or Munich Security Conference. To promote broader military to military institutional ties, Singapore has multiple agreements on the conduct of exchanges among military academies and think-tanks. To that end, Singapore’s Officer Cadet School is also organising the SAFTI International Cadets' Conference (SICC) from 11 to 16 December 2019 at the SAFTI Military Institute. The SICC brings together 75 officer cadets and instructors from 18 countries — The participating countries are Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Thailand, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.
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A reminder to all (for some this is gentle, for others no so much) keep post content On Topic for the thread a member is posting in. SSJArcher Kirch has been banned for a minimum of six months, for making a series of 11 posts today in this thread that had large segments of content which had no relevance to Singapore. Instead the Off Topic content was most often about claimed defence capabilities of another nation which is not even in the same part of the world as Singapore. Given the large volume of Off Topic material which would have to be edited out, the entire string of posts has instead removed for now while options are being discussed.

EDIT: Following a review of the removed posts and discussion between Moderators, the posts have been purged and SSJArcher Kirch has now been Permanently Banned.
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Post 1 of 2: Ignorance corrected
SSJArcher Krich said:
(i) To this aggressor, Singapore’s Defence Minister, Dr Ng only spoke once to indicate a concern on the intrusion in the waters off Tuas. What Dr Ng says only once, from a position of power, sets the geo-political context for this grey zone event, as Singapore has escalation dominance against that aggressor due to hard power...
I am fully aware of these trivial facts and also, a lot more that you have not mentioned.

1. For example, that Dr Ng Eng Hen is merely a medical doctor, not a military professional. A medical doctor is in charge of your Ministry of Defence.

While a military professional, Chan Chun Sing, is in charge of your Ministry of Trade and Industry.

I also know that a certain actor in your local media by the name of Aloysius Pang died in New Zealand during a futile military exercise. Numerous other deaths have occurred in recent years, which have prompted much discussions and many finger pointing. Due to the ''no blame'' culture pursued by the current 3rd generation of PAP leadership, all have been conveniently swept beneath the carpet.

9 deaths in 16 months in peace time for a tiny country like Singapore is never going to be acceptable.
A few factual errors or lack of logic in your 11 deleted posts, one of which is quoted above. IMO you should not just disagree, for no relevant reason. It’s not worth the time to reply to all your misguided points but I can quickly reply to a select few below:

1. Dr Ng was commissioned as an army medical officer in his younger days and it is traditional that the Minster of Defence serves in that role as a civilian. I don’t see your point. Why would you to bring up Chan Chun Sing (the former Chief of Army, who retired as a Major General)?

  • There are numerous generals and rear admirals who have served in the cabinet, including Prime Minister Lee. Singapore’s elected political leaders are typically rotated to other positions/ministries to develop a broad view, after retiring from the SAF to enter politics (as a civilian).
  • Chan Chun Sing, who has a 1st class degree in economics from Cambridge, is also trilingual making him effective in engaging with leaders in Indonesia, China, UK and the US. I note that Chan Chun Sing excelled as a student at the US Army Command and General Staff College in 1998, and was the first foreign student to be conferred the "Distinguished Master Strategist Award".
  • IMO, he is being groomed to be the next Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security. If Chan Chun Sing performs in his current role, he will eventually replace Teo Chee Hean (who retired as Rear Admiral from the Navy), as part of leadership renewal.
Again, I don’t see your point.

2. The general trend is about 45 deaths in Singapore from military training each 10 year period (or about 4.5 a year). There are some years where the rate is zero. The risk is managed (i.e. lower than the risk of being struck by lightning on a golf course in Singapore), given that Singapore trains locally and abroad in 10 different countries. Below is a video of Singapore troops conducting live-fire during urban warfare training.

  • Minimising this rate through better safety measures, as the Defence Minister explained in parliament is ‘care for men’? The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war mindset. "Not only does [Singapore] have high-end equipment, they know how to operate it in a very high level of capability. It's integrated, as opposed to all the other countries in Southeast Asia," said Brian Harding, the deputy director the Center for Strategic & International Studies' Southeast Asia Program. "They focus on making sure their systems work together, and that they have interoperability between the services. They are a highly professional military," Harding said.
  • Are you trying to say that the more people die (in human wave attacks, like Iran), the better an army is? In contrast to Iran, since independence, Singapore has strived to invest in her most valuable resource—the people—and this strategy will remain apposite for the nation. After all, the technological capabilities that the SAF will induct and processes used can only be as good as the soldiers who will be operating them.
Therefore, I see no correlation between training deaths (or deliberately sending men to their deaths in human wave attacks by Iran) and a country’s ability to retain a military capability.
SSJArcher Krich said:
All in all, Indonesia's diminutive air force operates only 40 fighter jet, 24 of them early model F-16s and 16 of them Flankers (Su-27/30) from Russia. None of them fields an operational AESA radar system. Unlikely that Indonesia can develop advanced EW capabilities. No AEW&C operated by Indonesia either.

No medium or long range SAM (surface to air missile) batteries operated by Indonesia. No AESA radar on land or sea for surveillance or tracking of enemy aircrafts or missiles. No ballistic or cruise, air to air, air to surface or any other missile that can hit farther than 300 km while carrying a 500kg payload is possessed by Indonesia either. Primarily because Indonesia is a weapons importer.

Much of the same is true for Singapore, except that Singapore may have obtained some longer ranged missiles from Israel thanks to the close relationships they have enjoyed since the early days of Singapore's independence. Having said that, Singapore has a better trained, better equipped armed force with a clear purpose. What does Singapore in is its lack of strategic depth.
3. What you post is intentionally misleading. Let me share some minor corrections on capability in relation to your TNI and SAF comparisons:

  • For clarity, I note that Singapore has AESA equipped fighters and navy ships; and its longer ranged missiles are the Aster and harpoon missiles, which are European and American made. They are not Israeli made.
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Post 2 of 2: Shooting down retired aces and determining the correct level of self sufficiency
SSJArcher Krich said:
For all the bluster, Singapore has never actually engaged in a war. It has no flying aces. You should know what that means...

Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand don't have any flying aces either.

However, Iran has had the highest number of F-14 flying aces in the world. Iran under the Shah was a much closer American ally than Singapore ever was. It was also propagated in popular media that Iran's military was the world's fourth strongest, a dubious title that has been awarded at will to quite a few countries without bases. Having said that, Iran's air force was intended to contain the Soviet southern flank and equipped for that purpose. The Iranians performed creditably in their war with Iraq, when Iran was in the throes of a revolution while Iraq enjoyed the backing of Western and Eastern superpowers.

The lesson learnt: Only a self-sufficient military is a capable military.

Iranian industry could not produce its required armaments at the time. Much like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Singapore, India, Australia and a number of other countries that rely on foreign countries for security. Since that war, the lesson has been learnt. And Iran is a lot stronger today, only growing stronger by the year.

Some of the F-16s operated by Israel and Kidd class destroyers operated by Taiwan were originally ordered by the Iranians under the Shah. At that time, F-16s were state of the art fighter jets. Think of them as the F-22s of that era. Whereas a large number of F-16s are still operated by a number of countries around the world, Iran has rightly chosen not pursue such a foolish path today. More on that later.

2. You have failed to mention that more than 50% of Singapore's population, by some estimates, now consist of foreign born individuals. At the first sight or sound of an explosion, they would like to flee Singapore. With an ageing population and a tiny population of true, blue Singaporeans to choose from, you are badly outnumbered by even a tiny country like Malaysia, that happens to be also poorly equipped and prepared for war at this time.
4. How are old Iranian aces from history going to help an obsolete Iranian Air Force, today? Iranian loss ratios may be horrendous against any capable tertiary air force — this underscores the value of electronic warfare, the benefits of using early warning aircraft (like the G550 AEW), access to modern BVR missiles (i.e. the ability of Singapore to buy weapons globally from the Americans, the Europeans, or Israelis, instead of being forced to invent our own) and careful air warfare planning to Suppress Enemy Air Defences by attack or destruction of SAM sites (SEAD mission).
In addition, the SEAD mission is complex discipline that capable air forces need to master, if they want to be relevant to land or naval battles. Much of the success of recent SEAD operations is due to the ability (and willingness) of modern tertiary air forces to address IADS in a somewhat flexible and holistic manner. Further, how is the competence or incompetence of the Iranian Air Force or Iranian Army relevant to the defence of Singapore? Off topic much.

5. Choosing our level of self sufficiency is great — as MINDEF can focus on developing only key capabilities in a strategic manner. For infantry fighting vehicles (eg. Terrex, Hunter, Bionix, Trailblazer, and Bronco) and 155mm artillery, Singapore is entirely self sufficient and Singapore even owns some foreign companies that make some of these parts.

  • Singapore is moving towards the more profitable model of international naval arms supply by developing the capability to build ships locally but in collaboration with foreign suppliers for access to key technology. Collaboration ensures that Al-Ofouq class and Independence class vessels built by ST Marine are able to make use the latest technological innovations. IMO not having to make/invent our AESA equipped fighter aircraft (F-16Vs, F-15SGs and F-35s on order), helicopters (Chinooks, Apaches, Seahawk’s and H225Ms on order), or submarines (Type 218SGs on order), saves money.
  • The SAF has taken a long- term view about its operational capabilities. In fact, it has gained the reputation as a ‘reference buyer’ for many other foreign militaries in this regard. For instance, the acquisition of the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s (RSAF) F-15SG took seven years of careful evaluation, going through many rounds of deliberation. Prudence is essential to ensure that the SAF optimises its limited resources. This approach has allowed steady innovation, with a keen eye on the strategic environment and operational requirements. Buying from established suppliers and integrating them as solutions ensures that Singapore does not have to reinvent the wheel and is able to source equipment globally, that best suits the SAF’s concept of operations.
Again, I see no simple correlation on total self-sufficiency and effective combat capability.

6. Is this your poor attempt at making your point? Singapore before separation from Malaya (with the 1st and 2nd Singapore Infantry Regiments who were fighting outside of Singapore) during the Konfrontasi, suffered from 37 bombs that went off in Singapore. A significant number of people being subject to these Indonesian bomb attacks were either new immigrants or foreigners at that time — there was fear and anger but no mass exodus from Singapore. IMO, there will be concern over attacks (and some foreigners will go home, as expected) but there are also bomb shelters in numerous locations, and a proper civil defence warning system that is tested and can be heard in every housing estate. A further example is Saudi Arabia, who is under missile and drone attacks (over 250 attacks) recently, and there is no exodus of their foreign contractors. It is not so easy to attack Singapore, as the country is protected by a capable anti-missile shield that includes Aster missiles (see video below on Aster firings by the navy). As usual making your claims without context, supporting logic or reasoning.

SSJArcher Krich said:
It's not silly of me to consider Iran more advanced than Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam or the entirety of ASEAN or Oceania and much of Asia in most matters related to military affairs.

For a starter, you should ask: How many/which countries in the above mentioned region can deter a coalition led by the USA and its ''allies'' including UK, Israel, France, KSA, UAE and the whole lot?
7. But you are the one continuing to make silly ahistorical arguments. Again you give an example that disprove your point. For example, due to terrain and it’s tactics, Vietnam successfully fought France and the US to unify the North and South. Between 13 March and 7 May 1954, General Võ Nguyên Giáp inflicted a serious defeat for the French at Dien Bien Phu and this was a decisive battle of the 1st Indochina war. While the Americans (and their numerous allies who fought there) may have won many battles during the 2nd Indochina war in South Vietnam, they also lost the war. Don’t underestimate Vietnamese military capability — as they share a land border with China.

8. What is the basis for your opinion on armies in ASEAN? For that matter, have you trained with troops in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand? There are regular bilateral and multilateral military training exercises in each ASEAN country and under ADMM Plus, which gives external observers and analysts some confidence in military cooperation and capability, for a range of contingencies, to address security concerns in the region. Below is a video of Indonesian (521 motorised infantry battalion) and Singaporean (5 SIR) motorised infantry battalions training together. In every post, you are confident but confidently wrong, especially about ASEAN military capabilities — motorisation of troops supported by Leopard 2s and self propelled artillery is a huge doctrinal advance for the TNI and likewise the SAF is evolving from simple motorisation to protected mobility tactics, with new equipment and tactics.

9. Most Europeans are not planning to fight Iran. Even if the Australians and others join the American led coalition (aka a coalition of the unwilling comprising of the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Kingdom and Australia), it is an effort to protect vessels in the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the narrow Strait of Hormuz. These six countries are joining to send naval task groups to police waters near the Persian Gulf to address Iran’s export of terror and limit its range of actions. There is no plan to invade Iran because:

(i) it is not an existential threat or a strategic competitor to the US; and
(ii) the lessons learnt from the 2003 invasion of Iraq makes America more circumscribe in its use of power. While US retain capability to invade Iran, they lack the desire.

It is nonsensical to talk about Iranian deterrence, when Iran is the aggressor with its attacks against commercial shipping — Iran is trying to change the status quo. I suspect you cannot even say that Iran’s existing capabilities serve as deterrence (to the entire list of countries, as a coalition, as mentioned by you). In particular, Arab countries will not want to be a coalition with Israel (but are willing to look the other way on their air strikes in Syria). It looks like you do not even understand Iran’s actual circumstance or regional security dynamics.
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Highlights of the interview with Rear Admiral Lew Chuen Hong of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN):
Singapore – A Maritime Nation

Singapore is a maritime nation. We are reliant on the sea for our survival and prosperity. Without the sea, our way of life will be disrupted. The sea plays a part in our day-to-day life, every day – from the strength of our economy to the food we consume.
  • The maritime industry contributes about 7% to Singapore's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employs more than 170,000 personnel, and there are more than 5,000 maritime establishments in Singapore. Worldwide, Singapore also has the highest trade to GDP ratios, at more than 300%. Singapore is also one of the world's busiest trans-shipment hubs, with an average of 140,000 vessels calling into Singapore annually.
  • The sea is the most cost-effective means to move large quantities of goods and raw materials around the world. The cargo capacity of a container ship is equivalent to the capacity of 800 Boeing 747 planes. Today, more than 90% of the world's trade is transported via the sea.
  • Singapore imports over 90% of the food consumed in the country. In 2018, Singapore imported about 5.6 million tonnes of food from more than 180 countries worldwide. The top three countries that Singapore imported food from via sea-freight were Australia, Thailand and China. 99% of rice imports and 84% of fish imports were via sea-freight.
The Sea – A Global Commons

One of the elements for global trade to thrive is free and open access to the sea. However, consensus on a set of rules that everyone abides by is essential to keep the seas open. Mare Liberum, or "freedom of the seas" is underpinned by the 1982 United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Continued stability and prosperity depends on working with like-minded nations to preserve this shared space through agreed rules such as UNCLOS. Without rules and norms, shared spaces such as the maritime space will break down.

RSN – Defending Our Every Day

The RSN works with national agencies and international partners to ensure that all users can continue to access the sea unimpeded. At home, the eight Independence Class vessels deter and neutralise security threats, including maritime terrorism, together with other national agencies as part of the whole-of-government National Maritime Security System that is able to give Singapore better maritime domain awareness with the introduction of the 5 Maritime Patrol Aircraft in 1993. It was a breakaway from the conventional mindset of using only military-qualified platforms for military applications. The project team, assessed the feasibility of the Fokker 50 airframe to accept structural modification to install the mission systems and carry weapons. This involved the introduction of some major structural frames into the fuselage to carry the concentrated loads. A pair of “stub wings” (a short cambered wing protrusion from the fuselage) was introduced to carry the Harpoon anti-ship missile. Hard points were also introduced into the wing to carry search-and-rescue pods. Further assessments were also made to ensure structural strength adequacy for increased fuel capacity and consequently increased maximum-take-off Weight (MTOW) for longer endurance flights. As a result of increasing the MTOW, an assessment of the engine performance was required to determine the impact on take-off distance and climb gradient to ensure safety.

For RSN’s maritime surveillance mission from the air, the main sensor of the Fokker-50 MPA was the radar. In order to have a 360-degree radar coverage, the best place to install the radar was in the belly of the aircraft. Ground clearance was a challenge. The radar had to be embedded into the airframe as far as possible. Part of the radar had to penetrate into the pressurised cabin of the fuselage. This required design reinforcements in a sensitive part of the fuselage. A “pressure bucket” was introduced to seal off the penetration. Fatigue assessments had to be carried out to ensure adequacy of the reinforcements to withstand the ground-air-ground pressurisation cycles during operation. Even then, the ground clearance was not enough. The radar antenna needed to be reshaped to reduce its profile so that it would not strike the ground in the event of a heavy landing with burst tyres.

RSN also contributes to regional and international maritime security efforts through initiatives such as the Malacca Straits Patrol and the Information Fusion Centre, and exercises such as the ASEAN-China Maritime Exercise, the ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise and Western Pacific Naval Symposium Multilateral Sea Exercise. In addition, the RSN commits to international security efforts and has deployed its Endurance Class and Formidable Class vessel to distant waters to keep sea lines of communication open, such as through multinational counter-piracy operations under Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 in the Gulf of Aden. It is only when sea lanes remain open across the world that Singapore can continue to thrive as a maritime nation.

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Super Moderator
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Very informative, thank you for sharing OPSSG.

One thing I personally find very surprising is the work of the Singapore defense industry. They have impressive domestic R&D capability especially when you consider how small Singapore is demographically and economically. From small arms to armored vehicles and artillery, it's quite surprising. It shows a persistent political will and commitment of resources, especially in the post-Cold War era when many other nations consistently cut their defense spending.


Super Moderator
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One thing I personally find very surprising is the work of the Singapore defense industry. They have impressive domestic R&D capability... It shows a persistent political will and commitment of resources, especially in the post-Cold War era when many other nations consistently cut their defense spending.
Thanks for your kind words. Let me share the trade-offs and decisions made by the defence eco-system:

1. The roots of this R&D and defence industrial base efforts goes back to 1972, when Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Minister for Defence, handpicked three newly graduated engineers to study Electronic Warfare (EW), for a naval platform. The group of 3 called themselves the Electronics Test Centre (ETC) and started the path towards developing defence technologies for Singapore. Beyond cultivating close defence ties with foreign suppliers and giving thanks to Oman, Thailand, UAE and UK for buying Singapore made weapons and ships, the eco-system is also grateful to external institutions like:

(i) the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, which was instrumental in training our personnel to help Singapore integrate the E-2Cs into the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s command and control information systems, whose origins can be traced to the mid-1980s. Further, 12 engineers from DSO were attached to the then Grumman Corporation to participate in the design, development, coding and testing of the E-2C’s software — this was a building block for the C2 software development in MINDEF. This significant investment would later pay off in the E-2C upgrade and Frigate C2 development for the RSN and helped kick start DSTA’s system of systems engineering approach; and
(ii) ONERA Supelec (Ecole Supérieure d'Electricité - France), which joined with the National University of Singapore (NUS) and DSO (Singapore’s national defense R&D organization), to create SONDRA a joint France-Singapore laboratory. At SONDRA, a Singaporean-French team of researchers will focus and conduct defence R&D in the areas of advanced electromagnetics and radar. In the future, research may be expanded to other areas of mutual interest.

2. These linkages are like seeds that grow into trees for Singapore’s limited but focused efforts on defence procurement, EW and R&D. More importantly, these institutional linkages enable many of our scientists and engineers to get the necessary science and engineering foundation and their continuing education after they start work. As you correctly noted, Singapore is committed to investing and developing its defence industrial base, R&D base, EW capabilities and acquisition expertise; but is not doing it alone. Working in defence science partnerships with the Americans, the French, the Germans, the Swedes, the Israelis and others, enable Singapore to go further than travelling alone. The goal is to collaborate to go far; not just go fast. For example, in conjunction with the launch of RSS Invincible (Type 218SG), DSTA signed a MOU with the manufacturer thyssenkrupp Marine Systems to open up new avenues for technology collaboration. Under the MOU, both organisations will explore the use of additive manufacturing as an innovative and cost-effective method for producing submarine spare parts.

3. Over the longer term, these investments in DSO and DSTA will enable Singapore to spend less over the life cycle of a platform (be it a ship, aircraft or any other platform) by deciding where innovation is required upfront/at IOC, what features to permanently forgo and what to delay in implantation (while waiting for the technology to mature). For example:

  • The ‘Design for Support’ approach was also incorporated upfront to deliver a Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) that is easy to manage, operate, maintain and train. DSTA implemented a Swedish made composite topside and stacked-mast for the RSN. Inspected by the Försvarets materielverk (Swedish Defence Materiel Administration) before delivery to Singapore, the stacked mast reduces topside weight, maximises sensor coverage while providing an enclosed environment for the equipment, thereby improving equipment and system reliability. The ease of access to the equipment allows maintenance to be carried out more efficiently without the need for erecting external staging, compared to traditional open mast designs. Further, to optimise manpower required to operate the LMV for maritime security operations, DSTA integrated and co-located the three distinct control areas, namely the Bridge, Combat Information Centre and Machinery Control Room into a single location.
  • There are no details on whether the RSN has elected to install the NG MICA on the LMV. French DGA is due to give its approval for production in 2026 (enabling the RSN to retire the cost effective anti-missile capability provided by the Barak 1 on the upgraded Victory class). More specifically, the NG MICA infrared seeker will use a matrix sensor providing greater sensitivity. Meanwhile the radio frequency seeker will use be AESA, enabling smart detection strategies. The reduced volume of electronic components within MICA NG will allow it to carry a larger quantity of propellant, increasing range. Utilising a new double-pulse rocket motor will also provide additional energy to the missile at the end of its flight to improve its ability to intercept targets at long range. The integration of the NG MICA with the Thales NS100 will be a spiral upgrade for the LMVs that requires French support at their instrumented range.
  • The UAV pilot and payload operator were previously segregated roles which required separate training. To achieve greater flexibility in employing the limited manpower resource, the Singapore team required Israel Aerospace Industries to integrate the two roles through a unified flight and payload training programme. DSTA broke new ground in the development of the Ground Control Station (GCS) software and the datalink system for the Heron 1 UAV. The GCS software specification is key to reducing operating and training costs.
  • The F-15SG acquisition team anticipated that a newer version of the aircraft’s engine would be available soon. As the newer General Electric F110 engine requires one less overhaul cycle during its lifetime, the F-15SG acquisition team recommended to hold the purchase of spare engines and to acquire the most advanced version in the market, at a later date. This achieved a total cost savings of more than US$10 million per life cycle for spare engines.
4. The Hunter Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) Team, comprising members from DSTA, Singapore Army and ST Engineering, clinched the 2019 DTP Team (Engineering) Award for designing and developing the Singapore Army’s first fully digitalised fighting platform that has the option of being equipped with the Trophy Active Protection System on the SAMSON Turret. The team adopted a new model-based systems engineering and design to create the first-of-its-kind Integrated Combat Cockpit, which would enable the Hunter AFV’s crew to collaborate effectively with one another and engage targets rapidly. The five Hunter variants - Combat, Command, Bridgelayer, Recovery and Armoured Engineer - have features that make this new class of AFV unique. Sensors on the Hunter give the crew a 360-degree view around the vehicle. At the heart of the digitalised combat platform is the battlefield management system, ARTEMIS that improves the Hunter's situational awareness in all weather and for non-line of sight (NLOS) applications, given that the Hunter has 2 NLOS missiles in the SAMSON Turret supplied by Rafael.

5. The Hunter AFV’s successful development in Singapore, with its Integrated Combat Cockpit, has triggered Israel to launch the Carmel armored fighting vehicle project under its Weapons Development Administration (known in Hebrew by its acronym Mafat). As part of the program, the Mafat gave Elbit, Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries — the task of testing the feasibility of a closed tank that is operated by only two soldiers, instead of the current four, and encouraged them to integrate as many “automatic and autonomous systems as possible” in order to function as a “third soldier” of sorts, the ministry spokesperson said.

6. Most importantly, the Singapore defence ecology dares to dream and take some risk, with ST Engineering competing for contracts in the US, Europe and Middle East. They are also paying for and integrating systems without a launch customer for Europe (based on their understanding of the market) — the Bronco 3, paired with the 120 mm Super Rapid Advanced Mortar System Mk II along with IAI’s Green Rock C-RAM, is a good example of this incremental risk taking approach.
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Singapore’s evolving approach to the cyber domain and counter terrorism

1. Defending Singapore has moved to improving defence of and mitigation measures, should a successful attack occurs, in the cyber domain. Malicious cyberattacks can and do debilitate entire systems, disrupt the economy and daily lives, and even lead to injury and death. The December 2015 cyberattack on Ukraine’s power grid left 230,000 people without electricity for up to 6 hours, in the middle of a winter night. In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack crippled the operations of about one-third of public hospitals in the UK and caused over 19,000 appointments to be cancelled. What happened in Ukraine and the UK could just as easily happen in Singapore. The very connectivity that Singapore relies on for economic growth and efficient public services, also leaves the country vulnerable to threats from the digital domain. Hybrid operations involving hostile information campaigns and the spread of deliberate online falsehoods are an especially pernicious threat. They can foment distrust between ethnic and religious communities, weaken social cohesion, and trigger violence. Deliberate online falsehoods pose a particularly serious threat to Singapore given our high Internet penetration and multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.

2. Increasingly any SAF operations conducted, even for peace support missions, will need support in the cyber domain. In Feb 2017, Der Spiegel first reported that German soldiers stationed in Lithuania were target of false rape claims. Emails claiming that German soldiers had raped an underage Lithuanian girl were sent to the president of the Lithuanian parliament and various Lithuanian media outlets on 14 Feb 2017. Lithuanian authorities investigated the charges and found no evidence that any of the claims made in the emails were true. Beyond information campaigns, the SAF has a C4ISR system and databases to protect. Fact Sheet: MINDEF and the SAF's Cyber Defence Training. The role of training MINDEF/SAF's cyber defenders is undertaken by two units –

(i) the SAF Cyber Defence School (CDS), established in 2018, which conducts cyber courses and workshops to develop MINDEF/SAF's cyber workforce and to strengthen cyber awareness and cyber hygiene across the organisation — The SAF CDS has commenced the Cyber Defence Operator Course and the Cyber Specialist Cadet Course after it received the pioneer cohort of cyber NSFs (Full-time National Servicemen) in 2018. The school is currently developing its curriculum to extend training to the Command, Control, Communications and Computers Expert (C4X) vocation and the Defence Cyber Executive (DCX) job specialisation.; and

(ii) the Cyber Defence Test and Evaluation Centre (CyTEC), stood up in 2015, which provides the cyber range facility for the conduct of advanced cyber defence training and exercises — It is able to simulate malware and attacks on networks and cybersecurity appliances, in a virtual sandbox environment, which is segregated from actual operational networks. CyTEC is also able to simulate cyber-attacks with varying intensity and sophistication to test cyber defenders' skillsets and responses in realistic scenarios. Such training sharpens the proficiencies of cyber defenders operating in the Cyber Security Operations Centres and in the Computer Incident Response Teams.

3. The Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO) leads and drives cybersecurity across the Defence Sector, comprising six sub-sectors- the SAF, MINDEF, DSTA, DSO, Defence Industry and MINDEF-Related Organisations (MRO). See: Malware Incidents at HMI Institute of Health Sciences Pte Ltd and ST Logistics Pte Ltd. The weak link seems to be at the MRO level — in 2 data incidents:

  • the HMI Institute of Health Sciences said that it discovered a file server to be encrypted by ransomware on 4 Dec 2019. The affected server, which primarily contained backup information, was immediately taken offline and isolated from the Internet and internal network, HMI Institute said in a media advisory. The institute added that its learning management system was not impacted and that daily operations were “unaffected and continued as usual”. Preliminary investigations indicated that the likelihood of a data leak to external parties was low, MINDEF said, adding that the affected system contained personal data of 120,000 individuals. This included the full names and NRIC numbers of about 98,000 MINDEF and SAF personnel who previously attended a cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillation (AED) course.
  • the personal data of 2,400 MINDEF and SAF personnel may be affected by a potential ST Logistics personal data breach. ST Logistics said in a media release on 21 Dec 2019 that the potential breach was a result of a recent series of email phishing activities involving malicious malware sent to its employees’ email accounts.
    The company operates several logistics services, including an eMart retail and equipping servicefor MINDEF and SAF personnel since 1999.
4. The 26 Nov 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, and the 21 Sep 2013 attack Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya demonstrates the use of bold, complex, terror tactics to target civilians in mass casualty events (see this 2016 RSIS article: Cities under siege). In both cases, the response was slow, piecemeal, and confused. The various agencies involved in responding to the terrorist assault were unable to coordinate with one another. Moreover, the police units that initially responded were simply outgunned due to inadequate training and lack of requisite firearms. Further on 13 Nov 2015, eight IS operatives divided into three teams attacked seven different locations in Paris, murdering at least 130 and wounding at least 352 in less than 60 minutes. The attacks targeting a stadium, multiple restaurants, and a concert hall in Paris demonstrated a great degree of coordination and use of multiple tactics, resulting in higher casualties. The attackers were equipped with assault rifles and explosive-laden suicide belts, and operated in a manner reflecting prior training. They maintained a high degree of operational security. The attack was planned in Belgium, giving the terrorists opportunities to discuss operational details free of surveillance by French intelligence, which despite its failures in thwarting the terrorist operation is large, more proactive. During a terrorist commando assault of the 3 incidents mentioned, there is no intent by the attackers to take hostages or negotiate with law enforcement. The longer the attackers remain operational, the more victims will be killed or injured in the attack. Rapid response by available law enforcement and security forces, even if disorganised as seen in the initial response in both Nairobi and Mumbai, saves lives during the early phase of an active shooter attack. First responders to an attack of this type must consider the possibility of advanced tactics by the terrorists including:

(i) ambushes targeted on first responders;

(ii) supporting sniper fire;

(iii) the possibility of remotely controlled improvised explosive devices emplaced near command posts or staging areas; and

(iv) diversionary explosions in vehicles or in public places designed to distract and divert security forces.

5. Learning from these 3 prior terror attacks, the Special Operations Command Centre (SOCC) was commissioned in Dec 2019 to provide the SAF’s Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) with the capability to centrally plan, monitor and manage multiple Counter-Terrorism operations. The SOCC is capable of processing large amounts of data and information from sensors employed and from the cyber domain, to provide a quick assessment of the situation to help commanders decide on the best course of action.

  • The SOCC is able to process information from multiple sources including Whole-of-Government sensors, the SAF's internal sources and last-mile surveillance assets such as drones to collate a synchronised situation picture. The integrated structure allows seamless access and sharing of information between SOTF and other government agencies, strengthening cooperation during joint operations.
  • The SOCC is also linked with homeland security, the Police and other civil defence related agencies, so that the country can act in concert with the rest of the government when called upon. The networked centre leverages technology to support operational planning and coordination, that includes the cyber domain for improving sense-making for better situational awareness.
The SOCC harnesses technology such as data analytics and artificial intelligence. It provides SOTF planners with an integrated platform to collect, analyse, fuse and make sense of mission essential information. This enables the SOCC to derive richer operational insights by analysing various sources of information and recommending possible courses of action.
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Staff member
The complicated nature of Taiwan and Singapore relations

1. In 1967, as Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) recounted in his memoirs, From Third World to First, the Singapore government found itself confronted with a pressing need for the military and a lack of space to build up an air force. The Israelis did not have the space and facilities to meet such an unique Singaporean need. LKY was keen that Singapore did not end up completely dependent on the Israelis for military training either. Cue the entry of Taiwan. As Singapore transitioned from a largely British-made aircraft to American aircraft types entailed much adaptation in maintenance practices, tooling, documentation practices and concepts. In view of this, the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) was invited to help after the British withdrawal as they were one of the more experienced air force in Asia and they operated many US-made aircraft. For example, the ROCAF operated one of the largest fleet of F-5 aircraft then. ROCAF officers and SNCOs were inducted into Singapore airbases to provide the necessary experience in support of its rapid build-up from an air defence command to a fully fledged air force.

2. Over the years, the RSAF took pains to learn from other more established air forces. From an air engineering perspective, in the initial years most of the learning was from the Royal Air Force. This was followed by a period when the ROCAF provided the lead. There were also various periods which saw senior seconded personnel from the US Navy, the US Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Israeli Air Force serving as exchange officers or advisors. In the early days, Taiwan had sent a top-level representative to Singapore to meet with LKY and then defence minister Dr Goh Keng Swee. The exchange of trade missions occurred as far back as 1969, while the signing of “Exercise Starlight” — the agreement that allows Singapore to train infantry, artillery, armour and commando units in Taiwan — occurred in 1975. Taiwan’s Colonel Liu Ching Chuan was once Commander RSAF (renamed as Chief of Air Force), while former Taiwanese officer Khoo Eng An once held the post of Commander RSN (retitled as Chief of Navy). As recent as Oct 2019, Taiwan's Defense Minister Yen De-fa said that Exercise Starlight will continue to operate despite the Oct 2019 signing of the enhanced Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation (ADESC) which formalises activities between MINDEF and PLA including port calls, bilateral exercises, mutual visits and cross-attendance of courses. The original ADESC was signed in 2008.

3. Over the last 40 plus years, Beijing could have responded robustly about Singapore's unilateral training in Taiwan, but did not do so. This inaction could not have arisen from ignorance, as the annual training exercises and these command appointments were widely known. The appointments have also been chronicled in SAF coffeetable books. So China’s reticence was done by choice. As David Boey noted, the following incidents were reported by Singapore media and are open source:

  • In August 1993, two soldiers from 2 Singapore Infantry Regiment who were riding a motorbike skidded and landed in a drain during a night ride. Both were evacuated by a RSAF C-130 aeromedical flight. One of the soldiers later died from severe head injuries.
  • In April 1994, all four persons on board an RSAF 125 Squadron Super Puma on a predawn flight died after the helicopter crashed into a mountain in Taiwan. The crash was so severe that dental records had to be used as a means of identification. Complicating the Mindef news release was the presence of a Taiwanese military officer aboard the helicopter.
  • In June 1995, two full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) from 3 Signals died after their vehicle went off a hill in Taiwan.
  • In May 2007, two NSFs were killed when a twin-seat Taiwanese F-5F jet fighter crashed into a storeroom located within a Taiwanese military base. Two other NSFs warded at the Taipei Tri-Service Hospital were repatriated aboard a RSAF KC-135R configured as a flying hospital. One of the NSFs died 17 days later in Singapore General Hospital.
  • In June 2009, an SAF regular was found motionless in his bunk at a Taiwanese military facility. He was pronounced dead in a hospital in Taiwan. The ammunition technician was in Taiwan to support the SAF’s unilateral training there.
  • In Dec 2019, a NSF sustained a cervical spine injury during unilateral parachute training conducted in Taiwan. He was immediately evacuated to the nearest tertiary hospital, where he underwent surgery on 19 & 21 Dec 2019, without complications and is currently stable.
Throughout these dark moments, Beijing maintained a dignified silence, which is appreciated in Singapore. In all the years of SAF activities overseas, Beijing’s acquiescence has been reciprocated by the Lion City’s delicate handling of the matter out of respect to the Middle Kingdom. This approach extends to the Nov 2016 Hong Kong Terrex episode, where all Mindef statements on the matter have left out the very pertinent point of the origin of the shipment. The Nov 2016, China seizure of nine Terrex vehicles shipped through Hong Kong on their return from a training exercise on Taiwan marked a low point in Singapore’s relationship with China

4. In Oct 2017, Ralph Jennings writing for VOA suggested that "Singapore can balance China against Taiwan, an act most countries do not try, because Beijing officials want good relations with [Singapore]." In 1975, when Taiwan helped Singapore, the tiny city state did not have choice for its training locations, unlike today with:

(i) 4 RSAF training detachments in the US, further training detachments in Australia and in France; and

(ii) long term access to army training areas in 10 countries, including Australia, NZ, Thailand, India, Germany and the US.
I think Jenning’s approach of reading Taiwan-Singapore relations is without insight, slightly misleading, and ahistorical (without consideration of past baggage). Taiwan-Singapore relations are low key but not problem free.

5. OTOH, I see the Beijing- Singapore consideration of sensitivities and past baggage, as mutual, and seeking win-win outcomes to advance the relationship. IMHO, the greatest hinderance to continued good Taipei-Singapore relations lies with its win-lose mentality and it’s illogical local politics. This is why Singapore has been active in reducing its reliance on Taiwan for military training areas.

6. Diplomacy aside, one important dividend that Beijing has cashed in from discrete Taiwan-Singapore relations comes from inculcating its position to tens of thousands of Singaporeans who have trained in Taiwan. This comes about from security briefings to those bound for Taiwan not to talk about SAF training there. For the average Singaporean, who is usually apathetic about regional affairs, a trip to Taiwan downloads the essence of Beijing’s strategic narrative: That there is only one China. That Taiwan is viewed as part of the motherland. And that foreign nationals are not to dabble in Chinese affairs. The dividend China has reaped from such awareness is impossible to quantify. David Boey has suggested that Chinese officials would probably quietly acknowledge it has been invaluable as Beijing reaps the spin-offs for doing virtually nothing.
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Lone Ranger

0_Hunter by ST Eng-00-1E.jpg

Follow-on to the above post, I would like to share this infographic, it provides a summary on Hunter's capabilities. What captured my attention is the large unmanned turret (SAMSON RWS ALL-IN-ONE) covering the overhead of both crews and AI compartment, it provides good protection against top attack ammunition for the members in the vehicle.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
@Lone Ranger one thing to keep in mind is that a lot of armies, especially NATO & other western, have been fighting insurgencies in the last 20 years, so tanks have not been at the forefront of their minds. It's only in the last 12 months that the US Army has suddenly realised that it has a couple of peer competitors, quite capable of giving it a bloody nose, and it's still in COIN mode with 1980s and 1990s gear.

Lone Ranger

@ngatimozart , agrees with you. Beside focusing on fighting the insurgencies, "peace dividend" from the 90s also led to some countries cutting back their defence posture and shrinking of their armoured forces, creating the gap.

With regards to armoured threat from peer competitors, although there are projects and initiatives (eg Rheinmetall NG 130 mm tank gun) aim to bridge the gap, I suspect the answer may not lies with having another new MBT. For years, many countries (like UK, US and others) are finding ways to revolutionize how battle is fought, and now with battlefield-digitization as witness from the rolling out of Ajax, Hunter and Carmel projects together with system like Fire Weaver, this has open up solutions beyond a single approach - ie armour vs armour. As @OPSSG suggested, Bronco 3 with UAV and loitering munition to support armoured forces can also be a possibility. My humble take.


Active Member
Part 1

1. @CheeZe, the 1st question I would ask is:

Q1: Why would Singapore want to spend billions to develop a new MBT (when there are many world class manufacturers to choose from)?​
A: I don't know. Why would Singapore spend billions to create things like the Bionix, Primus, Terrex, Hunter, etc. when there are many world class manufacturers to choose from? I ask from a place of ignorance. Your response comes across as rhetorical as if I would know the answer. Why build its own warships when they could keep buying from Germany or France? Why manufacture the SAR-21 and BR-18 if you can just buy "insert modern 5.56 rifle/carbine here"? If, as you are trying to hint with questions as answers, that it is illogical to develop an MBT because there are already plenty of good options, then so too are all the other local developments listed above. Why bother with weapons R&D at all when you can leave it to the bigger countries with established and experienced arms industries?

There's obviously an answer to why Singapore is bothering to develop and produce platforms domestically. But for some reason, you aren't saying it explicitly and expecting me to either know it already or read your mind. I came looking for an explanation or clarification. If it can't be or done or makes no sense to be done, say so and explain.
2. The 2nd question I would ask is:
Q2: Where is the low hanging fruit for potential export success in the armoured vehicle market?​
3. The very expensive Japanese MHI Type-10 tank with a crew of three, and an automatic ammunition loading system, is close to (but does not meet), Singapore’s requirements to replace the AMX-13S1. The 44 to 48 ton MHI Type-10 tank is armed with a 120 mm smoothbore gun, made by Japan Steel Works. The MHI Type-10 autoloader is located in the turret bustle and fires newly developed armor-piercing ammunition that is compatible with all standard 120 mm NATO tank ammunition. MHI Type-10 main battle tank is also fitted with a state-of-the-art semi-active hydropneumatic suspension. The tank can "sit", "stand", "kneel" or to "lean" in any direction. This feature gives a number of advantages, especially operating in mountainous terrain, with some tanks also fitted with a front-mounted dozer blade.
Is the point of weapons development by MinDef for export purposes? Or is it to develop platforms which are tailored to the SAF's needs? I had presumed the latter but your comment, again trying to hint at something which isn't clear to me, indicates that Singapore does want to export its hardware now.

4. The 3rd question I would ask is:

Q3: What is Singapore’s core competence in tank design going to be?​

Is it: the MTU MB-837 Ka501 engine pack (where Germany is the world leader), the gun system and its sights, or the active protection system (where Israel is the world leader)?

5. Given that Singapore imports all our steel (as there is no local steel forge), I hold the view that it is not necessary for the SAF to build our own main battle tanks (MBTs) — the Japanese (MHI Type-10), the Koreans (K2), Indians (Arjun Mk. 2) and Turks (Altay) have their own MBT designs but zero export success. IIRC our tank range on Singapore is so small that we can only fire a sub-caliber for the 120mm main gun and the SAF would have to do all live-fire testing of a new MBT’s main gun and sights overseas.
Wasn't that also true in the 90s when they developed the Bionix? Zero experience but they still did it. If the underlying assumption is, "We can't do it because there are good enough platforms out there already," then why did Singapore even bother embarking on developing its own armaments industry?

6. The 4th question I would ask is:
Q4: Where would a made Singapore tank stand in the international arms market?​

IIRC 62 of the Leopard 2A7Q was supplied to Qatar for USD2.2 billion between 2013 to 2018. This tank has a number of changes, that are not found of the Danish (44), German (250 to 328) and Hungarian (44) Leopard 2A7 tanks. If you look at the international MBT arms market today, it is so small and competitive. Buyers are spoilt for choice.

7. In today’s market, even UK, the original inventors of tank warfare, would struggle to win a single order for their latest version of the Challenger 2. UK first introduced tanks to the battlefield at the Somme on 15 September 1916.

8. The SAF is the process of buying the 120 mm Super Rapid Advanced Mortar System Mk. II (SRAMS Mk. II) for its motorised infantry battalions that is installed in the Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicle. Compared to the original SRAMS Mk. I (that fires over the rear arc with elevation limits from +45° to +80°, and a traverse of 40° left and right), the Mk. II will have an all-electric 180 degree traverse and elevation hydraulic system— this is a great product with with a high sales potential.

9. The focus is not on a single platform, rather, it is on delivering a capability for Singapore (supported by ISR, a range of sympathetic platforms, like the Bronco, the Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicle and so on). If you ask me, in the next 5 years, I would rather the SAF spend the money to buy the Bronco 3 (and develop these as a UAV and loitering munition carrier) to support the Hunter IFV equipped armoured battalions or develop a replacement to the now dated SAR-21. It is difficult enough to retain Singapore’s sovereign capability to make all our own 155mm guns, with the Advanced Mobile Gun Systems project that is still ongoing. IMHO, better to have some focus in arms developmental efforts.
You seem to be very condescending in your reply. I do not know if that is your intention but that is how I perceive it. As far as the international market is concerned, I repeat again that I was unaware that Singapore cared about its presence in the international market. The Japanese Type 10, which you referenced earlier, can stand as an example - the Japanese know they're not going to be exporting it because of (to my knowledge) existing laws prohibiting arms sales. So, it is more likely going to be a Japanese tank for the JGSDF. Could not the same logic apply to the SAF's developments? Isn't that how the Israelis treat the Merkava? The perfect tank for Israel's needs.

Again, if there are so many wonderful choices out there as you claim, and there is no domestic steel production, why has Singapore bothered making the Formidable-class or the Hunter? If the idea is to develop arms and platforms that are tailored for the SAF's evolving needs, wouldn't an eventual replacement to the Leopard 2 be required? Or is your implication that the MBT market is so small that Singapore would never need to bother with a designing replacement because you assume someone else will create a "good enough" platform in the future? That is the problem with answering my questions with more questions. I don't know what point you're trying to drive.


Active Member
Part 2

@CheeZe , based on the timeline released by Mindef, the next Army project to be unveiled is likely to be either Next Generation Howitzer or Next Generation Infantry Battalion.

For the MBT, beside considering the technical perspective, there are also opportunity/market perspective (@OPSSG covered extensively), procurement perspective (cost effectiveness) and operation/strategic perspective.

IMO, Hunter, given its drive-by-wire design, fully digitized platform with open architecture allowing new capability to be added with ease, is more sophisticated than the original Leo2A4 that the SAF has acquired. Should there be a long term requirement for MBT; Singapore is likely and able to come up with one that is decent, given the level of industry collaboration that Singapore Defence Tech Community can muster. Hence the challenge is more on establishing the needs and requirement of the SAF, ie is there a real need for MBT or is MBT the Armour's future?

Let assume there is a requirement or need, the next consideration will be which is the most cost effective options available to the SAF? Commercial-of-the-Shelf (new/upgrade) or in-house development? Taking the Leo2A4 “fire sale” from Germany as an example, my take is, it provides the SAF with a low cost opportunity to bring up Armour’s capability and maintain its deterrence posture while buying time for the SAF to develop the Armour Next Generation - one that can take advantage of the digital space.

Now let takes a look at the trend for AFV in general. By comparing the new MBT model vs new IFV model in the Western world, we can have a rough picture, ie there is no new MBT introduced since the 90s (other than Russian’s) but for IFV, there are CV90, ASCOD, Puma, Ajax, Lynx, and not to mention the 8x8s. This tells us Armour doctrine is changing and IFVs are likely the main stay, why put resources in area whereby everyone (if not most) are cutting back. Just my 2 cents.

Lastly, Singapore Armour is basically an IFV heavy formation, not tank or MBT heavy. This can also be noted from one of the Hunter’s introduction video, Chief Armour Officer said, "the Hunter AFV, the centerpiece of our Army Next Generation transformation…..", i.e. to say Hunter, not a MBT or Leo2SG, will form the main thrust of the Army.

However, should there be extra resources and a need for big calibre gun to provide low cost demolition capability, instead of MBT, I would like the SAF to look into Fire Support Vehicle that share the same weight class as Hunter. Having 2 difference weight-classes in a manoeuvre formation is not ideal; especially if the support group is heavier than the main body.

My 2 cents.
@Lone Ranger - Thank you. Your reply was far more informative. I am certainly not proposing that the SAF create a replacement for the Leo 2SG anytime soon. I was asking on the theoretical side whether such an undertaking was feasible, given that Singapore has built larger or similar platforms already. It seems the answer is "Yes it could, but modern armour trends make it unlikely."

So, if a future MBT is not required while a big-gun fire support vehicle is, would the SAF buy something off the self or simply develop off the Hunter or whatever the current IFV platform of the day is? OPSSG's roundabout answer isn't very clear since he seems to be trying to hint that Singapore doesn't have the steel to build tanks or the land to test them. At the same time, Singapore is very obviously domestically developing IFVs (which must be tested SOMEWHERE) and maintains a MBT fleet at present. We must getting the steel from someone if we're producing our IFVs locally, so it can't be too much of a constraint in the R&D side.

Again, I reiterate, if there is a point to OPSSG's post, it is not clear to me and he needs to clarify it with statements and explanations. Asking me questions which I cannot answer doesn't answer my original questions. So, I really don't know what his point is.

EDIT: On a totally different note - are we not allowed to send other members or staff members personal messages anymore? I can't seem to figure that out after being away for some time.


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@CheeZe, no intention to be condescending — it’s just a discussion. I am certain that you don’t start from a place of ignorance. Once you think carefully on the constraints — the manufacturer will prefer to choose the most profitable or least expensive route to success. You can’t wish away reality — that Singapore makes weapons on the hope that the domestic demand/requirements can trigger international sales (with a bit of customisation).

1. To maintain sovereign capability, we should make what we need most and buy what we choose not to make — every dollar we spend in development is a dollar less from production (unless we win in export sales — like the Bronco 2 that served in IED rich Afghanistan, with zero fatalities). Where should the priority be? For every 50 MBTs Singapore acquires, the SAF needs to be supplied with another:

(i) 90 to 180 IFVs (be it Hunter or Bionix) and another 45 to 90 support vehicles (like Bronco) for armoured infantry guys; and​

(ii) 180 to 360 ICVs (Terrex) and another 200 to 400 protected vehicles (Belerax). The unique SAF requirement for the Terrex (that we can’t buy as military off-the-shelf), is that it must be heavily protected and yet able to swim — and this capability was demonstrated for the US Marines (up to sea state 3). This swim capability is enabled by Kinetics Drive Solutions’ infinitely variable transmission technology (IVT). IVT is also used in the Trailblazer, Counter-Mine Vehicle, that enables the vehicle to switch power to the mine flail system. A subsidiary of Singapore Technologies owns a patent to IVT and it is paid when others use IVT in their platform.

2. If it is an exotic demand (for a secret edge), such as making our own 155mm guns, the SAF has to pay a huge premium for it to be made in Singapore (but tested abroad). Making artillery pieces locally is a LHL vanity project on lean manning — the FH88 is problematic. I spoke to the arty guys — it was unreliable and the design was poor. But the Singapore arty design team learnt from these failures and kept trying to improve the design which resulted in the FH-2000. The FH-88 is an example of product failure. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, the size of Singapore’s defence industry should be determined by:

(i) the size of domestic defence market for products made by these companies in their relevant market segment (which is affected by a country's defence spending levels); and​
(ii) the export potential for the product made (which is determined by how much tech is inside the product).​

3. In my prior post, I am conducting a SWOT analysis of the MBT market and simply saying that Singapore tends to build for local needs, with export potential in mind. For both the Bionix and Terrex, they were designed with export potential in mind. And both platforms did compete for the US market — in both cases they lost in the respective competitions. I have a good engineer friend who did systems design work for the Bionix (but has since moved away from the defence sector for greener pastures).

4. The trick to export success is to keep improving the product. Don’t try to do everything and focus on improving existing products until it is compelling for foreign buyers.

5. You asked can Singapore make it? The answer must be yes. If I gave a one word reply, would you be happier?

6. Instead of simply replying yes or no, I asked you why. Why does Singapore have to make it?

7. To have a conversation, we must clarify the context and talk about actual considerations. Likewise do me the courtesy and try to answer that question.

8. If our enemy kills a Leopard 2SG, how many Singapore sons die? The answer is 4. If our enemy kills a M113 or Bionix, how many Singapore sons would die? The answer is at least 10. The SAF’s goal is to reduce casualties — it cannot be surprising that Singapore decided to place priority on building our own IFVs and ICVs, first. I would not be surprised if a Hunter 2 is in our plans. Serial development is key to out foxing the enemy, who is constantly trying to develop counter measures to any new weapon system made by Singapore.


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@CheeZe part of the reasoning for Singapore building its own military vehicles and naval ships is sovereign capability, which @OPSSG has already touched on. Part of it is costs, because sometimes it can be cheaper to build your own if your labour costs, overheads etc., are lower than say a European and North American manufacturer. Part of it is also you can build bespoke items that a foreign manufacturer may not be suitable to manufacture because of security reasons, or they don't want to do a bespoke short run etc. Part of it is pure politics playing to domestic political narratives.

If you look at Singapores IFVs there is a political and foreign policy dimension at play. Say it decided to acquire 300 German IFVs plus ancillary equipment all sourced from Germany. Normally no problems because Singapore and Germany have a good relationship. However one day the PRC does something to really annoy Singapore so Singapore decides to invade the PRC in order to give it a good thrashing and teach it a lesson in manners. Germany chokes on its beer, is very put out by Singapores actions, and slaps an arms embargo on Singapore, meaning no ongoing support of any kind for its 300 German built and maintained IFVs. Hence these expensive examples of high quality German engineering are parked up, about as useful as electric coat hangers and Singaporean Army is short 300 IFVs. Most of the scenario is fantasy apart from the fact that Germany does slap arms embargoes on nations that it believes are in the wrong, such as committing aggressive war, abusing human rights etc. Saudi Arabia is its favourite target at the moment. So by building it's own IFVs etc., it negates most of those problems. That's just one example.


Another, significant factor to consider (which has also been mentioned previously on the forum) is the significant R&D costs and infrastructure required to efficiently design and build modern, front line MBT's. Even more so if a nation does not have an already established R&D complex for designing an MBT AND developing the major components like the armour composition.

The costs associated with modern MBT development and production, at least for MBT's comparable to the M1 Abrams, Leo 2, Challenger 2, Ariete and Leclerc, etc. are significant to the point that of these listed designs, AFAIK only the M1 Abrams and Leo 2 were produced in sufficient numbers to have reached the break even point. If the serial production runs for the UK, France, and Italy were too small to permit much in the way of economies of scale, then Singapore with both a smaller defence budget and requirement for MBT's would be hard pressed to justify spending the kind of coin required to design and then build a domestic modern MBT. France, Italy and the UK did engage in what were sort of prestige projects to maintain their existent domestic MBT design and production capabilities.

Singapore could engage in the development of the systems required for a modern MBT and then design and produce one, however the total cost of such a programme would likely be significantly higher per MBT than what Singapore paid for the Leo 2's. There would also be the matter of either losing the R&D and production capabilities once production was completed, or finding/placing more orders than needed for the orbat to keep things running. To get some additional perspective, the Leclerc production line (~800 tanks built) was closed in 2008 with the lines for the Challenger 2 and Ariete were both closed in 2002 or nearly two decades ago. WIth all that in mind, I just do not see Singapore making effective use of limited defence funding by a domestic MBT build.

Lone Ranger

@CheeZe, many of us are on the same page, just different ways of expression.

Todjaeger brought up a good point, many countries pursuit domestic MBT design, to some extent, for prestige . As it is regarded to be the pinnacle of land system. However that is not the way Mindef conduct its doing. It doesn’t aim to collect “trophy”, but to build capabilities for tomorrow, ie DSTA does not aim to build everything (in Singapore) but to be a smart buyer and smart system integrator - Leo2SG is a great example.

Modern warfare with all the high tech stuff, during peace time, is a resource burning affair. To ensure Singapore can stay head of peers, Mindef need to know its limits and work smart.

For the Fire Support Vehicle, actually ST Eng and SAIC (US) participated in US Army’s MPF (Mobile Protected Firepower) programme using Hunter’s hull as the baseline, but couldn’t make it to the selection. Given it is built on Hunter's platform and with a ready blue print, I hope to see a version of it in the SAF Armour’s orbat. It will be a capability much desired. IMO.


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Staff member
@Lone Ranger, that you for educating me on the choices and MINDEF’s thinking process but I do suspect that the American Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle (including APS) program will fail.

I will explain why I suspect it will not survive US DOD infamous “night court” budgeting process another day. As US Secretary of Defense Esper said, “I’m looking for programs that don’t have as much value relative to another critical war-fighting capability, absolutely.”

Looking at the evolution of urban warfare since 2006, I am inclined to believe that the way forward is developing a systems approach to even more precise killing supported by the greater use of armoured combat engineers to section off parts of city before the arrival of loitering munitions —The SAF has had a close up view of the 2017 Battle of Marawi and immediately stocked up or purchased certain types of ammo, including 2,000 XM395 Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative (APMI) rounds. The American made APMI rounds have a CEP of 5 metres as a stop gap measure. By 2019, ST Engineering Land Systems introduced a new munition called the PM120 precision-guided mortar bomb (PGMB), with option warheads including the Extended Range High Explosive (ERHE), ER Infrared Red Phosphorous (IRRP), and ER Illuminating. The new PM120 munition has a CEP of 10 metres.

Hamas's strong performance during the 50 day, Operation Protective Edge in 2014, appears to be its emulation of the tactics of Lebanese Islamist group Hizbullah. The IDF suffered 67 fatalities and another 463 soldiers were wounded during the operation. As a result, Fire Weaver was developed and demonstrated in 2018 at a battalion level exercise and is scheduled to become operational in 2022 — it provides the tactical forces with a GPS-independent geo-pixel-based tactical common language among all the sensors and shooters — it calculates the optimal shooter for each target, while minimizing collateral damage.

For background on the Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle program, I note that General Dynamics Land Systems (GD) and BAE Systems have to begin delivering 12 prototypes at end of 1Q2020. BAE Systems will use a M8 Buford Armored Gun System (using a 105 mm M35 gun) with new capabilities and components. GD submitted an offering that puts a version of its latest Abrams turret together with a chassis that uses past work on the United Kingdom’s AJAX program.